Bob Baffert and Todd Pletcher's Hardships Through Drugs and Horses
By: Olivia Ho
Bob Baffert and Todd Pletcher are two elite horse trainers but the horses they train have struggled to pass drug tests during horse racing season, leading to their frequent disqualification.
Both trainers have had fantastic success in pushing and training the horses, but sometimes their horse’s success has relied on drugs that break the rules and spirit of the sport.
According to documents uncovered by the New York Times, in just 11 months, horses that Pletcher trained failed the drug tests six times in three states. Soon his colt, named Forte, will compete in the 155th run of the Belmont Stakes.
Pletcher did not mention anything about Forte, the race, or the five drug violations. Then suddenly, many racehorse deaths occurred and quickly leaked to the public raising concerns and doubts about the future and recent races.
Quickly state and federal regulators started to investigate the deaths of 12 horses and the week’s race was canceled.
Bob Baffert also has a whole history of rule-breaking. His horses have failed thirty drug tests over four decades, including one of his horses, Medina Spirit, who won the 2021 Kentucky Derby but was disqualified after a failed drug test. Medina Spirit was the second horse in Derby’s 149-year history to have their victory revoked due to a failed drug test.
Baffert was welcomed back to the Preakness Stakes this past May, after being barred from the Triple Crown following Medina Spirit’s disqualification. Baffert’s Horse, National Treasure, won the race, but only because another one of his other colts, Havnameltdown, fell to the ground with an injury.
This alerted the Congressional Animal Protection Caucus and animal rights activists to try to ban all horse racing, but The Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority assured them that there would be new safety measures and that they would make sure that all horses were safe.
Baffert and Pletcher’s violations have mostly involved corticosteroid injections and anti-inflammatories – drugs that dull the pain horses feel from injuries. These drugs, by allowing the horses to run faster, make their injuries worse.
Two weeks before the Derby, Pletcher’s colt, Forte, was on the vet’s list but Pletcher and Forte’s co-owners did not say a single word on why Forte was on the list. However, with the new rules of horse racing authority, the reason why a horse is placed on the vet’s list will be able to be viewed in public. The cause of Forte being on the list was because of a bruised hoof. Just three days after the derby, it was revealed by The New York Times that Forte had failed the drug test during Hopeful Stakes.
On May 10, New York Regulators imposed a 10-day suspension and fine on Pletcher, and disqualified Forte. This means that Forte’s co-owners will not be able to get their $165,000 first-place check from Forte “winning” the Hopeful Skates race.
The race is hard to win, and to not fail any drug tests is too. Soon Pletcher will saddle Forte and another one of his favored horse, Tapit Thrice, to try to get another win in the future Triple Crown race.