Horse Dies Following Sunday Race at Santa Anita Park

Trainer Bob Baffert calls Tweebster "tough, gallant," blames injury on heavy rains.

Rainy, muddy conditions may be to blame for a horse's death Sunday at Santa Anita Park. Tweebster reportedly stumbled crossing the finish line during the seventh race of the day, injuring his sesamoid bone.

The extent of Tweebster's injuries prompted veterinarians, in conjunction with trainer Bob Baffert and owner Kaleem Shah, to make the decision to euthanize the horse. 

Baffert issued the following statement Monday regarding the horse's death:

"We all know racing is a sport of extreme highs and lows, and there is nothing lower than the death of a horse. When the public's perception is that you are somehow responsible it makes the pain all the greater. Not only am I distressed over the death of this tough, gallant horse, I am deeply troubled by the comments on social media. They insinuate Tweebster's death was a result of my dropping him down for a $12,500 claiming tag, suggesting the horse was unsound and I was merely trying to get rid of him.

I respect and fully appreciate the sensitivity regarding the well being of animals, so I feel I owe it to everyone to explain the events that led to Tweebster's injury and subsequent death.

As is required, Tweebster was thoroughly examined by the state veterinarian yesterday morning and found to be perfectly sound going into the race. The decision to run him in this particular race was not based on a lack of soundness, but rather a lack of races available for him at higher claiming prices. Tweebster was healthy and happy. I felt he was in need of a confidence booster and thought this would be an easy spot for him to get it. I understand a severe drop in class can indicate a horse is unsound, but I assure you that was not the case with Tweebster. Just before the race, heavy rain and hail poured down, making the track  more muddy and heavier.  The horse was moving great and his jockey says he felt comfortable throughout the race. It wasn't until after the finish that [jockey] Martin [Garcia] felt him take a bad step. We brought him back to the barn in hopes of saving him, but knew quickly that wasn't going to be the case.

I have run horses at lower levels in the past and seen them regain their old form by getting their confidence back. Sometimes I have had the horses claimed from me in the process and they have gone on to win stakes and allowance races for other owners and trainers.  I realize that is part of the claiming game. 

The death of any horse on the racetrack is hard to accept.  When that horse is one who you saw and took care of everyday, the pain is physically gut wrenching. While I realize some people are going to think what they want, I want to express my feelings and deepest regret over the loss of a horse for whom I had a great deal of affection."

Betty Saleh December 31, 2012 at 11:24 PM
Mr. Baffter, I'm so sorry for your loss. I can feel your pain in the words you wrote. My condolences.
Brian Tomlonson January 01, 2013 at 01:22 AM
Thanks for letting the public know. When I was handicapping that race, I assumed the horse had some sort of injury. i.e. bone chips, etc. I never ever considered you raced raced a horse which could posdibly die. You are a classy horseman that cares deeply about race horses. Thank you for providing insight into this tragedy. My condolences to you!
Sandra January 01, 2013 at 07:05 PM
Elizabeth Montgomery January 03, 2013 at 12:05 AM
The owner is not responsible for a horse taking a misstep anymore then he is responsible for a stranger tripping over a crack in sidewalk. I think maybe Santa Anita should reconsider being open on rainy day's. I know i was surprised to see the message on my Facebook saying they are open rain or shine. I am so sorry to the owner for his loss. That is sad.
Paul J. Grala January 03, 2013 at 07:28 PM
things happen hopefully all are good but in this instance it was unfortunate. I do believe that Bob Baffert put the horse first in health he has done this in the past so i dont think he should be questioned .. rest in peace Tweebster


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