Another Baffert Horse Tests Positive for Banned Substance, California Board Calls Justify Hearing
Posted on: October 28, 2020, 05:28h.
Last updated on: October 28, 2020, 06:42h.
Less than a week after reports that one of his top fillies failed a drug test after the Kentucky Oaks, legendary horse racing trainer Bob Baffert was again in the news Tuesday. Reports revealed another horse tested positive for an illegal substance.
According to the California Horse Racing Board, Merneith, a 3-year-old filly, failed a test after racing at Del Mar on July 25. The CHRB’s complaint stated a blood sample found Dextrorphan, a Class 4 drug and banned substance, in the horse’s system. Baffert requested the CHRB test the split sample, and that affirmed the original results.
A stewards hearing on the case is scheduled for Nov. 12 at the Southern California track, CHRB spokesman Mike Marten told Casino.org.
In a statement to Casino.org, Baffert’s attorney Craig Robertson said the matter was “another unfortunate case of contamination.”
One of Bob’s grooms handling Merneith had previous exposure to COVID,” Robertson said. “He was taking both Dayquil and Nyquil, and that’s where you find Dextrorphan. It’s a cough suppressant. You would never give cough suppressant to a horse. It’s a case of clear contamination, along with the others, and it’s just unfortunate that all of these have occurred within a relatively short time frame.”
Earlier this year, Baffert received a 15-day suspension after two of his horses, Gamine and Charlatan, tested positive for lidocaine after winning races at Oaklawn Park in Arkansas. Just last week, Kentucky racing officials announced an entrant in last month’s Kentucky Oaks failed a drug test. Robertson issued a statement for Baffert, saying Gamine failed that test for an anti-inflammatory steroid, but the trainer followed state protocols in administering the drug more than two weeks before the race.
Under Association of Racing Commissioners International guidelines, Baffert may face a minimum 60-day suspension “absent mitigating circumstances.”
Justify Hearing Set for Thursday
Also on Tuesday, the CHRB announced it would hold a hearing Thursday on the possible disqualification of two other Baffert horses from victories in races conducted in 2018. That includes Triple Crown winning Justify. It was later determined that scopolamine was found in the colt after he won the Santa Anita Derby.
Baffert has claimed a local weed contaminated the feed for Justify and other horses, causing the positive test.
The other Baffert horse implicated in the failed drug test was Hoppertunity, who won a graded stakes race at Santa Anita over the same weekend as Justify’s victory in the Kentucky Derby prep race.
According to the CHRB release, the complaint against Baffert’s horses also seeks their connections to repay $660,000 winnings from the races.
The ruling will likely come at a later date, according to the Board.
Proponent Confident of Racing Reform Bill’s Chances
As Baffert’s cases put a spotlight on horse racing, lawmakers in Washington are moving closer to passing a bill that would overhaul how the sport is regulated across the country.
The Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act would create a national regulatory body for racing, with a drug testing program overseen by the US Anti-Doping Agency. It passed in the House by a unanimous voice vote a month ago.
Marty Irby, executive director for Animal Wellness Action, told Casino.org that it’s likely Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, will bring the bill, which he has championed in the last couple months, to a vote on the Senate floor. That’s before the current session of Congress concludes at the end of the year.
“I’m as confident as I’ve ever been about any bill that we will get it done and signed into law before the end of December, when the 116th Congress comes to a close,” he said.