ARCADIA (CBSLA) – Prominent trainer Bob Baffert has vehemently denies that 2018 Triple-Crown winner Justify was intentionally given performance-enhancing drugs following a report that the horse failed a drug test following last year’s Santa Anita Derby, but was still allowed to compete for the Triple Crown.
In a statement provided to CBS2 Thursday, Baffert said that the Scopolamine found in Justify’s system after the horse won the Santa Anita Derby in April of 2018 was due to “the presence of Jimson Weed in feed, a naturally growing substance in areas where hay and straw are produced in California.”
According to the bombshell report from the New York Times Wednesday, Justify failed a drug test immediately after winning the Santa Anita Derby. However, instead of publicly reporting it as is standard procedure, the California Horse Racing Board intentionally kept the result secret and later dropped its investigation, the Times reported.
“I had no input into, or influence on, the decisions made by the California Horse Racing Board,” Baffert wrote in his statement.
Following the Santa Anita Derby, Justify went on to win the Triple Crown.
The president of Churchill Downs Racetrack, where the Kentucky Derby takes place, issued his own statement Thursday alleging that all horses who competed in the Kentucky Derby had clean pre- and post-race drug tests. The statement did not specifically mention Justify.
On Wednesday night, the California Horse Racing Board issued its own brief statement saying it takes “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 Santa Anita Racetrack has been mired in controversy after 30 horses died while racing or training at the track during the past racing season, which ran from December to June. A total of 66 horses have died at the track dating back to the 2018 season. In response, in June California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a bill giving the California Horse Racing Board the authority to halt racing at Santa Anita if it so chooses.
Here is Baffert’s full statement below:
“I unequivocally reject any implication that scopolamine was ever intentionally administered to Justify, or any of my horses. Test results indicate 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.”
“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. I call on the relevant testing agencies in those jurisdictions to immediately release information related to Justify’s test results.”