HISA Watchdog Statement to Press

Animal Wellness Action Says Death of Havnameltdown May Have Been Avoided Had National Racing Authority Applied Churchill Down’s Two-Year Suspension of Bob Baffert to All U.S. Tracks

Suspended from Churchill Downs and the Kentucky Derby, Baffert Being Allowed to Run at Pimlico Highlights Precisely Why HISA Rules Must Be Applied Nationwide.

Washington, D.C. — Animal Wellness Action today expressed sadness and dissatisfaction with the death of Havnameltdown and the injury of jockey Luis Saez at the Chick Lang Stakes at Pimlico on Saturday. The horse was trained by Bob Baffert, whom Churchill Downs had suspended from competition at that Triple Crown venue because of a doping violation in 2021. Medina Spirit crossed the finish line first at the 2021 Derby but the win was later revoked because of a drug violation. Medina Spirit died later that year after a workout at Santa Anita, under Baffert’s watch.

Wayne Pacelle, president of Animal Wellness Action, issued the following statement:

“Bob Baffert being allowed to run at Pimlico this year reminds us again of how the long-standing system of promoting track safety for Thoroughbreds and jockeys is broken. If Baffert was rightly excluded from a Triple Crown venue in 2022 and 2023, then that prohibition should have applied to other race venues during that same time period and especially the Triple Crown tracks. This is precisely why there must be a national authority to set rules to keep horses safe. Suspended trainers should not be allowed to cherry pick their venues if they’ve been judged as incapable of keeping their horses safe.”

Jerry Jackson/Baltimore Sun

The Horseracing and Integrity Safety Authority, the national enforcement organization created by Congress under the terms of the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act, is charged with developing consistent national rules to safeguard horses. Disciplinary actions against trainers by individual tracks and state racing commissions should be applied nationally.

Pacelle added, “It is unfortunate that the Authority’s work has been delayed and that dangerous trainers have been allowed to keep running horses and put them at risk on American racetracks. Perhaps Havnameltdown would be alive today if national rules to protect horse safety had been in place.

Originally published on Animal Wellness Action

Animal Wellness Action (Action) is a Washington, D.C.-based 501(c)(4) organization with a mission of helping animals by promoting legal standards forbidding cruelty. We champion causes that alleviate the suffering of companion animals, farm animals, and wildlife. We advocate for policies to stop dogfighting and cockfighting and other forms of malicious cruelty and to confront factory farming and other systemic forms of animal exploitation. To prevent cruelty, we promote enacting good public policies and we work to enforce those policies. To enact good laws, we must elect good lawmakers, and that’s why we remind voters which candidates care about our issues and which ones don’t. We believe helping animals helps us all.

The Center for a Humane Economy (“the Center”) is a non-profit organization that focuses on influencing the conduct of corporations to forge a humane economic order. The first organization of its kind in the animal protection movement, the Center encourages businesses to honor their social responsibilities in a culture where consumers, investors, and other key stakeholders abhor cruelty and the degradation of the environment and embrace innovation as a means of eliminating both.

The Animal Wellness Foundation (Foundation) is a Los Angeles-based private charitable organization with a mission of helping animals by making veterinary care available to everyone with a pet, regardless of economic ability. We organize rescue efforts and medical services for dogs and cats in need and help homeless pets find a loving caregiver. We are advocates for getting veterinarians to the front lines of the animal welfare movement; promoting responsible pet ownership; and vaccinating animals against infectious diseases such as distemper. We also support policies that prevent animal cruelty and that alleviate suffering. We believe helping animals helps us all.