A day after the New York Times reported that 2018 Triple Crown winner Justify tested positive for a banned substance in the run-up to the Kentucky Derby, the Maryland Jockey Club said that the Bob Baffert-trained colt was clean in pre- and post-race drug tests for the 143rd Preakness.
Earlier Thursday, Churchill Downs Racetrack released a similar statement saying that Justify had come up clean on pre- and post-race tests for the 2018 Kentucky Derby.
The Times reported that Justify tested positive for the banned substance Scopolamine after his victory in the Santa Anita Derby on April 7, 2018. If he had been disqualified from that prep race, he would not have qualified for the Kentucky Derby field. The Times reported that the California Horse Racing Board dismissed the case four months later in a closed-door session.
Baffert released a statement Thursday saying he did not give Scopolamine to Justify and blaming the positive test on “environmental contamination” related to jimson weed, “a naturally growing substance in areas where hay and straw are produced in California.”
W. Craig Robertson III, an attorney for Baffert, also issued a statement criticizing the Times story as “long on sensationalism, short on facts.”
The Maryland Jockey Club statement read: “Justify, as with every horse who raced in the 2018 Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, MD, was subjected to pre-race drug testing by the Maryland Racing Commission. Justify, as the winner of the 143rd Preakness, along with several other horses who competed, also received extensive post-race testing by that same body. The Maryland Jockey Club was informed that all of those tests came back negative for any illicit substance or for the overages of any prohibited medication.”
In his fifth race in 90 days, Justify held on by a half-length to win the second leg of the Triple Crown at Pimlico Race Course on May 19, 2018. Justify won the Belmont Stakes three weeks later to become the 13th Triple Crown winner in history. Baffert became the second trainer to win two Triple Crowns, capturing his first with American Pharoah in 2015.