Horse Racing: RT, the Hooptie Handicapper on doping thoroughbreds and giving Bob Baffert benefit of the doubt
Maiden America 09.01.21
When I woke this morning to some uninformed person making flagrant comments about doping Essential Quality, I had to take pause. Allow me to explain.
Starting with the auction in Ocala this year, I have had my nose, and typing equipment, deep into an area that I have never followed in my handicapping lifetime – the 2-year-olds. And starting with Ocala, I witnessed, while returning my rental car, the small airport that had four Gulfstream jets, one Boeing, and three other private jets that were not familiar to me. Not until Mr. Uninformed made that comment that the significance of those aircraft hit me. The real money is in the breeding, as most of us know, and with that money, comes the real power.
With the 2yos making their respective debut’s season winding down, I have witnessed, what I believe to be the reason, why the power and real money pony up for the horses at those auctions. Yes, it is for roi, yet yes, it is for them to race their horses. The glory.
If they are lucky enough to get one of these prized purchases to the racing circuit, do you really believe they would entrust such a prized possession with a doping trainer? Do you truly believe the Prince of Dubai, who takes a very keen interest in his thoroughbred operation, a man who never has to ask how much $$$, would allow Brad Cox to dope his horses? Do you think Cox would ever risk doping a Godolphin horse? Do you believe that any trainer, at this level, would risk their reputation and eventual livelihood, over doping one horse? If you do, then I will reply as I did to Mr. Uninformed, "please pass what you’ve been smoking, because I have not been to fantasy land in a long time."
I am convinced now more than ever that there are bad actors and mainly they toil at the claiming level and bring their stock up and they’re demise is certain. Yet, when it comes to a Graded Stakes horse, with breeding, diet, training, TLC and teacher/student, with the horse being the teacher, in how to care for him/her, Graded Stakes horses will always run like Graded Stakes horses and Medina Spirit, Gamine, and Life is Good are testaments to that over this weekend past.
If you believe that Cox, Bob Baffert, Todd Pletcher, Chad Brown, and this list can go on for longer than anyone’s attentions span, are going to dope one horse for an advantage, then ask why the Klaravitch’s, Godolphin’s, Juddmonte’s, Calumet’s, Gary Barber’s, and many more, continue to take their prized possessions, that is owned by the true power of the game, to those trainers?
Yes, I am climbing back on the Baffert bandwagon because I believe, after a season of handicapping just two year olds, and witnessing the well-breds who come from Into Mischief, Ghostzapper, Speightstown, Tapit, Curlin and many many others, going forward, are going to run like their forebearers. The well-breds win more. It is a very simple formula. Yes, Baffert, as well as the others who are in this sphere, get those best horses to train. Like Nick Saban gets the best college athletes to come to Tuscaloosa. These "suspect trainers" at this level have the best. They have the best assistants, the best training regimen, they feed their horses the best diets, they learn from their horse as the teacher, and they give the best TLC to their owners prized possessions, including the best medical treatments and medical oversight.
What happened with Baffert was done in a regimen that was outside the timeframe parameters of acceptability, a mistake made by a member of his staff that was unaware of this timeframe. Yes, Baffert handled his PR poorly, yet he has been unjustly punished in the court of public opinion.
Until a trainer can be caught with irrefutable evidence that he/she was blatantly doping his/her horses for a competitive advantage at this level, I consider this argument closed.
Let’s move on.