Baffert blames contamination for Triple Crown hero Justify’s failed drug test
New York Times
Bob Baffert on Thursday blamed contamination for Justify (Scat Daddy) failing
a drugs test before the Kentucky Derby (Gr 1, 0f), the first leg of his 2018 Triple Crown.
He was responding to a report in the New York Times that revealed Justify had tested
positive for the substance scopolamine after winning the Santa Anita Derby (Gr 1, 9f) on April
7, a month before the Derby.
The New York Times alleges that if California officials had followed the rules the failed test
would have disqualified the colt from running in the Kentucky Derby, but a delay in the process
enabled him to take part and later become only the second horse in four decades to land the
“It’s a damn shame it happened, especially to that horse,” Baffert said. “It’s not fair to the
horse, the connections, or to me. I don’t feel it diminishes his accomplishments because he
got tested before that and after that. He was under heavy scrutiny all the time.
“I’ve never administered that drug or had it administered to one of my horses. I wouldn’t
even know what form it would come in.
“We’re always getting notices to be aware of that stuff, but looking for it is like looking for a
needle in a haystack. It’s tough, especially when you bed on straw.
“Fortunately I’ve never had one of these before, but I’ve seen it happen to other trainers.
You hold your breath that it doesn’t happen to you, but we’re sitting ducks. Contamination is
hard to control.
“The general public has to be educated that we do have contamination. It’s common sense
that nobody would intentionally give their horses something like scopolamine. I wouldn’t do that.
When it happened, it was like, ‘Seriously? That’s ridiculous.’ I turned it over to my attorney because
I was trying to win a Derby.”
It reportedly took the California Horse Racing Board more than a month to confirm
the results and it opted to drop the case after finding out.
Rick Arthur, an equine medical director for the California Horse Racing Board, has
defended the time involved in the process.
Arthur said: “The fact of the matter is, even a high Bute case can take 60-90 days to
resolve. There’s no way this case could have been resolved prior to the Kentucky Derby,
which would have been the only grounds for
Elliott Walden, president of part-owner Winstar Farm, said the operation was informed
of the failed post-race drug test in mid-April 2018, turned the matter over to its attorneys
and never heard anything further from the regulator.
“This has been very disappointing,” Walden said. “It’s ridiculous it’s even being brought
up now. I mean, scopolamine is a known contaminant in California. Other top trainers
have dealt with this.
“It’s a shame for Bob’s reputation, Justify’s reputation, and our reputation. Bob has been
a great ambassador for the sport, and his reputation speaks for itself.”
A statement from Churchill Downs, which hosts the Kentucky Derby, said: “Until media
reports surfaced on Wednesday night, neither Churchill Downs nor the Kentucky Horse Racing
Commission had knowledge of any potential positive tests that may have emanated from
California in advance of the 2018 Kentucky Derby.
“We do know that all pre- and post-race tests for 2018 Kentucky Derby participants
came back clean, including Justify.
“In advance of our race each year, the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission conducts
pre-race out-of-competition testing for every Kentucky Derby starter and all starters’ results
“After the Kentucky Derby the top finishers are tested for a myriad of banned substances
and the results for all were clean.”
The penalty for a trainer’s first offence with a 4C drug – the least serious of drugs that are
prohibited in the sport and the classification for scopolamine – is a maximum $500 fine.
Scopolamine is found in jimson weed but its presence in a racehorse’s system can result
Arthur said: “Jimson is a weed we see in California not infrequently. This is not a case of
someone drugging a horse. This is a case of a horse poisoning. The source of it is a poisonous plant.
“The board, on my and the executive director’s recommendation, made the correct,
appropriate and the gutsy decision to dismiss