Baffert: Justify’s positive test came from contaminated food

Can They Really Justify It?

Can They Really Justify It?

Justify won the 2018 Triple Crown after a failed post-race drug test at a California track that could have kept the horse out of the Kentucky Derby, according to a report in the New York Times. Justify went on to win the Derby and took the Preakness and Belmont stakes to complete the Triple Crown, becoming just the 13th horse to do so in history.

Baffert released a statement Thursday afternoon saying he didn't have an impact on any decision made by California regulators. It reportedly decided Justify's test results could have come from eating contaminated food. Tests showed the horse had scopolamine - a banned, performance-enhancing substance - in its system, and a particularly excessive amount of it at that. "I'm the primary adviser on drug testing to the board, and my opinion is it would have no pharmacological effect".

The failed test came on April 7, according to the NY Times, right after Justify won the Santa Anita Derby in California, which should have triggered an immediate disqualification.

After Baffert called on racing officials in Kentucky, Maryland and NY to release Justify's test results, each one said everything came back negative.

This should have been more than enough for officials to disqualify Justify from further competition, and surely warranted banning the young horse from participating in the upcoming Kentucky Derby.

The medical director of the California Horse Racing Board said Thursday they threw out the results because the sample was the result of contamination of jimson weed, which is often found in natural feed products that are given to horses. Baffert trained the only two Triple Crown winners in the past three decades: Justify in 2018 and American Pharoah in 2015.

"Justify is the one of the finest horses I've had the privilege of training and by any standard is one of the greatest of all time". "I am proud to stand by his record and my own".

While defending his own actions, Baffert said he had no input into or influence on decisions made by the California board, which came under fire for treating this situation differently from past precedent. The Times report sources Dr. Rick Sams, formerly of the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission, who says scopolamine can clear a horse's airway and optimize its heart rate.

"We take seriously the integrity of horse racing in California and are committed to implementing the highest standards of safety and accountability for all horses, jockeys and participants", the California Horse Racing Board said in a statement emailed to the AP.