Triple Crown victor Justify failed drug test before 2018 Kentucky Derby


Enlarge Image Justify Anthony J. Causi

The Times said instead of a speedy disqualification, the California Horse Racing Board took more than a month to confirm the results. In 2015, Baffert, one of horse racing's biggest names, had already given the world its first Triple Crown victor since 1977 with Zayat Racing Stables' American Pharoah.

Champion racehorse Justify failed a drug test shortly before winning the American Triple Crown in 2018, the New York Times reported on Wednesday. "We weren't going to do that".

According to the newspaper, Justify tested positive for scopolamine after winning the Santa Anita Derby - and qualifying for the Kentucky Derby in the process - on April 7, 2018.

"There was no way that we could have come up with an investigative report prior to the Kentucky Derby", Rick Baedeker, the board's executive director, per the Times. California horsemen, however, moved slowly in investigating the test; that delay, in turn, allowed Justify to race in, and win, the Ketucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes and become the 13th Triple Crown victor in thoroughbred racing history.

However, just over a year after an injury curtailed his career, the New York Times' report suggests that due to failing a drug test Justify should never have been allowed to compete in the Triple Crown.

Baffert did not respond to the Times's inquiries for comment.

Two months after dismissing the Justify case, the California board changed the penalty for a failed scopolamine test from a disqualification to a fine and a possible suspension.

Scopolamine, also known as hyoscine, is banned in horse racing because it can improve horses' breathing and heart-rate. Dr. Rick Sams, former laboratory director for LGC Science Inc., told the Times scopolamine can act as a bronchodilator and that the amount detected in Justify "was excessive". Scopolamine can be found in jimson weed, which can sometimes get mixed in with feed and enter a horse's system.

Drape's report also touched on hosemen's longstanding conflicts of interest, including board members having ownership stakes in horses and having working relationships with jockeys and trainers. There is no California law prohibiting such conflicts, Drape reported.

The documents do not indicate any tampering from Justify's owners.

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