Triple Crown Winner Justify - Drug Positive

  • naresh
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4 months 1 week ago #770730 by naresh
Contamination or not....

connections of Justify  reacted Sept. 12 to an explosive New York Times story revealing that the eventual Triple Crown winner failed a post-race drug test following his 2018 Santa Anita Derby (G1) victory by saying contamination caused the positive test.

A story posted to the website the evening of Sept. 11 reported that after Justify's victory in the Santa Anita Derby the colt tested positive for scopolamine, a prohibited substance. The story, based on documents obtained by the New York Times, calls into question how the California Horse Racing Board handled the positive, noting that it took more than a month to confirm the results, the regulator failed to file a public complaint, and the regulator conducted meetings behind closed doors in which decisions on the case were made.

The article notes that trainer Bob Baffert didn't respond to requests for comment but on Thursday the Racing Hall of Fame trainer attributed the positive to contamination.

"I've never administered that drug or had it administered to one of my horses," Baffert said. "I wouldn't even know how it would come—what form it would come in."

On Nov. 14, 2016 the CHRB issued a warning that jimson weed had been found in bedding straw and because the weed can contain scopolamine, it could lead to a post-race positive because of contamination.

"It is certainly not a crisis, but this weed can contain scopolamine, which is a prohibited substance," CHRB equine medical director Rick Arthur said at the time. The New York Times story noted the CHRB's warning to horsemen.

The New York Times story says that at the time, sanctions for such a positive called for a disqualification of the horse. The story reports that four months after the positive, the board disposed of the inquiry all together in a closed-door executive session. Rick Baedeker, executive director of the CHRB, said in the story that the regulator moved cautiously because of the likelihood of contamination. He noted that jimson weed can become inadvertently mixed in feed.

Baffert believes contamination is the reason for Justify's positive test for scopolamine after the Santa Anita Derby.

"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," Baffert said. "I've been fortunate that I've never had one of these before, but I've seen it happen to other trainers out here. You're holding 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."

Also reacting to the story Thursday was Elliott Walden, president, CEO, and racing manager of WinStar Farm, which co-owned Justify with China Horse Club, Head of Plains Partners, and Starlight Racing. Walden said WinStar was informed of the failed post-race drug test in mid-April 2018 and turned the matter over to its attorneys and never heard anything further on the matter from the regulator.

"This has been very disappointing," Walden said. "It is ridiculous it is even being brought up now. I mean, scopolamine is a known contaminant in California. Other top trainers have dealt with this issue. It is 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."

The story quotes Dr. Rick Sams, who ran the drug testing lab for the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission from 2011-18, saying that scopolamine can act as a bronchodilator to clear a horse's airway and optimize a horse's heart rate, making the horse more efficient. According to the story, he also said the amount of scopolamine found in Justify—300 nanograms per milliliter—was excessive.

Also Thursday, Baffert's attorney, Craig Robertson III of Lexington copied BloodHorse on a letter sent to New York Times writer Joe Drape raising concerns about the story although it did not threaten any legal action. In the letter Robertson said there was no intentional administration of scopolamine to Justify, saying an administration would defy logic and common sense. 

"No trainer would ever administer scopolamine to a horse," Robertson said in the letter. "It has a depressant effect and would do anything but enhance the performance of a horse. There is zero scientific evidence to suggest that scopolamine has any performance-enhancing properties."

The letter praised the CHRB's handling of the case.

Both Baffert and Walden said the outcome of the post-race test should not impact the standing of Justify and they note that his performance in the Triple Crown, and the clean post-race tests that followed, only add more credence to the Santa Anita positive being a result of contamination.

"Let me say it this way, he competed in three jurisdictions after this issue and came back negative in all three jurisdictions and won the Triple Crown," Walden said. "His record speaks for itself."

Baffert said Justify's accomplishments tell the story.

"It's a damn shame it happened, especially to that horse," Baffert said. "It's not fair to the horse, the connections, or me. It's a damn shame. 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, being a heavy favorite."
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  • Bob Brogan
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4 months 1 week ago #770830 by Bob Brogan
This is incredible sad news for racing




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