- The New York Times reported Wednesday that the now-retired race horse Justify stopped working a drug test prior to the 2018 Kentucky Derby, the first of 3 races in the American Triple Crown.
- A failed drug test would normally lead to disqualification and the forfeiture of any prize money. Instead, The Times said, the California Horse Racing Board took weeks to verify the favorable results of the doping test and ultimately dismissed the case.
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The race horse Justify made history in 2018 by being the very first colt, who did not race as 2-year-old, to win the 2018 Triple Crown in over a century.
The New York City Times on Wednesday, however, stated it had revealed documents showing that the horse stopped working a drug test before the Kentucky Derby, the first of the three races that comprise the American Triple Crown.
Chuck Winner, the chairman of the California Horse Racing Board, owns financial interest in Justify and other horses trained by the Hall of Fame fitness instructor Bob Baffert, but The Times said it did not discover proof of “pressure or tampering by Justify’s owners.”
Justify was checked April 7, 2018, the date of the Santa Anita Derby, which he won– a triumph required to receive the Kentucky Derby.
The samples were sent out to a laboratory on April10 The Times stated the results revealed an “excessive” amount of scopolamine– a prohibited substance– in the horse’s system, suggesting that it was purposefully used.
The drug can “can function as a bronchodilator to clear a horse’s air passage and enhance a horse’s heart rate, making the horse more effective,” The Times wrote, pointing out Dr. Rick Sams, who previously operated in the drug laboratory for the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission. In people it is utilized to treat stomach problems.
A failed drug test would normally result in disqualification and the forfeit of any cash prize, which might have quashed Justify’s entry to the Kentucky Derby.
According documents and memos seen by The Times, the timeline went as follows:
- April 18, the lab sends the outcome.
- April 20, the California Horse Racing Board’s equine medical director, Dr. Rick Arthur, sends out email to legal representatives; Rick Baedeker, the board’s executive director; and its interim chief private investigator stating the case would continue “in a different way than usual.” (Baedeker told The Times he believed this meant it would be extensive.)
- April 26, Baffert is alerted. He requests an independent laboratory test. (Baffert did not provide a comment to The Times.)
- May 1, the sample is sent out to an independent laboratory.
- May 5, the Kentucky Derby is held. Validate wins.
- May 8, a 2nd laboratory confirms the initial result. Baedeker informs the California Horse Racing Board, and a memo from Baedeker states, “The C.H.R.B. investigations system will release a complaint and a hearing will be set up.” There is no proof of a complaint or a hearing.
- May 19, Justify wins Preakness Stakes.
- June 9, Justify wins Belmont Stakes, therefore winning Triple Crown.
- August 23, according to The Times, Baedeker “stated he provided the Justify case directly to the commissioners of the California Horse Racing Board in a private executive session, an action he had never ever taken in his 5-1/2- year tenure.” The board votes all not to move the case forward.
A couple of months after choosing to drop the case, the board chose to lower the penalty for a positive scopolamine test to a fine and a suspension.
In response to The Times, Baedeker said timing complicated the reaction.
“There was no way that we could have developed an investigative report prior to the Kentucky Derby,” he told The Times. “That’s impossible. Well, that’s possible, that would have been reckless and negligent for us to tell an investigator what generally takes you 2 months, you need to get done in 5 days, eight days. We weren’t going to do that.”
He also stated there was an abundance of care due to the fact that scopolamine could be found in jimson weed, which might have infected the feed, stating other horses had traces of the drug listed below the “screening level.” The Times said that “little supporting proof” was provided to back up this claim.
Justify’s breeding rights were offered for $60 million at the end of May2018