Failed drug test cover up rocks United States horse racing

Ross Houston
September 13, 2019

It was more than a month before the CHRB confirmed the test result, the Times said, and it was four months later - after Justify had won the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont stakes to become the 13th Triple Crown victor - that the board voted at a closed-door executive session to dismiss the case.

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

Justify failed a drug test one month before the 2018 Kentucky Derby, and the California Horse Racing Board made a decision to dismiss the case after the colt went on to win the Triple Crown, The New York Times reported Wednesday.

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.


In an article posted on its website, the newspaper said Justify, who was under the stewardship of Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert, tested positive to the banned substance scopolamine after winning the Santa Anita Derby on April 7.

The board reportedly decided that the test results could have come from Justify eating contaminated food.

The Times quotes the board's executive director, Rick Baedeker as saying, "There was no way that we could have come up with an investigative report prior to the Kentucky Derby".

A cover up of a failed drug test has this morning rocked the USA horse racing industry.


Baffert, who did not respond to the Times' requests for comment, is expected to address reporters on Thursday. A banned substance, the drug can enhance performance and make a horse more efficient by acting as a bronchodilator to clear the airway and optimize the heart rate, Dr. Rick Sams, former head of the drug lab for the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission, told the Times.

Previously, failed drug tests that uncover scopolamine in horse racing have resulted in disqualifications, prize forfeiture, fines, and suspensions. It can occur naturally in jimson weed, which could be present in feed or bedding materials.

His report noted that Justify's ownership group included "power brokers" in horse racing, in particular WinStar Farm and China Horse Group, but that the documents the Times reviewed showed no evidence the group pressured or interefered with California regulators.


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