The California Horse Racing Board issued on Wednesday the complete
text of its ruling that trainer Bob Baffert should be suspended for 60
days because of the result of a positive test for a trace level of morphine
found in one of his starters at Hollywood Park in May 2000.
The CHRB on Tuesday denied a request by Baffert, and his attorney, Neil
Papiano, to stay the 60-day suspension, though Papiano said he will appeal
the CHRB's denial in court.
CALIFORNIA HORSE RACING BOARD
STATEMENT OF DECISION OF THE BOARD OF STEWARDS
SANTA ANITA RACE TRACK
In the matter of: Trainer: BOB BAFFERT
A formal hearing on this matter began before the Board of Stewards at
Santa Anita Racetrack on April 4, 2001. The issue was a Complaint # 00HP0027
filed by the California Horse Racing Board, against Trainer Bob Baffert (Respondent).
The complaint alleged that Respondent had violated California Horse Racing
Board Rules #1843 (a) (Medication, Drugs and Other Substances), #1887 (Trainer to
Insure Condition of Horse) and #1859.5 (Disqualification Upon Positive
Judith Seligman, Deputy Attorney General represented the California
Horse Racing Board, and Neil Papiano represented Respondent. Members of
the Board of Stewards were: Tom Ward, David Samuel and Ingrid Fermin.
FINDINGS OF FACT
On May 3, 2000, the horse "Nautical Look," trained by Bob Baffert was
post race tested (sample #K30096) after finishing first in the 7th race
at Hollywood Park. The sample #K30096 was tested by Truesdail Laboratories and found to contain
the Class I drug substance morphine. At Respondent's direction, the split
sample was forwarded to the Texas Veterinary Medical Laboratory and the presence
of morphine was confirmed.
Official California Horse Racing Board Veterinarian B. William Bell
testified as to his credentials and experience within the Horse Racing
industry. He outlined the procedures and duties of his staff in the Receiving Barn. Dr. Bell
stated that Citrus Feed provides the straw that is used in the Receiving
Barn. He added that his staff is instructed to remove any foreign materials, visible to the naked eye,
from the straw. Horses are discouraged, but cannot always be prevented
from, eating the straw.
Veterinarian Assistant Robert Leung reviewed his work experience in
the Receiving Barn. As the employee who tested "Nautical Look" on May 3,
2000, Leung testified, to the customary procedures and chain of custody when testing a horse.
He did not have specific recall of "Nautical Look" and stated that he tests
hundreds of horses each year, and his procedures do not vary.
Hotwalker Alberto Rojo Velasquez, who has been in the employ of the
Baffert Operation for the past two years testified that he took "Nautical
Look" to the test barn on May 3, 2000. He acknowledged that he had received the horse from
the groom, cooled the horse out, signed the paperwork for the test, and
returned "Nautical Look" to his groom.
Bob Baffert (Respondent), the trainer of "Nautical Look," on May 3,
2000 testified that he believed that the positive finding from "Nautical
Look" was the result of unintentional contamination. Respondent stated that his employees often
have food products i.e. bakery goods, in the barn, that may contain poppy
Frank Moore, the California Horse Racing Board Chief Investigator for
Northern California, appeared. Moore had participated in the barn search
at Respondent's Hollywood Park facility. Respondent was not present during the search.
Moore stated that Assistance Trainer Tim Yakteen had been informed of the
positive finding on "Nautical Look" and that the barn search had not produced any contraband
that was a derivative of the opiate morphine. Moore stated that he had
not observed the employees consuming any food and/or bakery products.
Groom Clemintino Abrego Garcia, testified that he has been licensed
by the California Horse Racing Board for 13 years, and that he had been
in the employ of Respondent for 3 years. Mr. Abrego stated that "Nautical Look" had
been shipped from Santa Anita, to Hollywood Park for a race scheduled for
May 3, 2000. He served as the horse's groom for one day, prior to the race. May 3,
2000 was a day off for Abrego, and his friend took care of "Nautical Look."
Since the notification of the positive finding, Abrego has been contacted telephonically by Respondent
on three or four occasions. Abrego stated that he was informed that he
was not to blame for the problems, and that he needed to tell the truth. He was encouraged
by respondent to admit that he had eaten bakery products while in close
proximity to "Nautical Look." He testified that he had not consumed any food while
handling the horse.
Groom Ignacio Gutierrez Olivas testified that he had been licensed by
the CHRB for the past 5 years. He did not recall how long he had worked
for Respondent. Gutierrez stated that "Nautical Look" had been placed in an outside
pen upon her arrival at Hollywood Park. He had not seen any strangers or
unusual activity around, her pen when she was there.
Truesdail Technical Director Norman Hester testified that he has been
employed at that facility for the past 17 years. His duties include, but
are not limited to: supervising the analytical procedures of the testing process and the
overseeing of quality control. Hester reviewed the customary procedures
that are in place from the providing of the sample containers to the Receiving Barns for the CHRB,
to the confirmation of a positive finding in a sample. He testified that
the laboratory uses Thin Layer Chromatography (TLC) in 5 tubes of sample, and Immunoassay (IA)
in 1 tube of sample. The positive finding in sample K30096 was detected
using IA. Hester stated that urine has a concentration factor that can be 25% to 100%
stronger than blood. He added that upon a positive finding, the blood is
not tested unless, CHRB staff specifically requests it. The primary reason for the taking of
the blood samples is to test for excessive levels of Non-steroidal, anti-inflammatory
drug substances (NSAIDS). Hester stated that the finding of morphine in the urine is
a reportable positive, even if there had been a negative finding in the
Under cross-examination, Hester was questioned about the findings in
the corresponding blood sample taken from "Nautical Look." Hester informed
those in attendance that the blood sample had not been tested. As per a memorandum dated
August 19, 1999, submitted to Truesdail Laboratories by Assistant Executive
Secretary Roy Minami, the laboratory staff was directed to randomly discard 1/3 of
the daily blood samples from each track. "Nautical Look's" sample was included
in those discarded from the May 3, 2000 racing program.
Dr. Stephen A. Barker, a witness presented by the Respondent, testified
as to his expertise as: a Professor of Veterinary Medicine at the University
of Louisiana, State Chemist for the Louisiana Racing Commission and he serves as the Director
of three Racing Laboratories. Barker described the multi-level stages of
morphine in the system of the horse as: sleep inducing, reducing the motility of the
gut (colic), analgesic effect, changing the performance of the horse, and
a finally total sedative effect. During testimony, Dr. Barker stated the smallest performance-enhancing
dose given to a horse would be 50mg/ml and that it would likely read-out
in the urine as 5 million nanograms.
Dr. Barker said that the sources of morphine are: the opium poppy that
is raised for pharmaceutical reasons and for food products, and certain
environmental compounds. It was the opinion of Dr. Barker, that a finding of 73 ng/ml
in the urine would be consistent with background levels of environmental
contamination and be inconsistent with intentional administration. Dr. Barker was of the
position that the testing of the blood sample would have been valuable,
in this instance. He stated that a laboratory cannot distinguish between a large amount of morphine
administered many days previously and an environmental contamination exposure
that is current.
The testimony of Dr. Barker also included a comparison of standards
and "threshold" levels of morphine in other racing jurisdictions. Under
cross examination Dr. Barker indicated that in each of the studies that he had referred to,
under direct examination, were conducted on sedentary animals, rather than
active racing stock.
Haitham I.Yakteen, has been employed intermittently by Respondent for
the past eight years. He indicated that "Nautical Look" had been shipped
from Santa Anita to Hollywood Park on April 30, 2000. He was placed in an outside pen that
was located within the fenced area at their barn.
Yakteen testified that his assistant conducts monthly meetings with
his employees, and that the meetings are bilingual. The employees are reminded
of barn procedures that include medication reminders, restricting food products from the
stalls and feed rooms, coffee being consumed at a designated area, and
any spillage being reported and cleaned immediately, and they are instructed to report any unusual
occurrences. Respondent does not request potential employees to take pre-employment
drug tests. Although there is not a 'watchman' at the barn, there are more
than twenty employees that live at the barn.
According to Yakteen's testimony, medications are stored in his desk.
Although the desk does not have a lock, the room does. Citrus Feed Company
is the sole provider of feed products for Respondent's operation. Owners are not permitted
to provide their own carrots as treats for their horses, rather they are
supplied by the barn.
Yakteen outlined the types of feed products that are provided to the
Respondent's barn, and stated that foreign matter i.e. decomposed rodents,
snakes, and weeds are often observed and removed. He reviewed the customary procedures that
are followed for the Respondent's horses, on race day.
Citrus Feed's Owner Larry Bell testified that he had been supplying
the Respondent's barn with bedding and feed since he had made the transition
from Quarter Horses to Thoroughbreds. Bell indicated that the hay comes from brokering
companies and that he does not raise any of the products himself. Bell
estimated that 80% of the grains and feeds that are furnished to the Southern California Thoroughbred
tracks come from the Antelope Valley. Photographs were introduced that
depicted 'pivots' of alfalfa fields that were adjacent to fields of poppies. Bell testified
that harvested feed is never 100% pure, and that foreign material can be
readily found in bales and feed sacks.
Deputy Attorney General Robert Harkness, testified that he was at the
Santa Anita Racetrack on February 7, 2001. The purpose of his visit was
to familiarize himself with the race day cycle of the thoroughbred horse. In the company of
two family members, Harkness toured the Receiving Barn and then proceeded
into the restricted area. Once inside the restricted area, Harkness chose to visit an actual
shedrow. He entered the Respondent's Barn, walked through the barn and
remained in close proximity to the horses for approximately a 5-10 minute time frame.
They were not approached by any of the 4-5 employees that were present,
and they were not requested to identify themselves.
DETERMINATION OF ISSUES:
Respondent has taken the position that the positive finding of the Class
l drug, morphine in "Nautical Look" may have been the result of an employee's
consumption of bakery goods in close proximity to the horse. Thereby, offering the
horse the opportunity to share in the food products and ingest poppy seeds
that contain morphine into the horse's system.. The argument was also presented that the
positive finding may have been the result of environmental contamination
from the feed, or straw, that is harvested in the Antelope Valley.
Corroborating testimony neither established that food products were
abundant in the barn, nor that the personnel had consumed bakery products
close to the horse. There was testimony that employees were requested to eat their morning
donuts and bagels in a removed, designated area. Although the photographs
of poppy's growing adjacent to alfalfa "pivots" were presented, the Respondent
was unable to establish that poppy's were blended with the harvested feed,
or that the feed that was delivered by Citrus Feed actually was a product of those fields.
Citrus Feed's Larry Bell, Respondent's staff, and CHRB Veterinarian B.
William Bell all testified that any observed foreign matter is removed from feed products. If
environmental contamination were the source of the positive test, it would
appear that multiple findings would have surfaced throughout the State of California.
Respondent has been a licensed trainer in the State of California for
at least fifteen years, and is knowledgeable of the responsibilities that
accompany his position. It is the opinion of this Board of Stewards that Respondent did not meet
the standards of mitigating circumstances as set forth in Rule 1888 (c)
(Defense to Trainer Insurer Rule). Respondent does not have a designated watchman for his barn.
The testimony indicating that three adults spent considerable time in his
barn, approaching horses without being questioned by Respondents employees indicates that staff
has not been trained to protect the horses from outside influences. Since
Respondent does not participate in the pre-employment testing of his employees, he increases
the likelihood that his operation might not be a drug-free workplace; thereby,
increasing the risk of drug exposure to his horses.
Respondent takes the position that because the primary blood sample
was destroyed, the urine sample could not be corroborated. The finding
of morphine in Respondent's split urine sample substantiates the initial finding by
Truesdail Laboratories. Neither the California Horse Racing Board Rules
and Regulations, nor the California Horse Racing Law mandates that a finding in blood must corroborate
a finding in the urine. Although it is perceptually unfortunate that a
portion of the blood was discarded, Respondent's split sample of blood from "Nautical Look"
was available for examination for a period of 45 days after the race on
May 3, 2000. Respondent did not request that the blood split be tested.
While the Stewards are concerned about the circumstances leading to
Truesdail Laboratories randomly discarding blood samples, it is our position
that lack of blood sample did not warrant a dismissal of the case before us.
WHEREFORE, THE FOLLOWING ORDER IS MADE:
Trainer ROBERT A.BAFFERT, the trainer of the horse "Nautical Look,"
which finished first in the seventh race at Hollywood Park on May 3, 2000
is suspended for sixty (60) days (June 25, 2001 through August 23, 2001) for violation
of California Horse Racing Board rules # 1843 (a) (Medication, Drugs and
Other Substances - Morphine - Class I) and # 1887 (Trainer to Insure Condition of Horse).
During the term of suspension all licenses and license privileges of
ROBERT A BAFFERT are suspended and pursuant to California Horse Racing
Board Rule # 1528 (Jurisdiction of the Stewards) he is denied access to all premises
in this jurisdiction.
(Original document signed by stewards Tom Ward, David Samuel and