Fast Horses and Fast Judgements

May 27, 2020

I have often said, in only half jest, that Google rules the world. The internet search engine has evolved to almost an untouchable entity with so much more knowledge and influence than most even begin to comprehend. Social media does some good things. It connects old friends, creates new ones, spreads knowledge and information in real time across the world. The internet has been a game changer. That is no secret. It is also no secret that with most good also comes bad. We have gone from actual experts, to self proclaimed experts, on every topic you can imagine. No PHD or training required. All one needs is a keyboard and an internet connection, and they are instantly empowered. The anonymity the internet purports to allow emboldens these instantly empowered users. Often a post can go viral and turn someone who maybe 25 people in the world knew of, to someone 10 million people now know of. It can happen over the span of a few hours. Whatever the results may be, that is just collateral damage.

By nature many people can be cruel. Mob mentalities often rule, and it has been that way since very early in the keeping of time. Most are fast to become sheep when it suits their agenda. Look at the political climate in the United States today, as you won’t find many better examples than this. We are probably more divided today than we were in the times leading up to and during the Civil War. This is a pretty strong argument against evolution in my opinion, at least on a human decency and intellectual basis. People use all sorts of things to justify, no pun intended here, to validate their agendas. God is one of my favorites. I think Susan B. Anthony put it best when she said:

“I distrust those people who know so well what God wants them to do, because I notice it always coincides with their own desires.”

So, where have we wound up with this social media and internet thing? YouTube is taking down videos that might insult the Chinese. Torturing animals and Holocaust videos are fine though. Twitter is deciding which of the President’s tweets are true and permissible on the platform. Cursing and insulting people based on just about anything stands along with language and pornographic images no child or lady should be exposed to. At least not in my opinion. Who even knows what Facebook and some of these other platforms allow or disallow day to day. It is social media as long as it fits the agenda of the day.

Another thing that is no secret is that the internet and social media eradicated print newspapers and magazines. The true journalist is also pretty much a thing of the past. It is click bait and get it out first. It does not have to even be true, it just has to be first. Hit pieces seem to do very well as they prey on the innate mob mentality always waiting to surface and pounce. Fortunately, I do not consider myself a journalist and don’t hold myself to those standards. I am not a reporter. I am just a high school drop-out and life long racetracker, who happened to start a horse racing column that became popular. I call it how I see it.

To the matters at hand. Just about the entire US racing community is weighing in and rushing to judgement on the Bob Baffert situation in Arkansas. An anonymous Twitter account, who is not all that anonymous to many Twitter users was the first I know of to spread the word Charlatan had come up positive for an illegal substance. In reality in the hours leading up to the anonymous account tweet announcing the “news” private messages were flying around the platform spreading the rumor. It is fairly obvious now that we know split sample test results are pending, at least one person with knowledge of the incident chose to leak it or make sure it became public, even if prematurely and in violation of Arkansas confidentiality rules. I guess if you are Bob Baffert, or anyone with a target on their back individuals can decide whether the rules apply to you or not. Does it fit their agenda? Even the drug in question is out there and it is allegedly lidocaine. The anonymous Twitter account triggered the mob mentality on social media, and all the experts, judges, juries, haters, and executioners are salivating and weighing in with the vigor we’ve come to expect from them. If I were a defense attorney, I’d ask for a change of venue to a different galaxy.

Please try and keep in mind I am not condoning or defending whatever Bob Baffert may have done or not done in Arkansas. To my knowledge he was not even there. I can’t condone or defend what happened in Arkansas, nor could I, nor anyone else fair minded and objective attack it. I simply don’t know what did or did not happen and it is highly likely neither do you. I do believe facts should be known before any human being is attacked and dragged across the coals because of pre conceived notions, opinions, agendas, envy, hate, or anything else. I do not think there is any question that is what is happening here.

The anonymous Twitter account did not just trigger the social media mob mentality. It also embarrassed the so called racing media to report the incident, with whatever information they could come up with. Obviously they could not be first anymore.

The following comes from a Horse Racing Nation article:

“Bernie Hettel, Arkansas’ state steward, confirmed with Horse Racing Nation that two horses on the card tested positive for a banned substance, and that split samples would head to a referee lab at their trainers’ choosing before a ruling could be made.”

The following is from the Paulick Report:

The Louisville-Courier Journal reported Tuesday that trainer Bob Baffert had two horses test positive “for banned substances” during the Oaklawn meet, according to an unnamed source. The source did not identify the two horses specifically that said one of them was either Charlatan or Nadal, both of whom accumulated points on the Road to the Kentucky Derby on the May 2 card. The Daily Racing Form later identified Charlatan as the source of one positive test. Baffert had a third winner on that card — a 3-year-old filly named Gamine.

If Arkansas rules call for confidentiality prior to a stewards ruling, and further, if that is the norm and precedent of how these matters are usually handled in Arkansas, then it is obvious someone who is not Bob Baffert did not follow the rules. I am all for transparency. I believe the sport needs more not less of it. Rules need to be changed in an official manner not at the whim of an agenda. I get that people who bet, and I am one of them, should have the right to know more information than they currently do. That does not trump, again no pun intended, current rules it only highlights the need to change and amend them. I believe we all should ultimately know what happened, even under the current rules, but when the facts are all available not just selectively leaked information to trigger a lynch mob.

Bob Baffert issued the following statement in response to what transpired:

“The rules of the Arkansas Racing Commission mandate confidentiality concerning any investigation into an alleged rule violation until there is a written decision of the Stewards, I am extremely disappointed that, in this instance, the Commission has not followed its own rules on confidentiality. I am hoping for an expedited investigation and look forward to being able to speak soon about any written decision of the Stewards, if and when it becomes necessary and I’m allowed to under the Commission’s confidentiality rules.”

Regardless of what may or may not have happened in Arkansas, Bob Baffert, regardless of how anyone may feel or think about him, or whatever judgements have already been made, is following the rules as he understands them and waiting to address what happened at the appropriate time.

This is a critical time in the history of the Sport of Kings. The very survival of the game as we know it is far from a certainty. We as an industry are up against so much. It is as close to a stacked deck as you can get, and it is not stacked our way. Accordingly, while it is more important than ever we be transparent and put the horses first, it is equally important we know what we are talking about prior to besmirching anyone, especially a central figure in the sport. Thinking and knowing are not the same thing. It is crucial we move to drug free racing, a centralized governing body, uniformity and fair but harsh enforcement of rules, and eliminate those who violate the rules from the sport. In order to do that we have to keep our eyes on the ball and stay factual not let the mobs rule.

If you are fair, and believe in justice, and Bob Baffert indeed knowingly did something wrong to help win the Arkansas Derby, or any other race at the Hot Springs meet, you’ll get your chance to join the mob. If he didn’t and you “beat the gate” you’ll be declared a non starter. As a betting man, I think this will play out to the haters’ dismay. We shall see, they just broke from the gate, the race is not over.

Photo: Charlatan, Associated Press

Contributing Authors

Jon Stettin

Jonathan’s always had a deep love and respect for the Sport of Kings. Growing up around the game, he came about as close as anyone...

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  1. May 27, 2020 at 1:37 pm

    Jon, you took the words out of the mouth of 90% of posts which I have been making in the past 6 months:
    “I simply don’t know what did or did not happen and it is highly likely neither do you. I do believe facts should be known before any human being is attacked and dragged across the coals because of pre conceived notions, opinions, agendas, envy, hate, or anything else. I do not think there is any question that is what is happening here.”

    I have been calling them Social Media Lynch Mobs for YEARS…and they spring up from all locations on the Socio-Political Spectrum.

    The Main Stream Media are STRONGLY complicit in all of this, as you adroitly pointed out.

    They have abandoned Journalistic Integrity in return for Click Bait and Eyeballs on the Sleazy, Smarmy Advertisements many of them promote on their sites.

    One point, though: Does it really make a difference who broke the story, in that regard?

    We would be seeing the same Rush to Judgement no matter where it came from, I believe.

    1. Jonathan Stettin May 27, 2020 at 1:39 pm

      Thank you!

  2. Jonathan Stettin May 27, 2020 at 1:41 pm

    No, it doesn’t make a difference who broke it, but prior to going after anyone you should know the facts.

  3. May 27, 2020 at 1:54 pm

    I honestly believe that the person that leaked the news has the best interest at heart. We all know that Baffert has skated many many times for drugging horses, the most recent Justify.
    I get what you are saying but I am very sorry to say but this has been a long time coming. Its called Karma.

    1. Jonathan Stettin May 27, 2020 at 1:57 pm

      I don’t think I can agree that someone with inside knowledge that skirts the rules can claim to have anyones but their own interests at heart.

    2. May 27, 2020 at 10:40 pm

      You are exactly the type of person Jonathan is talking about in this opinion. You just don’t get it, do you?

  4. May 27, 2020 at 10:07 pm


    Very entertaining column from start to finish ✔️ I enjoyed it so much I read it twice.
    As a long time Racing purest myself , after what was discovered earlier this year out of the Servis & Navarro barns which made me sick to my stomach, yeah I always felt something was going down, but it made me sick to hear the complete reality of it as a seasoned old school/new school Handicapper and enthusiastic player I was hurtin with the news and felt cheated and even violated
    Now with these rumors about Baffert I am hopeful the haters will be disappointed
    Your story was to the point , very current and interesting and your words were reality itself when speaking of the social media /user content world, Bullcrap and shit appears almost daily , fake news runs wild , fake death announcements, staged videos , etc etc whatever for the attention & potential spread
    Racing needs to be pure and competitive
    Cheating just ruins the fun and it violates the people like us who understand the game in every capacity and have a decisive edge over others who have never out the time into it and just play numbers or their favorite colors
    I can appreciate successful trainers & horseman , but I will never accept greed or wrong doings that can hurt the horses and at the same time tear into the integrity of the sport we love

    I’m really hoping the haters are greatly disappointed, this calendar year has been hard enough to swallow already …


    1. Jonathan Stettin May 28, 2020 at 5:29 am

      Thanks Geo, much appreciated.

  5. May 27, 2020 at 10:55 pm

    Jonathan, very well written, and exactly how I feel about life these days! We are so divided now, from horse racing to politics, it’s very sad. Negative, negative, negative! Everyone is judging everyone, from wearing face masks, to the last triple crown winner. Facts are facts, and until the facts come out, anything you say, without knowing the facts, are just showing your prejudice, one way or another. Like in most sports, we always hate the winners, for whatever reason that might be, human nature I guess. Guess we’ll just have to wait and see!

    1. May 28, 2020 at 11:23 am

      Actually some of us aren’t jumping to conclusions and have known for years that Baffert takes an edge. You think Paynter just got sick after winning the Haskell because its normal? Why don’t you go talk to the vet that took care of him the days after and ask him his opinion. But you wont because you don’t know who it is. Baffert also killed 7 horses because he gave them drugs they didn’t need. And got away with it. Sorry that you are so trusting but you obviously don’t know much about horses in general or have never worked a day in your life in a horse barn never mind a thoroughbred barn. He was blocking a horse with Lidocaine, not externally but injecting to numb the nerve. Would you even know what blocking is? Some of us don’t look up to these trainers like they are gods. Because they win at some high percentage men like you put them on pedestals. Some of us actually love and care about the horse’s well-being as well as the integrity of a great sport. I’m just glad someone finally stopped protecting the tool and got it out before he robbed everyone and ran the horse in a big race like he did Justify. Get off your high horse thinking people dont know the truth about the guy.

  6. May 28, 2020 at 7:58 am

    Very interesting point of view ! Thank you Jon.

    The problem is that racing here looks more and more like the “Tour de France” in which scandalous headlines replace another.
    This follows the Iowa Derby disqualification, the row between trainers against KHRC, Keeneland and Churchill over Lasix, The FBI’s indictment of Jorge Navarro and Jason Servis etc….

    As you probably know Charlatan is in a middle of an eighth figure stallion deal and it may be fair that the protagonists are informed of what happened in Arkansas before any deal is concluded and money transferred. We do not want to repeat the Justify fiasco in which everyone was informed of his positive in the Santa Anita Derby when the horse was already bedded on at Ashford 17 months after the race.

    1. Jonathan Stettin May 28, 2020 at 10:12 am

      thank you

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