The mysterious fate of 3.6 million dollar horse Cezanne

September 17, 2022

Just the horse fax please

Cezanne, a 3.6 million dollar example of selective transparency in horse racing

Horse racing is never short on surprises. Can a 3.6 million dollar horse like Cezanne just vanish without a word? Apparently so. I wonder if he was trained by Bob Baffert when he disappeared and either died or was euthanized if it would have been as hush hush. Actually I don’t wonder that at all, I believe it would have likely been racing headline news.

When Midnight Bourbon died at Churchill Downs, I believe in the same barn where Epicenter, the early Kentucky Derby favorite lived, on a Wednesday but it did not make the news until Sunday I found it odd. We all know how much media are on the grounds pre Kentucky Derby and the barn where one of the favorites for the Derby resides gets a fair share of attention. Midnight Bourbon was a high level Graded Stakes performer. One would think he would get a mention before he was gone four days. Especially given his location, his trainer Steve Asmussen and his neighbor, the Kentucky Derby favorite. Again I believe if Midnight Bourbon was trained by Bob Baffert his death would have been reported as breaking news on Wednesday not as an after thought on Sunday.

At least Midnight Bourbon was reported. Cezanne and the circumstances surrounding his death have been mysteriously quiet. I learned about Cezanne’s death a few months ago not long after it happened. It was my understanding he was given an injection, developed an infection as a result of it and died. I never reported it because I am not a reporter and I could not confirm it and only believed it to be true. I also thought surely someone else would report it and there would be no need to repeat bad news. At this point I do know Cezanne is gone, but the circumstances are less than transparent.

There is a lot of talk about transparency in horse racing. Talk is cheap. It always has been and always will be.

If you haven’t watched Unfiltered on Past The Wire TV you really should. We get into a lot of topics a lot of people leave alone. We always try and look for solutions. Transparency in claiming, sales, and breeding has come up in a few different episodes. I recently suggested on one of the shows horse racing should have something similar to Carfax in the automotive industry. Carfax changed the automotive industry for the better and the most significant impact it had is on the pre owned buying and selling market.

Horse fax was what I came up with. Imagine every racehorse having a record accessible by bettors, breeders, owners, and trainers, even buyers containing all pertinent information including but not limited to medical records and treatment. We all know Flightline has something that keeps his schedule of racing very light by any standard. He will go to stud with a fee of probably 150-200K a mare. Will we or the owner of the mare know more than the farm is willing “to tell us”? Probably not but if I had a mare and was going to breed to any stallion with known issues or suspected issues I would want to know exactly what they were. Horse fax, you get that HISA?

Cezanne was purchased out of the Fasig Tipton Florida two-year olds in training sale in 2019, sold to M. V. Magnier after being consigned by Crupi’s New Castle Farm. The price was $3,650,000. He was sent to trainer Bob Baffert who ran the horse seven times. He broke his maiden first out on June 6th, 2020 at Santa Anita. He won the Grade 3 Kona Gold and the Grade 2 San Carlos for Bob. He made his last start in the Bob Baffert barn on April 2, 2022 in The Grade 3 Oaklawn Mile Stakes. He ran second as the favorite and shortly afterwards was sent to trainer Todd Pletcher. It was not long after that Cezanne was dead. His death does not appear on any racetrack records I could find in New York or Kentucky, both the places Todd Pletcher has horses stabled. This troubled me personally in the wake of rumors, and granted rumors are just that, that some tracks might be having horses removed from the grounds to be euthanized to keep those numbers off their statistics. Where did Cezanne die and why did nobody know?

I have been able to confirm Cezanne is indeed gone. I believe but have not 100% confirmed he was given an injection while in the barn and under the care of Todd Pletcher and died after that injection as a result of an infection.

While Cezanne had not yet lived up to the high price he brought at auction he was a developing stakes horse with a future. To me, he looked like a big lanky almost lazy type of horse but I only saw him on TV and I am no horseman or trainer. He looked to me like a horse who would get better with time and as he got older. We’ll never know.

Selective enforcement exists but is not fair and in the end doesn’t work for the greater good. Selective transparency is equally as weak in my view. Why the hush hush surrounding Cezanne? Is there litigation requiring secrecy? Is there an insurance claim requiring no public comments? Was an embarrassing mistake made? I am not implying anything nefarious or otherwise, I have no idea why the lack of reporting or transparency exists regarding Cezanne. I only know we talk transparency but we practice it selectively. Had this horse remained in the Bob Baffert barn and this happened, which it may not have, we’d have three versions reported at least. What happened, what may have happened, and what the peanut gallery decided happened. How about someone just tell us what actually happened to this 3.6 million dollar thoroughbred? Horse fax!

Carfax has every police report of an accident submitted to them at the push of a button. Every maintenance visit, oil change and repair gets reported to them. Anytime a body shop or repair facility orders parts or a distributor ships parts it gets reported to Carfax. The vehicle’s VIN number, the equivalent of a horse’s tattoo or micro-chip, is on every report. These are hunks of metal, are they more important than our racehorses? Horse fax will bring the transparency we need. Not selectively either. Every vet record goes in. It can be that simple. Every injection, medication, diagnosis, etc. Everything tracked and recorded from birth to death by an independent third party. Horse fax.

As surprising as the silence regarding Cezanne is, it probably shouldn’t be at this point. Every single day we see our so called beloved thoroughbreds who give us so much, in kill pens, while simultaneously, the industry brags about record breaking all source handles, high purses, and stellar sales markets. We can do so much better. We have made a lot of progress but our work and efforts are far from finished.

Photo: Cezanne, Benoit Photography

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. Andy Phillips Sep 17, 2022 at 1:45 pm

    They should have left cezzane with Bob and when he went on suspension he would have went with Jimmy Barnes to Sean McCarthys Barn for 90 days and then back to Bob on July 2nd when Bob came back. Unreal situation to swallow.

  2. Fusaichi Baeed Sep 17, 2022 at 3:40 pm

    The perception that the writer gave off to readers was that this would be a bigger issue if baffert trained the horse at the time of his alleged death. In his haste, the writer fails to acknowledge that baffert could have still contributed to the death of the horse. Albeit the more proximate cause of death may have been something done by the vet and/or the trainer and his team but baffert the DRUG trainer’s impact cannot be ignored.

    1. KD Sep 18, 2022 at 7:58 am

      You make the writer’s point about Bob taking PR hits when the others are allowed a pass at negative PR.

    2. Grizzelda Sep 18, 2022 at 10:54 am

      Such ignorance. Baffert took his time with Cezanne. Just look at the starts. Debut was as a three year old with a total of three starts. Comes back 8 months later with a win. Comes back 9 months later and has three solid races before sent to Pletcher. He was given time off for whatever ailed him and gradually resumed training and then racing. This is how you properly care for a horse of any caliber. Pletcher worked him and from the grapevine Cezanne came up with an ankle problem, was in injected, got an infection which led to incurable laminitis. What was the rush Todd? We know he is a big stacker of drugs, look up Emmanuel… Now Mo Donegal retired at three due to bone bruising. And there is Following Sea, Prank, America’s Joy, Malibu Moon either injured or euthanized. Reportedly 23 dead in 4 years. But by all means NYRA prohibit Bafffert, with zero drug violations in NY, from running in NY because you want to maintain your “integrity.” What a joke. Baffert took care of the horse and did not rush him to the races and carefully spaced out his starts according to what the horse could handle physically and mentally. Baffert is as far way from this death as you or I. Look at the facts first before hastily making a comment especially ones full of speculation. If Cezanne was unsound when unfortunately sent to Pletcher then give him time or retire him. That was not the case as he resumed breezing with the intention of running him again. Pay attention.

    3. Sarah McCarthy Sep 19, 2022 at 12:31 pm

      Grizelda – You do realize that Baffert injects ankles too? He has discussed injecting both of Gamine’s ankles prior to the Kentucky Oaks. She raced 18 days later, and she went on to have a further, safe career, and was reported to have retired “sound”. Joint injections can be done in a careful and thoughtful manner, or they can be done in a reckless way. NEITHER Baffert nor Pletcher is likely to take unreasonable chances with such valuable horses. Joint injections themselves are generally very safe and routine, but sometimes they go wrong and an infection results. They can be very tough to treat and can be fatal. That is always a very small risk. Horses (race horses, show horses, pets) have dropped dead after routine shots of vitamins, antibiotics, etc. So have dogs, cats, and people. No wrong doing by the vet, physician, trainer, owner or the horse/patient is required. It sucks, but it is always a possibility.

      While I am always greedy for information just like any fan, we do not actually have a “right” to this information. I am sure Cezanne’s connections were devastated by his demise. It is worse when human action, however reasonable or well meant, may have been responsible. No one deserves to be thrown under any busses based on what little information we have.

      1. Jonathan Stettin Sep 19, 2022 at 12:36 pm

        The article is not about Bob Baffert or injections. I’m not sure where your comments come from. I made sure to state clearly nobody was being thrown under anything. I just found it odd.

    4. Grizzelda Sep 19, 2022 at 1:58 pm

      Yes Sarah I am aware that Baffert and most trainers inject joints. It is almost SOP at tracks. Non race horses are also injected to live out a comfortable life. I think the fact that this death has been hushed up is the problem. Like Laoban’s death at Winstar which was finally made public a year later. Baffert may have also injected Cezanne. I do know though he did get a lot of time off. The record shows he was handled judiciously while with Baffert. I am sure all connections are are devastated that things went wrong. Since Baffert has been mercilessly smeared up one side and down the other for therapeutic cream overage and banned from Churchill and NY to save the integrity of horse racing one would think that in their supposed desire to be transparent that the unfortunate circumstances of Cezanne’s death would have been made public.

  3. Rich Halvey Sep 17, 2022 at 8:50 pm

    In any normal business, it is often better to put out a press release sooner rather than later. Failure to come forward leads to the suspicion that Cezanne’s connections are hiding something. There is almost nothing the connections can say to satisfactorily explain the failure to report the fate of Cezzane. It would have been easy to report the death in a press release, emphasizing that more information would be forthcoming once the results of a necropsy were available. That would at least turn down the heat to a simmer.

    I don’t believe there is a “benefit of the doubt” in play. As Jonathan mentions, it may not be anything nefarious. Given enough time, we could probably list as many legitimate reasons as nefarious reasons for secrecy. Maybe we’ll finally find out the reason for disappearing Cezzane. Given that we haven’t gotten the whole story yet, the Racing commission with jurisdiction might be brave and hold a hearing. Or produce a full report. Remember when first class jumpers were being electrocuted in order for the owners to collect the insurance coverage? People were stunned (no pun intended) that there was crookedness in their sport.

    I can only hope that this isn’t swept under the haystack. Jonathan Stettin has written a piece which should cause players, owners, and management to pay attention and insist on an explanation.

    See what happened when the information was withheld? People, in this case me, look for reasons because it is human nature to be inquisitive. Let’s hope that this situation doesn’t get buried like some other investigations.

  4. Maliceinwonderland Sep 17, 2022 at 11:55 pm

    Somebody check on hell, because its definitely frozen over.
    You and your beer drinking buddies have provided nothing to back up this rambling, repetitive nonsense.
    What a moron

  5. Reno Rippa Sep 18, 2022 at 2:01 am

    I’m an ex NH jock and am now a sofware engineer. I maintain and write an application called Edms, I have tried to convince trainers to adopt Dms to log and report everything with every horse in their charge. From vet visits, medication, training schedules, schooling, videos, races, after race jockey reports etc. Some keep notes but not a digital profile. I wanted it more for owners so they could track their horses. It’s designed so that you could easily search and retrieve records. Horsefax seems like a fantastic idea. I am based in the UK but the BHA only appears to give lip service to transparency in racing. Looks like that is the same across the world!

  6. Wondering Sep 18, 2022 at 6:36 am

    Is the horse dead? or just missing?

    1. Jonathan Stettin Sep 18, 2022 at 10:27 am

      He’s gone

  7. Heisenberg Sep 18, 2022 at 7:31 am

    Pletcher has killed a LOT of horses, he’s just never held accountable. The writers point is that the media is so far up Baffert’s ass they don’t report on any other high profile trainers! Bob is the Donald Trump of horseracing. Someone always looking to get him even though he’s the G.O.A.T! Just Like DJT!

    1. Char Sep 19, 2022 at 11:40 am

      I feel the same way you do, thanks for saying it out loud.

  8. nln@70 Sep 18, 2022 at 7:42 am

    Oh, I’d say that you can COUNT on this information continuing to remain buried, and continuing to be covered up. Especially THIS kind of news. Why? Probably because it is very likely that something/somebody with a “nefarious bent” may have something very much to do with it. Transparency isn’t necessary any longer, Cezanne is dead. Has been dead, for awhile. If a “shot” was involved in anything having to do with this questionable death, and it’s timing, he had connections to some very famous/ infamous “connections”; that already have too much “fish to fry” in the minds of the general public’s opinion to begin with, this certainly won’t help anything in that respect, except to make things even more dark and nefarious than it already is. From the owners, trainers, their barns, both past, and present barns of these trainers, the vets involved, etc. etc., You are getting my drift, I imagine. No one in horse racing is going to benefit from knowing the true, and transparent reason for Cezanne’s untimely death, except the “general public”; who will only probably get MORE outraged when they learn the full reason why he died. And the Sport itself, is already suffering badly enough from that being the case.
    It was mentioned already herein, about the jumpers being “murdered/euthanized” for their insurance money not all that long ago. I have been around long enough, at the age of 70 now, and a horse racing follower for more than 50 years of it; and I remember when very expensive thoroughbreds that had been standing at stud for awhile, were being killed for their insurance money, because their owners greed, or need for funds made the horses lives much more expendable, and lucrative for their “connections”. This particular sport bleeds money, money, money, from birth, all the way through, to their deaths, and none anymore so than the really expensive thoroughbred stock that goes through the barns at sales times, in the yearling, and of racing age sales, down through the mares for broodmare sales; and the end of the three year old early standing for stud prices of projected siring stud fees. It’s all about the profit, unfortunately, we always are reminded of that fact, when we are told that horse racing is an “industry”, we are always being reminded of that fact, and then you follow that ugly fact to the end to the “kill pens”, set up all over this country, for the excise of those horses who no longer can run, and cost too much in upkeep, to make them a “going concern” any longer, especially the thoroughbreds, that no one cares about, or for, and unfortunately, didn’t manage to make the cut to get into a rescue facility, or be given a second chance at life itself, or a retraining program to give them another valuable career opportunity. And a whole lot of them don’t get a placement, for a whole lot of reasons, too numerous to mention here. People used them up, profited off of them throughout their lives, including the bettors, by the way, but the horses can’t protect themselves, obviously, and they aren’t worth anything any longer if they can’t earn their keep. Money even pervades here too, even in their rapidly approaching deaths. But no one wants to hear, or know, or talk about those facts, either, of course.
    This is a very, too long, discourse on this subject about Cezanne, and why there isn’t more transparency in the horse racing industry about what happens to them, especially with very unseemly early deaths that aren’t accounted for. It is probably safe to say that at some juncture in there, money too; played some kind of part in that being the case. Keeping silent about what is actually occurring in this sport is something that is positively antithetical to “transparency”. This overly long trope is just a means of showing just why a whole lot of that IS, and why it is unlikely to change. And then there are always people’s reputations that are at risk herein too, and THAT is a serious consideration, and of consequence too, of course. People don’t like being put before the public eye, or risk being prosecuted, or accused of something that they can be prosecuted for. Whether they actually serve real time for their crimes, or not. After all, all they have ARE their reputations. “Transparency” is antithetical to THAT as well.

    1. slewcrew7778 Sep 18, 2022 at 4:34 pm

      So correct, about so many things.

    2. Kristine Jackson Sep 18, 2022 at 5:33 pm

      Very well said.

  9. Ludwig Abraham Sep 18, 2022 at 9:04 am

    Could it be that the delayed side effects of a previous medication caused a reaction to another supplement or medication ?cardiac arrest , pulmonary failure . There must be visible warnings .

  10. Pat Diers Sep 18, 2022 at 9:46 am

    I am shocked about his death. I was just wondering where he was. This is extremely disturbing to me, a fan and to all lovers of all the horses. The secrecy lends itself to distrust. What happened to this poor animal? Will we ever know the real story?

  11. Rebekah Lane Sep 18, 2022 at 10:26 am

    I’ve never understood either the reticence of farms/owners to announce deaths, or the utter lack of “nose for news” by reporters in the racing media to follow up for date and cause of deaths. My own example: I was researching Zenyatta’s bloodlines and called up the Wikipedia (I know!) page for her dam, Vertigineux. She was listed as dying on that very date, and I posted her death on my Facebook page. I returned to Wikipedia later that day and Vertigineux’s death was removed; I dutifully deleted my FB post. Nineteen months later, it was revealed she had died (in foal, I think) 19 months before, and although no specific date was given, it was the month and year when I’d seen the news. There was no reason not to announce her death, and given the prominence of her daughters Zenyatta and Balance, it was newsworthy. Just one more example. #horsefax

    1. Me Sep 18, 2022 at 2:56 pm

      Hey Rebekah,
      I worked with Zenyatta for a couple of years at Lane’s End Farm where she lives and I hope that I can pass on a couple of memories of her.
      She was a most unusual horse. Working alone on horse farms with herds of horses taught me a lot about their nature, they’re behavior and how to work with them. Of the 120 something broodmares at Lane’s End, Z was special and very intelligent and independent. I was able to get the mares to behave and wait for their ‘ok’ cue before they ate, but with Z, I just couldn’t butt heads with her which is required for them to respect you and rather not push you aside when it comes to dinner time. Yet, she was always good and never mean anytime, let alone suppertime. When I worked there, her best friend was an older Sadler’s Wells mare, Love to Dance. She’s had other paddock mates over time but she was always independent. It took me a long time for her to come to me– a lot of time spent alone with her. If you visit her, you may notice that her skin is very sensitive. She isn’t crazy about being scratched on the side of the neck or chest like many horses. When I scratched her there, she would walk up a couple steps until I could scratch her butt, around the tail root—she loves that. She always has had a sweet tooth but I believe her official treat is Mrs. Pasteurs oatmeal cookies. She is an incredibly strong and strong-minded mare. Much stronger than any mare I’ve ever had a shank on and stronger than many stallions. I never saw her lay down in her stall except when she had her last baby. She was always dominant in her paddock as was her daughter. Watching Z run across the paddock at full speed was something amazing–her hoofs beats sound like thunder and I’ve seen her fly in front of a younger Grade1 paddock member even when she was in her teens..
      Her daughter and I also spent quite a bit of time together. She had a reputation as being a tough little filly to the staff, but she was my little sweetheart and we too had a good relationship. Anyway, just a few rambling thoughts of having the pleasure to spend with that great mare and her filly.

    2. L.D. Riedel Sep 19, 2022 at 12:20 am

      This is TO: “ME” who replied to Rebekah Lane 9/18/22. I sure hope you see this. Thank you for your stories about Zenyatta and her Filly. I love Z. You made my day telling how smart & independent she is. I was on a tour of a Golf Cart Tour of Lane’s End in 2019 with either daughter or grand-daughter of Mr. Farrish and she overheard me boasting about Z and all of her GLORY and how much she is loved to a couple also on the Tour that had not heard of Zenyatta. When we got to the part of the Tour where they bring out a couple of the Mares and their babies for us to visit and photo. the grand-daughter surprised me by having Z’s care team bring her and her baby out of the barn too!! You can imagine my shock & excitement. I knew Z isn’t on the tour so I was only hoping to get a glimpse of her in the field as we drove by so them bringing her out was a dream come true!! I wanted to send the team and grand daughter the best Thank you for that very special and unexpected visit with Z and her baby. The Grand-daughter made my trip because of that and I will forever be grateful, thankful and Star Struck of the Beautiful, Majestic Queen Zenyatta. I wish we could hear abput all of your experiences with Zenyatta!! How lucky and how trusted you were by Lane’s End & Ann Moss to get to be with and care for Z. Thank you for being good to her and all the mares and babies at Lanes’s End.

  12. Brett Sep 18, 2022 at 5:56 pm

    Horses die every single day at the track. They are fragile animals and many things can go wrong, especially viruses…. since they can’t talk to tell us if something is “wrong.” It is not up to them to tell the public what happened. We have no “right” to know, unless we own a part of the horse. Doesn’t matter if the horse is a $3K claimer or a $3M runner…….. it is ALL the same. If the authorities think there was foul play, they can start an investigation. Simple as that.

  13. Vito Pesce Sep 18, 2022 at 7:32 pm

    I raised the point about Flightline about him having issues.Why would you keep running him at all if he is damaged goods.Why not take the stud money and go?

  14. Robin Sep 19, 2022 at 10:11 am

    All program trainers have a lot of deaths in training. Nothing new and this is just a story because you love Bob Baffert and want to cry about the others. Why don’t you look up the Arizona and NM tracks and see how many of those horses went through the sales and their original prices and buyers. Baffert has his hands on many! Get a grip!

    1. Jonathan Stettin Sep 19, 2022 at 12:26 pm

      That is a ridiculous take Robin.

  15. Grizzelda Sep 21, 2022 at 2:47 pm

    Thanks Jonathan for reporting this. Many comments on other sites. Connections just should have put this out initially unless they were concerned about circumstances. Bad things can happen to horses whether racing or turned out in a field. Just would like to know what treatments were tried and why Cezanne’s body could not respond to fight off the infection. I think the Laoban death is still in litigation. That was vet negligence. Many knew early on what happened but it took a while for the word to reach the public. High profile stallion and Cezanne was a high profile horse and his death should have been made known when it happened instead of hoping people would just forget him. Has caused much speculation about what really happened. Things can go wrong and horses can succumb in spite of the best of care and sadly most go unnoticed or not made public. Cezanne’s death just should have been announced given his success on the track and that he was emerging as one of the top handicap horses this year.

  16. Sonny Sep 21, 2022 at 11:56 pm

    Thank you for the time and the effort you put forth sharing your passion with other’s just as passionate & involved in thoroughbred racing.

    However, your takes regarding the life & death of Cezanne, your idea that a horseplayer is owed a vet’s report after each visit, your thought that horseplayers should possibly be made privy to an insurance policy on a horse without a vested interest, and several other takes drip with ignorance.

    I appreciate that you’re sharing ideas to make things better. Keep sharing.. May the brainstorming stimulate reader’s thoughts and foster something positive.

    1. Jonathan Stettin Sep 22, 2022 at 5:43 am

      If they want me to bet, I want transparency. That simple. To survive long term the sport needs it whether they like it or not. Times change. I’m many things, ignorant is not one of them. Not in this case anyway.

  17. Sonny Sep 22, 2022 at 8:30 am

    I stand by the examples I posted citing your ignorance in those matters. It surprises me that you fail to take into account the many different perspectives to consider when gauging what’s “important” and what deserves priority when it comes to changing the way we race for the better.
    I wasn’t using “ignorant” as a synonym for dumb or stupid. I’d never disrespect you by calling you either of those terms. You are not dumb nor stupid…a yankee, but neither dumb nor stupid. Look up the definition of ignorance John. We are all ignorant to so many things.

    We all want transparency. It cannot happen overnight. Funny how you advocate for the rules of racing in the U.S. to be regulated by a single governing body but then turn around and shit on HISA when they implemented the whip rule as their first guideline under a single governing body.

    Racing is more transparent than it has ever been. Funding for aftercare and transparency in other aspects continue to be supported and put into practice on circuits around the country. It’s going to take a little time.

    To bring more transparency to racing new regs must be agreed upon by horsemen, jockeys, and HISA, hbpa’s, etc, before they can be put into effect. In some states, horsemen, horseplayers, jockeys, etc continue to step on their own dicks postponing progress and transparency by their reluctance to relinquish the governing power to HISA (or any single governing body whomever might be tasked with that duty.)

    1. Jonathan Stettin Sep 22, 2022 at 8:39 am

      We are going on a bit of a tangent here. I support HISA, I don’t agree with everything they do but I do support them. I see the difficulties with transparency and said as much on the show. At the end of the day, I stand for the guaranteed better treatment of the horse and protection of the bettors and the sport. That in my view requires transparency. No disrespect towards you as well.

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