Recently we learned that in a closed session of the California Horse Racing Board on August 20, the group decided to proceed with a complaint seeking the disqualification of Justify for his 2018 win in the Santa Anita Derby.
His post-race sample tested positive for scopolamine. Bob Baffert, the trainer of Justify who went on to win the Triple Crown in 2018, argued that the test came back positive because of the ingestion of jimson weed that was around the stall area for Justify and his other horses.
Evidently the CHRB agreed with that and is not pursuing a complaint against Baffert “due to substantial evidence that the scopolamine resulted from environmental contamination from jimson weed.”
After reading about this last week, I came away confused about a few things. Granted, as I age, confusion seems to become part of my life, but there are some answers I need for the following questions:
- If it was environmental contamination and there is substantial evidence that Baffert did not do anything wrong, why the hearing at all? If a horse eats contaminated hay or weeds around his stall, then he can get disqualified?
- If Justify does get disqualified, does he lose the 100 SA Derby prep points that came with win? If he does, he would not have made it to the Derby and in turn, there would have been no Triple Crown winner that year. How is that handled then? Does the second place in each horse gets bumped up a spot?
- If Justify loses the points, but there is no penalty regarding the Derby or the Triple Crown, then does it set a dangerous precedent moving forward? And if there is no penalty, then why have a hearing on the initial decision.
Over the years I have see the CHRB make some bad decisions, but they might be covering new ground here. This entire mess makes little or no sense. How does it take two years to resolve a testing issue?
The procedures are obviously outdated and need to be streamlined. It has been a sideshow for years and incidents like this makes the struggling industry look even worse than it already does.
I am not defending Baffert, but it seems like either he did something wrong and should be punished, or he did not, and it should be the end of the story.
The hearing is set for September 20 at Santa Anita and here is hoping it gets put away for good. The sport has bigger issues to face.
By Dennis Miller