Tweebster, gray, in the San Fernando Stakes.

Tweebster, gray, in the San Fernando Stakes.

Benoit Photography

Baffert Trainee Tweebster Euthanized

The gelding fractured his left front sesamoids Dec. 30 at Santa Anita Park.

Tweebster, a 5-year-old Tapit  gelding, has been euthanized after fracturing both sesamoids in his left front leg during a Dec. 30 claiming contest at Santa Anita Park.

Trained by Bob Baffert for Kaleem Shah, Tweebster was a three-time graded stakes-placed contender. He posted runner-up efforts in the 2011 Strub Stakes and San Fernando (both gr. II) and was third in the 2011 Native Diver Handicap (gr. III).

The Dec. 30 race, which carried a $21,000 purse, was a drop in class for Tweebster following some lackluster performances over the past year in stakes and allowance contests. He was entered for a $12,500 tag and finished fifth in a field of nine sprinting 6 1/2 furlongs, but was pulled up by jockey Martin Garcia and was vanned off shortly thereafter.

According to Equibase notes, Tweebster "broke a bit slowly, settled inside then a bit off the rail, came out on the turn and went four wide in the stretch and improved his position, then was unsaddled one pole before the wire and vanned off."

Baffert issued the following statement after Tweebster'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 (Dec. 30) 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 Martin 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."

Bred in Kentucky by Kim Nardelli and Rodney Nardelli out of the Open Forum mare H. R. H. Doodle, Tweebster was a $300,000 purchase at the 2009 Ocala Breeders' Sale Co.'s select sale of 2-year-olds in training. He held a career record of 3-7-4 from 22 starts and had earnings of $246,968.