Report: Triple-Crown Winner Justify Failed Drug Test Before 2018 Kentucky Derby

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistSeptember 11, 2019

LOUISVILLE, KY - MAY 05:  Justify #7, ridden by jockey Mike Smith runs down the stretch on his way to winning the 144th running of the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs on May 5, 2018 in Louisville, Kentucky.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Justify failed a drug test in April 2018, which should've precluded him from running in the 2018 Kentucky Derby, according to Joe Drape of the New York Times

"Test results, emails and internal memorandums in the Justify case show how California regulators waited nearly three weeks, until the Kentucky Derby was only nine days away, to notify [trainer Bob Baffert] that his Derby favorite had failed a doping test," Drape wrote.

Justify won the Derby en route to becoming the 13th horse to capture the Triple Crown.

Rick Baedeker, the executive director of the California Horse Racing Board (CHRB), cited the turnaround time the board would've needed to verify the presence of scopolamine, a banned substance, was deliberate and not the result of mitigating factors as the reason behind not making the report known before the Kentucky Derby.

Drape wrote that scopolamine can get "inadvertently mixed in feed, and that 'environmental contamination' is often used as a defense" when a horse tests positive.

Upon learning of Justify's positive test, Baffert requested an additional test May 1 to validate the results. The second test results came back May 8, three days after Justify's Derby win.

Baedeker wrote a memo shortly thereaftr saying the CHRB would file a formal complaint and hold a hearing on the matter, but the board failed to follow through in either regard. However, Baedeker appeared in front of the CHRB's commissioners in a private session, at which point the group decided not to pursue the case.

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Drape also reported Chuck Winner, the chairman of the CHRB, "owns an interest in horses trained by Baffert."

Justify raced twice more, winning the Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes and retiring with a perfect 6-0-0 record.

Darren Rovell reported for ESPN in June 2018 that Justify's breeding rights sold for $60 million, with his Triple Crown adding another $15 million to the price. The amount exceeded the previous record of $70 million, paid for the breeding rights of 2000 Kentucky Derby winner Fusaichi Pegasus.

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