LOS ANGELES, Sept 13, 2019 (BSS/AFP) – Legendary trainer Bob Baffert on
Thursday denied doping 2018 Triple Crown winner Justify after it emerged the
horse failed a drug test before last year’s Kentucky Derby.
US racing was rocked on Wednesday after the New York Times revealed that
Baffert’s Justify had tested positive for the banned substance scopolamine
weeks before winning the first leg of the Triple Crown at Churchill Downs.
In a statement on Thursday, Baffert said the scopolamine entered Justify’s
system through contaminated feed, noting that the banned substance is found
in a weed which grows throughout California.
“I unequivocally reject any implication that scopolamine was ever
intentionally administered to Justify, or any of my horses,” Baffert said in
“Test results indicating trace amounts of the drug were undoubtedly the
result of environmental contamination caused by the presence of jimson weed
in feed, a naturally growing substance in areas where hay and straw are
produced in California.
“In addition, I had no input into, or influence on, the decisions made by
the California Horse Racing Board (CHRB).”
Chuck Winner, chairman of the CHRB at the time, issued a statement backing
Baffert’s claim, saying that Justify was among multiple horses cared for by
different trainers at Santa Anita that tested positive at the same time, an
indication that contaminated feed was involved.
How the case was handled by the CHRB has come under scrutiny after the
Times reported the governing body took more than three weeks to notify
Baffert that the horse had failed a test, advising him only nine days before
the Kentucky Derby.
It was more than a month before the CHRB confirmed the test result, the
Times said, and it was four months later — after Justify had won the
Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont stakes to become the 13th Triple Crown
winner — that the board voted at a closed-door executive session to dismiss
The Times reported that the decision to dismiss rested on the determination
that the positive test could have been the result of contaminated food,
citing the presence of jimson weed in California.
– ‘All correct procedures’ –
Winner said there was “overwhelming evidence that Justify, along with six
other horses in four different barns at Santa Anita, ingested scopolamine
from jimson weed which was present in the hay that had been delivered to the
“It would have been a complete miscarriage of justice for the CHRB to have
taken action against Justify or Baffert, knowing full well that the horse was
poisoned by an environmental contaminate and not injected with a substance,”
Rick Baedeker, executive director of the CHRB, told the Times that Justify
was allowed to run because the CHRB would have been unable to produce a
definitive investigative report prior to the Kentucky Derby, the biggest
event on the US calendar.
Winner added Thursday that the second sample taken from Justify that
confirmed the presence of scopolamine did not come back from the independent
lab until three days after the Kentucky Derby.
“The California Equine Medical Director, the CHRB staff and the
investigators followed all correct procedures in this case,” he said.
Baffert, 66, is one of the most successful trainers in the history of US
As well as masterminding Justify’s Triple Crown win last year, he also led
American Pharoah to the coveted treble in 2015.
In total, Baffert’s horses have won five Kentucky Derbies, seven Preakness
Stakes, three Belmont Stakes.