The owners, trainer and jockeys for two race horses, including 2018 Triple Crown winner Justify, filed a legal action against the California Horse Racing Board Tuesday for renewing an investigation into positive drug tests on the animals.
The plaintiffs in the Los Angeles Superior Court petition include Bob Baffert, trainer for both Justify and Hoppertunity; Justify owners WinStar Farm LLC and China Horse Club; jockey Mike Smith, who rode Justify to victory in the 2018 Santa Anita Derby; Flavien Prat, Hoppertunity’s jockey when the horse finished first in the Tokyo City Cup in April 2018; and Hoppertunity’s three individual owners.
“Significantly, Justify’s Santa Anita Derby win earned him a chance to run in and win the Kentucky Derby and ultimately the Triple Crown,” the petition states.
“The CHRB’s conduct is arbitrary, capricious, and unlawful and already has put at risk Justify’s historic accomplishments, record and reputation as well as Hoppertunity’s reputation and prestigious graded stakes win.”
The plaintiffs seek an injunction directing the CHRB to dismiss the complaints filed against Justify and Hoppertunity and cancellation of all hearings.
CHRB spokesman Mike Marten said the board does not comment on pending litigation.
“This action challenges the CHRB’s groundless decision to reopen a closed matter and conduct a retroactive hearing with an apparently foregone conclusion to disqualify and redistribute winnings from horse races that occurred 2 1/2 years ago,” the petition states.
The CHRB knew when it decided the issues in 2018 that both horses tested positive for scopolamine just after their respective races in April of that year, the petition states.
But after a thorough investigation and deliberation, consistent with the well-established equine science and its very own governing statute and rules, the CHRB decided the positive results occurred because of natural contamination in the horses’ feed, according to the petition.
Now, after having previously dismissed the case, the CHRB has issued complaints and announced it intends to hold a hearing to consider retroactively disqualifying the two horses, the petition states.
But the CHRB is ignoring that fact that the board could not have disqualified either horse in 2018 and cannot do so now because scopolamine is a “classified substance” that, by law, does not permit disqualification, according to the petition.
The CHRB has admitted it has issued its complaints and is holding a hearing “simply to dispose of a civil action brought against it by a race runner-up, and solely as a way to avoid further litigation and expense in that lawsuit,” the petition alleges.
>> Want to read more stories like this? Get our Free Daily Newsletters Here!Follow us: