News and STORIES

Justify’s Santa Anita Derby Win to be Reviewed by CHRB

Author: Clint Goodman
Published: Friday August 28, 2020
The California Horse Racing Board has announced that it will officially move forward and review Justify’s 2018 Santa Anita Derby (G1) win, following a complaint seeking the disqualification of the runner. The complaint also seeks the redistribution of the purse, and it is based on the horse’s post-race sample, which tested positive for scopolamine. 

According to attorneys for Mick Ruis, the CHRB had agreed to move forward with a purse disqualification hearing about the race after a preliminary agreement was made to settle litigation.

The CHRB confirmed on Aug. 27 that the agreement was made official in a closed-session vote on Aug. 20. 

There was substantial evidence of environmental contamination caused by jimson weed found by the CHRB, which was said to be the reason for the positive scopolamine test. Because of that, there will be no complaint filed against trainer Bob Baffert.


The CHRB is also seeking the disqualification of Hoppertunity, who won the April 2018 Tokyo City Cup Stakes (G3) at Santa Anita. It will also seek the redistribution of that purse.

The move comes after the runner’s post-race sample also tested positive for scopolamine. There is no current litigation, and the positive test was determined to also be from environmental contamination due to jimson weed. 

Hoppertunity was also trained by Bob Baffert.

Complaints have been filed for the redistribution of the purses with the board of stewards at Del Mar, and the affected parties have been served notice by the CHRB investigators. The hearings over the disqualification and purse redistribution have been scheduled for Sept. 20 at Santa Anita Park.

Following the Santa Anita Derby, Justify had 300 nanograms, five times the residue limit set by the International Federation of Horseracing Authorities, which is meant to account for environmental contamination. 

According to CHRB medical director Rick Arthur, the test pointed to contamination due to the presence of atropine. Arthur said that atropine only shows up when scopolamine is caused by jimson weed ingestion.

Baffert holds that he never administered scopolamine in his barn.

Previous Decisions

In the past, regulatory decisions have determined that when contamination occurred, there were no sanctions for the trainer, but the horse was disqualified due to the presence of an illegal substance. 

It was in 1994 when the CHRB determined that if scopolamine was found in post-race urine samples and was linked to jimson weed contamination in the bedding straw, the horses were still disqualified since they ran with a prohibited substance in their system. 

However, the trainers did not face any sanctions since they were not involved.

That decision by the CHRB was upheld by a California Court of Appeals, which overturned a lower court’s decision calling for the board to reconsider. In that specific case, the horses tested positive with scopolamine levels between 15 and 47 nanograms.

According to Arthur, the CHRB has not moved forward on a scopolamine positive since Dixie Crisp was disqualified back in February 2007, when she scored at Bay Meadows.

With the CHRB hearing next month, Justify’s perfect record of six wins in six starts will be in jeopardy. His last race was a victory in the Belmont Stakes Presented by NYRA Bets (G1), at which point the Triple Crown champion was retired. 

The horse-racing world will wait to see the upcoming decision and what it will mean for this recurring issue of scopolamine and jimson weed contamination among racehorses. It is an issue that has been present for decades now, dating back to the 1994 decision with the CHRB.