Baffert responds to report of Justify failing drug test weeks before 2018 Kentucky Derby

Bob Baffert and his 3-1 favorite Justify aim to justify all the pre-race hype Saturday....
Bob Baffert and his 3-1 favorite Justify aim to justify all the pre-race hype Saturday. (Source: John P. Wise/ P. Wise/
Updated: Sep. 12, 2019 at 2:15 PM EDT
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Trainer Bob Baffert showed off his Derby-winner Justify on the backside of Churchill Downs on...
Trainer Bob Baffert showed off his Derby-winner Justify on the backside of Churchill Downs on Sunday morning. (Source: Billy Reed)(WAVE 3 News file photo)

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - An attorney for Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert responded Thursday to a published report that Triple Crown winner Justify failed a drug test just weeks before the 2018 Kentucky Derby.

The New York Times reported Wednesday that the Baffert-trained horse failed the drug test after winning his final Derby prep race, the Santa Anita Derby, last year.

“Instead of the failed drug test causing a speedy disqualification, the California Horse Racing Board took more than a month to confirm the results,” NYT reporter Joe Drape wrote. “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.”

Justify "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,” Drape reported.

The drug test took place on April 7, 2018, just a short time after Justify stormed to victory in the Santa Anita Derby, at Baffert’s home track.

Thursday, attorney W. Craig Robertson III shared with media a letter he addressed to Drape, in which he called the NYT article “long on sensationalism, short on facts, and does a great disservice to Mr. Baffert, JUSTIFY, and the entire horse industry.” Around midday Thursday, Drape tweeted that he hadn’t received such a letter from Robertson.

(Story continues below the tweet)

You can read Robertson’s full letter at the bottom of this page.

Justify would go on to win the Preakness and the Belmont Stakes to become only the 13th thoroughbred to win the Triple Crown. Baffert had won all three jewels just three years earlier with American Pharoah, ending a 37-year Triple Crown drought.

Shortly after Baffert’s attorney sent that letter to the New York times, Baffert released his own statement:

“I unequivocally reject any implication that Scopolamine was ever intentionally administered to Justify, or any of my horses. Test results indicating 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.

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.”

Churchill Downs President Kevin Flanery has also released a statement regarding Bob Baffert’s Justify. It can be read below.

“Until media reports surfaced Wednesday night, neither Churchill Downs nor the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission had knowledge of any potential positive tests that may have emanated from California in advance of the 2018 Kentucky Derby.

We do know that all pre- and post-race tests for 2018 Kentucky Derby participants came back clean, including Justify. In advance of our race each year, the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission conducts pre-race out-of-competition testing for every Kentucky Derby starter and all starters’ results were clean. After the race, the top finishers are tested for a myriad of banned substances and the results for all were clean.”

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