Press Release

The Animal Wellness Podcast: Former Horse Racing Executive Joe Gorajec Speaks Out on Bob Baffert and the Medina Spirit Drug Scandal

In most years, the running of the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico is a high-profile, high-stakes follow-up in the Thoroughbred racing world to the running of the Kentucky Derby. Not this year, though.

After racing authorities flagged Derby winner Medina Spirit with a banned substance in his bloodstream, it threw the outcome of the race into dispute and immediately put Pimlico race officials on the spot. 

The controversy was compounded by the fame of the trainer, the infamous Bob Baffert, the winningest trainer of Triple Crown races of all time.

Over the past 40 years, Baffert’s horses have failed more than 30 drug tests — five of those within the last two years. Churchill Downs and the Kentucky Derby have indefinitely suspended Baffert, and so has the New York Racing Association (NYRA), which operates the Belmont Stakes, the third and final leg of the Triple Crown.

 NYRA took a different approach than Maryland racing authorities and that sent a signal to the public that at least some racing authorities won’t look the other way with serial violations of existing anti-doping rules.

NYRA was a tremendous partner in ushering the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act (HISA) to passage, and it’s important that State of New York is addressing medication abuses in a serious-minded way.

Over the six years we spent working to pass the HISA, I made a great new friend, a hero in my eyes: Joe Gorajec, the former head of the Indiana Horse Racing Commission. A man who went against the grain as a very early supporter of the HISA, Gorajec has spent his entire adult life in the horse racing industry and been a true reformer for decades.

“I truly believe that the welfare of our horses should be the priority of all racing industry

participants,” Gorajec said in 2016, not long after we met. “As their guardians we need to put their interest above the commercial interest of their owners, trainers and the tracks where they race.” Gorajec has tremendous insight into the issue and has remained a steadfast supporter of equine welfare and we are fortunate to have him join us on the Animal Wellness Podcast.

Click here to listen to episode 28.

Animal Wellness Action is a Washington, D.C.-based 501(c)(4) whose mission is to help animals by promoting laws and regulations at federal, state and local levels that forbid cruelty to all animals. The group also works to enforce existing anti-cruelty and wildlife protection laws. Animal Wellness Action believes helping animals helps us all. Twitter: @AWAction_News

Center for a Humane Economy is a Washington, D.C.-based 501(c)(3) whose mission is to help animals by helping forge a more 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 Center believes helping animals helps us all. Twitter: @TheHumaneCenter

Animal Wellness 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.