Triple Crown winner Justify tested positive for a banned performance-enhancing less than a month before winning the 2018 Kentucky Derby, the New York Times reported on Wednesday.
A drug test administered to the Bob Baffert-trained colt after winning the Santa Anita Derby on April 7, 2018, returned a positive result for scopolamine. But the California Horse Racing Board spent more than a month confirming the results and once they were in hand, didn’t publicly disclose them, the Times reported.
“There was no way that we could have come up with an investigative report prior to the Kentucky Derby,” California Horse Racing Board director Rick Baedeker told the Times. “That’s impossible. Well, that’s not impossible, that would have been careless and reckless for us to tell an investigator what usually takes you two months, you have to get done in five days, eight days. We weren’t going to do that.”
Baffert, however, was made aware of the initial result nine days before the May 5 Kentucky Derby, the first leg of the Triple Crown, and entered the horse in the race anyway.
Under horse racing rules in place at the time, Justify could have been disqualified.
Baffert didn’t respond to the Times’ request for a comment.
The California board lessened the penalty for a positive scopolamine test before the running of the Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes, the Times said. The board eventually ruled that the horse could have tested positive because of contaminated food and dropped the case.
Baedeker told the Times that jimson weed, which sometimes shows up in horse feed, can cause a positive test for scopolamine.
Dr. Rick Sams, who ran the drug lab for the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission from 2011-18, told the Times that scopolamine can improve a horse’s heart rate and make the horse run more efficiently. Upon reviewing the amount of the drug found in Justify’s system, he said it was excessive and believed it was administered as a performance-enhancer.
“I think it has to come from intentional intervention,” he said.
–Field Level Media (@FieldLevelMedia)