In the United States, the trainer behind the last year’s Triple Crown-winning Justify has reportedly come under fire after it emerged that the colt had allegedly tested positive for a banned substance just weeks before triumphing in the first of the three-race series.
According to a Thursday report from NBCNews.com citing an earlier story from The New York Times newspaper, Bob Baffert has been criticized because tests had allegedly shown that the animal had the prohibited drug scopolamine in its system prior to winning the 2018 edition of the Kentucky Derby. It purportedly should have been banned but instead went on to contest and prevail in the subsequent Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes to become only the 13th horse to claim the Triple Crown title.
NBCNews.com reported that the California Horse Racing Board and this organization’s Executive Director, Rick Baedeker, have also been condemned because they took over a month to confirm the initial tests and had subsequently not prevented the horse from racing. Instead, the regulator is purportedly said to have ‘made a series of decisions behind closed doors’ that were designed ‘to drop the case and lighten the penalty’ for any animal that was later found to have had scopolamine in their system.
In his defense, Baedeker is reported to have told The New York Times that scopolamine is quite regularly found in jimson weed, which grows wild and can therefore make its way into a horse’s feed, and that there had been ‘no way that we could have come up with an investigative report prior to the Kentucky Derby’.
Baedeker reportedly told the newspaper…
“We take seriously the integrity of horseracing in California and are committed to implementing the highest standards of safety and accountability for all horses, jockeys and participants.”
Echoing these sentiments, the recently-retired two-term Chairman for the California Horse Racing Board, Chuck Winner, reportedly told The New York Times that his organization had made the correct decision in ‘what was clearly a case of environmental contamination that has been badly mischaracterized’. He moreover purportedly proclaimed that a subsequent investigation had uncovered ‘overwhelming evidence’ that Justify and six of his stable mates had inadvertently been fed jimson weed and that preventing the horse from racing would have represented ‘a complete miscarriage of justice’.
For his part, Baffert has reportedly denied any suggestions of impropriety and furthermore pointed out that scopolamine has a depressant effect and does not improve the performance of a race horse.
Baffert reportedly told The New York Times…
“Following the Santa Anita Derby, Justify raced in three different jurisdictions during his Triple Crown run; Kentucky, Maryland and New York. He passed all drug tests in those jurisdictions.”