Report: Justify failed drug test at Santa Anita Park before Triple Crown run

ARCADIA, Calif. (KABC) -- Justify won the 2018 Triple Crown after a failed postrace drug test at a California track that could have kept the horse out of the Kentucky Derby, according to a report from the New York Times.

The newspaper reported Wednesday that Bob Baffert-trained Justify tested positive for the drug scopolamine in April 2018 after winning the Santa Anita Derby, one of the final prep races for the Kentucky Derby. Justify went on to win the Derby and took the Preakness and Belmont stakes to complete the Triple Crown.

The Times said instead of a speedy disqualification, the California Horse Racing Board took more than a month to confirm the results. Instead of filing a public complaint, the board reportedly made decisions behind closed doors as it moved to drop the case and lighten the penalty for horses found to have scopolamine, a prohibited substance that can enhance performance, in their systems.

The newspaper said test results, emails and internal memorandums show how California regulators waited nearly three weeks, until the Kentucky Derby was only nine days away, to notify Baffert of the positive test. Baffert then requested for a second sample to be tested by an independent lab, the newspaper reports. Those results also confirmed the drug use, three days after Justify won the Kentucky Derby.

Two months after the Belmont victory, the board disposed of the inquiry altogether during a closed-door executive session. The board concluded the results could have come from Justify eating contaminated food.

"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.

A CHRB spokesman said the organization would have a further statement Thursday.

The Times said Baffert didn't respond to multiple attempts seeking comment.

PETA released a statement following the report:

"This nasty cover-up has cheated the betting public and the true winners of the Santa Anita and Kentucky derbies, Bolt d'Oro and Good Magic, but even worse, Bob Baffert apparently drugged and harmed Justify-a horse who was completely at his mercy. Baffert should be suspended and held accountable, and Justify should be disqualified from the Triple Crown victory. Even at the highest levels, horseracing is crooked to the core and must be overhauled."

The Associated Press contributed to this story.
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