(WYMT/WKYT) - Update 9/12
Thursday, attorney's for Bob Baffert defended the trainer and the champion horse after reports that Justify failed a drug test weeks before the Kentucky Derby.
Justify, ridden by Jockey Mike Smith, wins the 150th running of the Belmont Stakes., Photo Date: June 9, 2018 / Photo: ZUMA Press / (MGN)
Sister station WKYT reports that an attorney for Baffert says he thinks the reaction to the New York Times report is overblown.
"There was no intentional administration of any sort of substance to Justify. There was no cheating in this particular instance," said Craig Robertson, an attorney.
The California Horse Racing Board dismissed the case behind closed doors even though in other cases horses have been disqualified for it.
"There are a lot of unanswered questions here, and a rush to judgment, although it sometimes makes you feel good, rarely gets you to where you need to end up in terms of understanding what actually happened," said Mary Scollary with Racing Medication and Testing Consortium.
Baffert's team claims Justify was exposed to scopolamine while eating horse feed. Industry experts say scopolamine can contaminate hay and straw used for horse feed. Experts say they would not give it to horses.
"I think the possibility of adverse events is much greater than any potential for beneficial events," said Scollay.
In a statement, Baffert said, "Justify is 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."
His attorney says Baffert did nothing wrong.
"Horse racing remains a tremendous sport, and Mr. Baffert remains one of the leading individuals in that sport, who conducts himself with character and integrity," said Robertson.
Industry experts say drugs like scopolamine are banned not because they give horses an advantage but to keep horses safe on the track.
Justify won the Triple Crown in 2018, becoming one of only two horses in the 21st century to win it. However, the New York Times reported that Justify failed a drug test a couple of weeks before the first Triple Crown race, the Kentucky Derby. The failed drug test occurred on April 7, 2018, to Bob Baffert's Triple Crown-winning horse.
The Times reports that the California Horse Racing 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."
Reports go on to say that Justify tested positive for the drug scopolamine after winning the Santa Anita Derby, which reportedly enhances a horse's performance. The failed drug test would mean disqualification and the prize money and Kentucky Derby spot, according to the New York Times.
Instead, the New York Times says that the California regulators waited three weeks to notify Bob Baffert that his horse had failed the test. Four months after the positive drug test, the board "disposed of the inquiry altogether during a closed-door executive session." They cited that Justify could have eaten contaminated food, and therefore contracted scopolamine.
For more information on the case read the New York Times article here.