Commentary: Bob Baffert Is Not J.P. Morgan Chase

In this commentary piece J.N. Campbell offers his own take on Bob Baffert, the Gamine controversy, and what people need to be really doing with their time.
In this commentary piece J.N. Campbell offers his own take on Bob Baffert, the Gamine controversy, and what people need to be really doing with their time.

Bob Baffert is not a bank or the IMF. His existence is not a metaphor for a behemoth that is “Too Big to Fail.” He is not corrupt or a celebrity trainer who gets whatever he wants. Baffert doesn’t get “special treatment” because he shows up in a state outside of California, and in turn, tramples on the dignity of this sport.

News flash… de, de, dit, de, de, dit… he is human, just like the rest of us.

Those were some of the comments that were levelled by members of the public via their favorite digital highways; when last week, news broke that Gamine, Baffert’s star filly, would be disqualified from her 3rd place finish in last September’s Kentucky Oaks. The Bluegrass state’s Horse Racing Commission finally got around to ruling that Gamine’s positive test for the Class C drug betamethasone that was drawn after the race was the culprit. They stripped her placing from Baffert and owner Michael Lund Petersen, and summarily fined the conditioner $1500.00.

Some guffaws that were sounded thought this billing was absurd, since Baffert’s wallet is bulging with “Bens.” For many, it confirmed what they already knew, that Gamine, who had already been accused of being pumped full of lidocaine on Arkansas Derby card at Oaklawn Park back in May, was a dirty horse manipulated by the powerful “1%.” Conclusion… Baffert gets what he wants, but though he was caught, he still remains at the upper echelons of the sport. Voices of protest weren’t done with their meretricious critiques by a longshot. They even went on to mention how “enamored” and “in love” the voters for the Eclipse Awards were with the trainer, because Gamine won their too, when she took home the prize for champion female sprinter.

I think most of the comments concerning this, “Bob Baffert and his place in the game,” is nothing short of utter “rubbish.” It is built not in journalistic integrity or placed within a context that even makes sense. It sounds more like inuendo and the province of those who, like vultures, are sitting atop the telephone poles, waiting for the next meal to arrive.

Lest we forget, that Baffert answered critics when at the Breeders’ Cup he was asked about his operational control and practices. He said he understood what was being said, and would do whatever he could to rectify it. A new day, and all that. Did they not take him at his word? I suppose not.

What we need to remember is that Baffert’s stable is just one cog in a massive decentralized “industry.” He is the most visible, but what he does is quite specific, especially when it comes to the types of runners he trains and is known for—mostly 3-yr-old colts on the dirt. His charges have gone on to become important sires and dams in the breeding shed, but they are part of a larger cadre. All trainers, no matter how big or small their operations are, struggle with scale, rules, and pleasing their connections. That occupies a huge part of their time.

The fact that Gamine tested positive, on two occasions, is not anything to write off or dismiss. If you think those are not dark marks for the California-based trainer, you would be mistaken. Baffert understands the ramifications of decisions that he makes, and his practices are extremely important to him. Compounding this assertion, they are in turn also significant to those that employ him. Their confidence in him is the very lifeblood of his business and his future.

Maybe instead of the unseemly “water cooler talk” which you can find around the self-service teller machines at tracks from supposed “experts” in the know, they should find something else more productive? Having an outlet for your own voice does not mean that you have the right to unleash metaphors like a cannonade on the Peninsula. Who do you people think you are, Malcolm Gladwell? Stick to your lane… keep your metaphorical editorials to yourself… leave the turfwriting to the professionals… that might be better served.    

Take a page from my book… With my handicapping, I try to beat Bob Baffert all the time. It is not because I think he engages in illegal practices; rather, it is because what he puts out on the track is of the highest quality. Taking a stand against, means that you are bucking the odds, and looking for value elsewhere. He does not always have the winner, nor the Thoroughbred that the public always believes in. After all, look at Authentic. Pundits deeply criticized what they perceived as a horse that could not go “long,” and the pools on Derby Day reflected those “against” opinions. And… what was the result?

Comparing Bob Baffert to J.P. Morgan Chase, like one commenter did on a major horse racing website, isn’t pithy or insightful, it’s just misplaced. Maybe what we should do is let Baffert worry about Baffert, and concern yourselves more with who is running in the 2nd Race at Santa Anita on Friday. By the way, Baffert has the #3 horse, Reem. Why don’t you see if you can beat the 4-yr-old filly? It might be a better use of your time.

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