Officials with the California Horse Racing Board (CHRB) vigorously contested reports that the state has seen any spike or even a significant increase in the number of sudden death cases statewide.
"Just to be clear: the number of sudden deaths has not spiked in California," CHRB commissioner Bo Derek, chair of the commission’s Medication and Track Safety Committee, said during a meeting April 11. "Dr. (Rick) Arthur (DVM) very clearly reported the number of sudden deaths has been fairly constant over the last 20 years, in the neighborhood of 20 per year. This is a longstanding international problem. Our medical team, with some assistance from our investigative staff, continues to collect data for their research into sudden deaths."
BloodHorse.com reported on April 11 the state had seen a spike in cardiac failures, as reported in the CHRB Postmortem Examination Program for fiscal year 2011-2012. The story also reported that four of the 11 cases seen between July 1, 2011, and June 30, 2012, were horses stabled with leading Southern California trainer Bob Baffert, who has had three more sudden deaths occur between August 2012 and March 14.
In the postmortem report’s summary it stated: "During this period there were 11 cases of sudden death due to cardiac failure. This represents an increase from four horses with this diagnosis during 2008-2009 and six with the same diagnosis in 2010-2011."
The BloodHorse.com story noted that pathologists have done extensive toxicology studies, pathology and histological exams and have not been able to determine an exact cause for these sudden deaths.