(Reuters) - Champion racehorse Justify failed a drug test shortly before winning the American Triple Crown in 2018, the New York Times reported on Wednesday.
In an article posted on its website, the newspaper said Justify, who was under the stewardship of Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert, tested positive to the banned substance scopolamine after winning the Santa Anita Derby on April 7.
Scopolamine, also known as hyoscine, is banned in horse racing because it can improve horses’ breathing and heart-rate.
The report said the failed drug test would normally have meant Justify’s disqualification and forfeiture of entry into the Kentucky Derby.
Instead, the California Horse Racing Board took more than a month to confirm the results and moved to drop the case while lightening the penalty for any horse found to test positive to the same substance, the report said.
Justify won the Kentucky Derby, the first leg of the Triple Crown on May 5, before adding the Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes to become the 13th horse to complete the treble.
The Times quoted California Horse Racing Board executive Rick Baedeker as saying that it would have been “careless and reckless” for regulators to have rushed to complete an investigative report before the Kentucky Derby.
In an email to Reuters late on Wednesday, Baedeker said: “We take seriously the integrity of horse racing in California and are committed to implementing the highest standards of safety and accountability for all horses, jockeys and participants.”
He added that the board would have a further response on Thursday.
Efforts to contact Baffert were unsuccessful.
Reporting by Andrew Both in Cary, North Carolina; Editing by Ian Ransom