Yesterday, The New York Times reported that Justify failed a drug test after winning a 2018 Santa Anita race – about one month before the Kentucky Derby. Assuming the Times’ information is correct, had the results been expeditiously disclosed and the matter prosecuted according to the rules in place at the time, Justify’s win would have been vacated, and he would not have qualified for the Derby. Hence, no Triple Crown. But things moved at a snail’s pace and eventually – months later – the case was dropped altogether. What’s more, in October of that year, the penalty for the drug in question – scopolamine – was significantly reduced by the California Horse Racing Board (CHRB), making it appear it wasn’t that bad a violation to begin with.
The above, of course, should come as no surprise, as horseracing is fundamentally incestuous: The CHRB’s chair, Chuck Winner, owns horses trained by Justify’s Bob Baffert; at least two other board members, including vice-chair Madeline Auerbach, are also still very much active in the very industry they’re tasked to regulate. And given Racing’s declining fortunes and desperate need for a media “superstar,” there was little chance the CHRB was going to take any action that would have prevented Justify from running at Churchill – in fact, the full board wasn’t even notified of the positive till after the Kentucky Derby – and zero chance it was going to act in a way that could have stripped Justify of the Triple Crown. Corrupt, to the core.