Justify became only the second Triple Crown winner since the 1970s when the colt won the 150th running of the Belmont Stakes in 2018. However, if the California Horse Racing Board had followed the rules, Justify would never have even run the Triple Crown's first race.
Justify reportedly tested positive for scopolamine, a banned substance in horse racing, weeks before the Kentucky Derby, after the colt's victory at the Santa Anita Derby, according to documents obtained by Joe Drape of the New York Times.
Dr. Rick Sams, who ran the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission from 2011-18, told the New York Times that the amount of scopolamine found in Justify - 300 nanograms per milliliter - indicated doping.
The documents do not indicate any tampering from Justify's owners.
Justify had to win the Santa Anita Derby in order to qualify for the Kentucky Derby. However, the failed drug test should have meant automatic disqualification of both the Santa Anita and Kentucky Derby, as well as forfeiture of any prize money.
Instead of disqualification, the CHRB took more than one month to review the results, affording time for Justify to become the first Triple Crown winner since American Pharoah and 13th in the sport's history. The board then opted to reduce any penalties levied for the particular banned substance Justify was found to have had injected.
Rick Baedeker, executive director of the CHRB, stated that regulators moved cautiously due to the fact that scopolamine can be found naturally in jimsonweed and then inadvertently mixed into horse feed.
"There was no way that we could have come up with an investigation report prior to the Kentucky Derby," Baedeker said, according to Drape, acknowledging that the case may end up in the Superior Court. "That's impossible. Well, that's not impossible, that would have been careless and reckless for us to tell an investigator what usually takes you two months, you have to get done in five days, eight days. We weren't going to do that."
Previously, failed drug tests that uncover scopolamine in horse racing have resulted in disqualifications, prize forfeiture, fines, and suspensions.
A group of owners, who hold a majority stake at WinStar Farm - a horse breeding and racing farm - reportedly sold Justify's breeding rights to Coolmore Stud for $60 million after the horse's victory at Preakness Stakes - the second race in the Triple Crown circuit.