News and STORIES

Santa Anita Stewards Refuse to Accept Complaints Against Justify, Hoppertunity

Author: Don Mckee
Published: Friday December 11, 2020

The California Board of Stewards has dismissed the complaints that were filed by the California Horse Racing Board (CHRB) concerning the scopolamine positives contracted by Hoppertunity and Justify as regards their runs in the Santa Anita Derby and the Tokyo City Cup Race respectively in 2018. This judgment came at the close of a long, litigious journey.

The CHRB filed this complaint during their legal settlement with Mick Ruis, who is a trainer and the owner of Bolt d'Oro, the Derby runner-up of Santa Anita. There was a hearing on the matter on October 29, and the decision was given on Thursday evening.

Bob Baffert, a horse trainer, has said that he is excited about the decision because of Justify. He went ahead to say that Justify is a good horse and deserves his undisputed record. The stewards gave the decision in a ruling of 10 pages asking if Scopolamine was a class 3 or class 4 prohibited substance according to CHRB's classification as at the times of the various races.

The decision centers on the components of CHRB rules 1843.2 and 1859.5. Rule 1843.2 regards drug classifications, and rule 1859.5 regards disqualification after a positive test. The stewards admitted that the evidence of the class of substance that Scopolamine was listed when the horses in question competed in April 2018 was at odds.

The decision says that CHRB rules as of April 2018, which is the time the two horses competed in a race, regards Scopolamine, a class 3 prohibited substance. Drugs that are class 3 positive leads to the horses being disqualified automatically, not minding the trainer's intention. The laws of CHRB is dependent on the regulations of the Association of Racing Commissioners International (ARCI).

In December 2016, there was an alteration in the ARCI Uniform Guidelines for Foreign Substances, and Scopolamine was classified as a class 4 substance. Applying this change in ARCI Guidelines when interpreting the 2018 rule 1843.2, the stewards decided that the two horses will not be disqualified because the prohibited substance does not belong to class 1 to 3.

However, at the time the two races took place, the CHRB had not adopted the ARCI's guidelines because of the slowness of California's administrative law. The CHRB, at her board meeting in August 2018, later decided to adopt an amendment that changed Scopolamine from a class 3 prohibited drug to a class 4 and which does not lead to disqualification.

The stewards opined that if the Board of Steward heard this complaint concerning Hopportunity and, Justify before August 23, 2018, then the two horses would have faced disqualification. The opinion of Dr. Rick Arthur was that the Scopolamine found in Hopportunity, Justify, and the other five horses in April and May 2018 was because of contamination through the environment. He asked for the matter's dismissal.

The CHRB may have followed the law, but they are not transparent with handling the matter, and that has removed the trust that the public has in them. Dr. Arthur warned that if CHRB does not make a public decision, then there is no transparency.