By T. D. Thornton
Mick Ruis, the owner/trainer of 2018 GI Santa Anita Derby runner-up Bolt d’Oro (Medaglia d’Oro), has been rebuffed by the California Horse Racing Board (CHRB) in his attempt to get a hearing that would revisit the race results and post-race drug testing adjudication of that Grade I test, which was won by subsequent Triple Crown winner Justify (Scat Daddy).
But a bombshell story in the New York Times last month revealed Justify had tested positive for scopolamine after he won the Santa Anita Derby, and that illegal drug result was kept hidden from the public.
The Times further reported that CHRB officials arranged to handle Justify’s positive “differently than usual.” Then, more than four months after the 2018 Santa Anita Derby, in an executive session closed to the public, CHRB members voted unanimously not to disqualify Justify or to sanction his trainer, Bob Baffert.
In light of the recent public disclosure of Justify’s positive, Ruis has engaged attorney Darrell Vienna to “get to the bottom” of the issue. On Wednesday, the Louisville Courier-Journal broke the story that Vienna’s written request to the CHRB for a hearing on the matter was rejected.
“Please be advised that the Board dismissed the matter as authorized under (California) Business and Professions Code 19577(d),” a CHRB attorney wrote in a reply that was published in part by the Courier-Journal. “Therefore, further hearing on the subject is not required or warranted.”
Vienna did not respond to a TDN query for comment in time for deadline for this story.
But Vienna told the Courier-Journal via email that “The request for a hearing is necessary to exhaust administrative remedies prior to litigation. However, at this point, we are hopeful that the CHRB will provide a full, open and transparent hearing. Should the CHRB fail to provide such a hearing, we do not rule out the pursuit of any and all legal remedies.”
Ruis told the Courier-Journal that “A rules a rule. It was a banned substance. It was an overage. That’s it: disqualification.”
The difference in purse money between second and first was $400,000. But the 2018 Santa Anita Derby win also qualified Justify to enter the GI Kentucky Derby based on eligibility points, and that’s something that no re-adjudication could ever reverse.
“I could care less about the $400,000,” Ruis told the Courier-Journal. “That’s not it. But I do care for every small trainer and little guy who is running and racing clean on the backside to have a chance. Let the best horse win, not the best whatever-else-they-use win.”