In early May, Corey Martinez, who is in charge of Santa Anita’s video surveillance, was going through video of the stalls of horses entered to race on May 8, just double-checking whether the last administration of Lasix was within the time guidelines.
But what he saw was surprising. An employee of trainer Richard Baltas was seen giving Noble Reflection a product by syringe into the horse’s mouth. Regardless of the type of medication, it is illegal to administer any medication within 24 hours of racing. The stewards were informed and the horse was scratched from the 10th race.
Santa Anita then started an investigation, as did the California Horse Racing Board.
The track essentially suspended Baltas on May 12, not allowing him to enter any horses at 1st/Racing tracks, which included Santa Anita and Golden Gate Fields. On Tuesday, the CHRB went one step further, issuing a complaint against Baltas alleging 23 counts of violating the rule dealing with the administration of medications after a horse has been entered, 23 counts of violating the trainer’s insurer rule and one count of conduct detrimental to racing.
The trainer’s insurer rule says that the trainer, regardless of his presence around the horse, is responsible for its conditions and what substances are in its body. Those with knowledge of the investigation but not allowed to comment told the Los Angeles Times that Baltas was not personally seen administering anything to his horses.
The offenses allegedly occurred between March 15 and May 8.
Attorney Darrell Vienna, who represents Baltas, had no comment on the charges.
A hearing has been set for July 1.
The discovery by Martinez, prompted 1st/Racing chief operating officer Aidan Butler to ask for a review of video of other horses under Baltas’ care. What they found, according to several people with knowledge of the investigation, is that there were multiple cases of the administration of an oral supplement, which was believed to be used to help breathing.
Santa Anita officials, not wanting to comment publicly while an investigation was ongoing, had no explanation for why the previous alleged violations were not detected earlier.
The complaint said that testing showed the presence of Higenamine and Paeonol, both supplements with no traditional performance-enhancing properties.
“We’ve put so much effort in to making California the safest racing place around and that remains the charge,” Butler told The Times last month. “So, we will never put up with anyone messing around.”
The CHRB took it off of Santa Anita’s enforcement plate with the complaint.
After he was not permitted to race at Santa Anita, Baltas transferred all of his Southern California-based horses, about 80 of them, to other trainers. Baltas has since raced six times at Churchill Downs in Kentucky and once at Lone Star in Texas. Santa Anita’s Season Ended Sunday.
Before his Santa Anita suspension, Baltas had 164 starters with 24 wins, 34 seconds and 19 thirds, for purses in excess of $1.9 million.
Baltas has been outspoken at Santa Anita in his criticism of trainer Bob Baffert. The hall of fame trainer is currently finishing a 90-day suspension after former Kentucky Derby winner Medina Spirit tested positive for a legal medication, but not legal on race day. Many of the details around the Medina Spirit positive test are in various stages of litigation.
On April 21, 2021, Baltas got into a scuffle with Tim Yakteen, a former Baffert assistant. According to a CHRB incident report, Baltas said it started when Baltas told Yakteen, “Your boy got away with it again,” who Baltas said meant Baffert. Yakteen responded with expletives and soon they were rolling on the ground “with no punches thrown.” A security guard was slightly injured breaking it up.
Both trainers were fined $500.
The comment was made after two Baffert horses that tested positive for lidocaine in Arkansas were restored as winners after it was determined the substance was ingested because of contamination as horses in other barns also tested positive. While the suspension of Baffert was removed and the victories and purses restored, Baffert had to pay a fine because he was in violation of the trainer’s insurer rule.
On the same day as the scuffle, Baffert asked for a security officer to visit his barn. According to a report by security officer William Griffin, Baffert said: “Richard Baltas has been bad mouthing him for a couple of months now. Baffert stated, every time Baltas sees him, Baltas starts yelling at Baffert by stating, ‘You guys are always cheating and always getting away with it.’ †
The report concluded with Baffert saying: “I always felt like he’s been jealous of me. … I don’t trust Baltas, he is very distrustful. I’m glad they have cameras here.”