CHRB Votes to Settle Justify Santa Anita Derby Case

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Justify | Sarah Andrew

Mick Ruis has announced that he has reached an agreement in principle with the California Horse Racing Board regarding a settlement of pending litigation in Los Angeles County Superior Court.

The preliminary agreement is intended to resolve claims against the CHRB for failure to hold a purse disqualification hearing related to the 2018 GI Santa Anita Derby, in which the first-place finisher and subsequent Triple Crown winner, Justify, tested positive for the prohibited substance scopolamine. Bolt d’Oro, owned and trained by Ruis, finished second.

Members of the CHRB, the state agency charged with regulation of California horse racing, voted in favor of settlement at a recent closed session. Attorneys for the respective parties are finalizing the exact terms of the agreement and expect it to be completed in the coming days, according to a press release from Ruis’s attorney, Darrell Vienna.

The agreement would include a provision that the CHRB will file a complaint against the owners of Justify and conduct a purse disqualification hearing.

CHRB spokesperson Mike Marten said, “Mick Ruis’ lawsuit against the California Horse Racing Board (CHRB) is still active, ongoing litigation. At this point, no settlement has been signed, and because it is ongoing litigation, the CHRB has no further comment.”

The detection of the prohibited substance scopolamine in the official test collected from Justify following the running of the 2018 Santa Anita Derby was confirmed by a split sample test requested by Justify’s connections.
CHRB rule 1859.5 requires forfeiture of purse and disqualification of a horse that tests positive for a class 1-3 prohibited substance regardless of the trainer’s responsibility.

“I am pleased that the leadership of this newly constituted CHRB appointed by Governor Newsom has taken seriously the Governor’s intention to ‘hold the group accountable on matters of drugs, safety, and integrity.’ It is only fair that the current CHRB voted to finally have a hearing related to the Justify matter. This settlement would be a major step toward restoring public confidence in the CHRB,” Ruis said.

Ruis continued, “This legal action was never just about the purse money, I wanted to stand up for what’s right and to make sure that every horseman, from the little guy to Bob Baffert, is treated fairly and equally. I commend the current CHRB for reviewing this matter and look forward concluding negotiations regarding a public hearing.”

“It has been a pleasure to work with Mr. Ruis,” Vienna said. “He is an individual who truly believes and has proven
that one man can make a difference. We look forward to presenting the agreement with the CHRB to the court so we can resolve the litigation.”

Vienna told TDN that the agreement would be “in exchange for the dismissal of the entire litigation,” including any possible damages.

Vienna added that a separate hearing under the trainer “insurer rule” would provide Baffert “an opportunity to clearly prove whether or not this was environmental contamination.”

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