PETA and NYCLASS question NYRA on Bob Baffert and conflicts of interest

May 18, 2021

NEW YORK – PETA and NYCLASS are calling on the New York Racing Association (NYRA) today to explain how it will deal with conflicts of interest that may influence their decision on whether trainer Bob Baffert will be permanently banned from NYRA-operated tracks, given that at least four board members appear to have, or have had, business ties with the disgraced trainer.

On Monday, NYRA suspended Baffert from racing at New York tracks pending a ruling by the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission on Medina Spirit, who tested positive for the prohibited drug betamethasone following his win in the Kentucky Derby.

In a letter sent today to NYRA, the groups point to the following connections to Baffert:

·       Board member Timothy Mara is a partner with Starlight Racing which lists Baffert as a trainer. Starlight is part-owner of the Baffert-trained Charlatan who was found to have lidocaine in his system after winning a division of the Arkansas Derby last year. Starlight was also part-owner of Justify when he raced in 2018.

·       Board member Georgeanna Nugent is a partner of StarLadies Racing, which is part of Starlight racing.

·       Board member Joseph Appelbaum is co-founder of Off the Hook, a breeding, racing and sales company. Off the Hook was the consignor for Du Jour, who is trained by Baffert and partly-owned by his wife Jill Baffert. DuJour sold for $280,000.

·       Board member C. Steven Duncker was the breeder of Mental Giant, who sold for $275,000 and was trained by Baffert. It’s in the breeder’s interest to preserve the reputation of the trainer, as well as a horse’s innate talent.

“We are concerned by potential conflicts of interest among some members of the board who appear to have or have had business ties to Baffert…How will you ensure that these potential conflicts of interest don’t compromise—or even appear to compromise—your actions in this case?” write NYCLASS and PETA in the letter to NYRA. “Regulations are not simply meant to keep racing fair, but to protect horses. Drugging is abuse—and anyone who abuses a horse must not be allowed to race in New York.”

NYCLASS is an animal rights advocacy and political action non-profit organization based in New York. PETA—whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to use for entertainment or abuse in any other way”—opposes speciesism, a human-supremacist worldview.


Please see below for a full copy of the letter sent to NYRA today:


May 18, 2021

David O’Rourke
Executive Director, New York Racing Association
Via e-mail: DORourke@nyrainc.com

Dear Mr. O’Rourke and Board Members:

Thank you for suspending trainer Bob Baffert pending the adjudication process in Kentucky. We are writing today to ask how NYRA will handle this situation if the second of the two samples taken from Medina Spirit tests positive for betamethasone and the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission rules that Baffert is in violation of medication regulations.

We are concerned by potential conflicts of interest among some members of the board who appear to have or have had business ties to Baffert. As you may know, the California Horse Racing Board came under fire in 2019 when it was disclosed that some board members had hired Baffert and later chose to conceal a positive drug test for the Baffert-trained Triple Crown-winner Justify.

Board member Timothy Mara is a partner with Starlight Racing which lists Baffert as a trainer. Starlight is part-owner of the Baffert-trained Charlatan who was found to have lidocaine in his system after winning a division of the Arkansas Derby last year. Starlight was also part-owner of Justify when he raced in 2018.

Board member Georgeanna Nugent is a partner of StarLadies Racing, which is part of Starlight racing.

Board member Joseph Appelbaum is co-founder of Off the Hook, a breeding, racing and sales company. Off the Hook was the consignor for Du Jour, who is trained by Baffert and partly-owned by his wife Jill Baffert. DuJour sold for $280,000.

Board member C. Steven Duncker was the breeder of Mental Giant, who sold for $275,000 and was trained by Baffert. It’s in the breeder’s interest to preserve the reputation of the trainer, as well as a horse’s innate talent.

There may be connections of concern among other board members as well. How will you ensure that these potential conflicts of interest don’t compromise—or even appear to compromise—your actions in this case?

As you know, Baffert has been responsible for four drug violations in the last 12 months alone and for 30 in the years before that. He has blamed everything from poppy seeds to cough medicine to lidocaine patches, but ultimately, he is responsible. Regulations are not simply meant to keep racing fair, but to protect horses. Drugging is abuse—and anyone who abuses a horse must not be allowed to race in New York.

Thank you.

Sincerely,

Kathy Guillermo

Senior Vice President, PETA

Edita Birnkrant

Executive Director, NYCLASS

PETA, NYCLASS Press Release

Photo: Medina Spirit, Kentucky Derby, Coady Photography

Good Work here, particularly this, which is being missed by many with good intentions. Folks wanting racing to end aren't getting messages that matter to them. Thanks.

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