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Hegarty of drf.com
In the suit, which was filed on Monday, Ruis alleges that the California Horse Racing Board failed to follow its own rules when it decided not to pursue penalties after Justify tested positive for scopolamine, a known environmental contaminant, following his win in the Santa Anita Derby. The lawsuit leans heavily on a report in the New York Times last summer that made similar allegations, and that article is reprinted in the suit in full.
Ruis owned Bolt d’Oro, the second-place finisher in the 2018 Santa Anita Derby. The suit claims that Bolt d’Oro was denied purse money because the CHRB failed to disqualify Justify from the race. The suit further claims that the decision not to disqualify the horse caused Bolt d’Oro “significant reputational harm” and a “loss of goodwill as well as substantial business losses.” Bolt d’Oro is now a stallion.
After the Santa Anita Derby, Justify won the Triple Crown and retired undefeated.
“This lawsuit is about the CHRB cover-up which violated its mandatory statutory duty to follow the law and abrogated Ruis’ constitutional and statutory rights,” the lawsuit states. “CHRB’s malfeasance was the proximate cause of the Ruis’ damages including, without limitation, the loss of purse caused by the CHRB’s failing to disqualify Justify and re-distribute the purse for the positive test result.”
The winner’s share of the Santa Anita Derby purse was $600,000, while second-place was worth $200,000.
The CHRB has denied violating its rules in adjudicating the Justify case, and its officials have said that additional testing and investigation into the positive test revealed that the substance, which is found naturally in jimsonweed, was accidentally ingested.
Last year, following the publication of the New York Times story, Ruis petitioned the CHRB to re-open the case in a public hearing. The CHRB rejected the request.
In a release issued by his attorney, Darrell Vienna, Ruis said that the CHRB’s failure to re-examine the case led to the lawsuit.
“I would never have gone to court if the CHRB had simply followed its own rules,” Ruis said. “Instead, I have no other choice for myself and for every owner, no matter how big or small, to make sure that everyone is treated respectfully, fairly, and equally.”
In addition to the disqualification, the suit is seeking the redistribution
of the purse, “special and general damages,” attorneys’
fees, and the recovery of the costs of the lawsuit.