by VIVIAN FARRELL
Everyone who knows us knows we are no fans of Thoroughbred trainer Bob Baffert. He is a cheater, a liar and a doper.
I had written a dear colleague a day or so ago stating it is my opinion that when all is said and done, Baffert’s Triple Crown Winner, Justify, would go down in history with an asterisk by his name, marking that the horse had won during the Chemical Age, and his victory would count for little. The next day she wrote back saying, did you see this . . . . ?
“This” turned out to be Joe Drape’s The New York Times article, “Justify Failed a Drug Test Before Winning the Triple Crown”.
In it Drape states:
“On June 9, 2018, a colt named Justify thundered home to the full-throated cheers of a capacity crowd to win the 150th running of the Belmont Stakes and claim horse racing’s Triple Crown, one of the most storied achievements in sports.
“It was the perfect ending to an improbable journey for a talented horse, his eclectic ownership group, and his Hall of Fame trainer, Bob Baffert.
“Only a few people, however, knew the secret that Baffert carried with him into the winner’s circle that day: Justify had failed a drug test weeks before the first race in the Triple Crown, the Kentucky Derby. That meant Justify should not have run in the Derby, if the sport’s rules were followed.”
“. . . . if the sport’s rules were followed.” But they don’t follow the rules, do they? And in the case of Justify’s doping prior to the Derby, documents reviewed by The New York Times show they did not enforce the rules in the case of Baffert and his horse.
“Instead of the failed drug test causing a speedy disqualification, the California Horse Racing Board took more than a month to confirm the results. Then, instead of filing a public complaint as it usually does, the board made a series of decisions behind closed doors as it moved to drop the case and lighten the penalty for any horse found to have the banned substance that Justify tested positive for in its system.
“By then, Justify had become just the 13th Triple Crown winner in the last 100 years, and his owners had sold his breeding rights for $60 million.
“Only a handful of racing officials and people connected to Justify knew about the failed drug test, which occurred April 7, 2018, after Justify won the Santa Anita Derby. He tested positive for the drug scopolamine, a banned substance that veterinarians say can enhance performance, especially in the amount that was found in the horse.
“Justify was undefeated at the time, but he still needed to finish first or second in the Santa Anita Derby to qualify for the Kentucky Derby, on May 5. While the colt won at Santa Anita, the failed drug test would mean disqualification and forfeiture of both the prize money and the entry into the Kentucky Derby that came with the victory.”
“None of that happened, though.
“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 Baffert that his Derby favorite had failed a doping test.”
The rest of the article talks about the actions the California Horse Racing Board took, or perhaps I should say didn’t take. Interestingly, “The chairman of the California Horse Racing Board, Chuck Winner, owns an interest in horses trained by Baffert. Two other board members employ trainers and jockeys they regulate.” It is an incestuous business.
Insofar as the drug itself, “Scopolamine cases have resulted in disqualifications, purse reimbursements, fines and suspensions over the decades.” Not it seems, however, if it is used by Bob Baffert.
Justify was “retired” almost immediately following the Triple Crown and shipped off to stud. What about Justify’s Triple Crown? Bring on the asterisk.
In the meantime. . . .
Horse racing is gambled on. Horse doping is race fixing. How this so called “sport” is still running is criminal in every sense of the word in my view and should be banned from being gambled on, which would sink the industry. More on that in another post.
“Justify Failed a Drug Test Before Winning the Triple Crown”, by Joe Drape, The New York Times, 11 Sept 2019.
• Deadly to Horses: The Baffert Effect Part 1, by Jane Allin »
• Deadly to Horses: The Baffert Effect Part 2, by Jane Allin »
• Baffert horses big part of sudden death spike, by The Bloodhorse »
• Horse Racing in America: A Spectacle of Liars, Dopers and Cheaters – Part 1, by Jane Allin »
• Horse Racing in America: A Spectacle of Liars, Dopers and Cheaters – Part 2, by Jane Allin »
Trainer Bob Baffert and Justify. Alex Evers/Eclipse Sportswire/Getty Images.