Triple Crown victor Justify failed drug test before 2018 Kentucky Derby

Ruben Hill
September 12, 2019

The colt's win in Santa Anita gave him enough qualifying points to run in the Kentucky Derby, which was the first leg in his campaign to become the 13th horse to win the Triple Crown.

The report Wednesday said that Justify shouldn't have been able to participate in any of last year's Triple Crown events.

According to documents reviewed by Times writer Joe Drape, the California Horse Racing Board subsequently voted to dismiss the case during a closed-door executive session in August 2018, after the horse had won the Triple Crown.

However, the New York Times has reported Justify had returned a positive swab for scopolamine, a performance enhancing drug that is banned on raceday, after his win in the Santa Anita Derby.

In the past, positive tests for scopolamine have resulted in disqualifications, purse reimbursements, fines and suspensions, according to the report.

The Times said instead of a speedy disqualification, the California Horse Racing Board took more than a month to confirm the results.

The newspaper said test results, emails and internal memorandums show how California regulators waited almost three weeks, until the Kentucky Derby was only nine days away, to notify Baffert of the positive test.

The California Horse Racing Board's executive director Rick Baedeker "acknowledged that it was a delicate case because of its timing" since the Derby was just weeks away. However, the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission's former drug lab chief, Rick Sams, told the Times that the amount of scopolamine in Justify's system suggested it "has to come from intentional intervention". "We weren't going to do that".

The California Horse Racing Board investigated Baffert in 2013 when seven of his horses unexpectedly died at Inglewood's Hollywood Park over the course of 16 months.

Baffert was found to have administered thyroid hormone thyroxine to the horses despite there being no evidence of hypothyroidism that the hormone is meant to treat. There is no violation of any rules.

The Times said Baffert did not respond to attempts for comment on the story.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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