Justify reportedly failed drug test before starting Triple Crown campaign
Triple Crown winning racehorse Justify never would have been allowed to run in the Kentucky Derby had the sport’s rules been properly followed after a failed drug test, according to a report.
According to Joe Drape of the New York Times, Justify failed a drug test roughly one month before running in the Kentucky Derby. The failed test occurred after Justify won the Santa Anita Derby, a victory which clinched his spot in the first leg of the Triple Crown. Justify tested positive for scopolamine, a banned drug that can enhance racing performance.
Had the sport’s regulations been followed, Justify would have been stripped of his Santa Anita Derby title and his subsequent invite to the Kentucky Derby. That would have ensured that the horse would never win the Triple Crown.
However, the California Horse Racing Board waited until nine days before the Kentucky Derby to notify trainer Bob Baffert of the failed test. Four months later, the inquiry was quietly dropped behind closed doors under the guise that Justify could have eaten contaminated food, despite little evidence to support that assertion. In October 2018, the penalty for a scopolamine violation was downgraded to a simple fine and potential suspension.
Board director Rick Baedeker said it would have been “careless and reckless” to rush an investigation ahead of the Kentucky Derby into why the horse failed the drug test. He also stated that the banned substance could appear in a particular type of weed. A veterinarian familiar with the drug test, however, told the Times that the amount of scopolamine found in Justify was “excessive” and felt that it had been ingested intentionally to enhance performance.
The story generally outlines actions taken by the board that were seemingly meant to downplay or hide the drug test, particularly as Justify romped toward a Triple Crown. It was also noted that Justify’s doping case moved through California’s system much more slowly than most others do.
While this would be a much greater scandal, it’s not the first controversy that surrounded Justify’s Triple Crown win. One trainer alleged that the horse had some extra help in winning the Belmont Stakes that year.