Maximum Security’s ill-fated Kentucky Derby run. (Courtney Snow/Past The Wire)
By Laura Pugh
We all heard the news, Jason Servis has changed his plea from not guilty to guilty and faces the possibility of four years in Federal Prison. Servis was captured on wiretaps stating he gave nearly all his horses, including Maximum Security, what the Federal Government describes as a PED or performance enhancing drug.
“Guilty,” Servis said, as he admitted to a felony charge of misbranding and adulterating a chemical substance described by prosecutors as similar to the bronchodilator clenbuterol but stronger.
“Guilty,” Servis said admitting to a misdemeanor of misbranding and adulterating a compound chemical called SGF-1000.
As part of the plea deal, Servis must forfeit $311,760 and pay restitution in the amount of $163,932. Who gets the restitution is unclear but it will likely not be any bettors who lost wagers to Servis trained horses. All other charges were dropped as part of the plea.
It’s a simple enough concept. If you get caught cheating, you are automatically disqualified and lose any titles, earnings, etc. that came while you competed with the unfair advantage.
Tell me why then, that is not the case for so many Maximum Security fans?
All I see and hear is “punish the connections not the horse”, “he would’ve won regardless”, “we don’t know if he really was on PED’s”, or “it wasn’t his fault, he didn’t stick himself”.
We are punishing the connections responsible. That doesn’t mean we let a horse that competed on PED’s, won some of the world’s most prestigious races on PED’s, and won awards that weigh heavily with breeders on PED’s, keep those accolades. Of course this assumes the case against Servis, to which he admitted guilt is true. The justice system and courts have ruled it is.
No, he didn’t stick himself with the needle, but that doesn’t change the fact he still ran enhanced by drugs that gave him an advantage over the rest. We aren’t talking some skin cream, we are talking drugs that lower heart rate and improve cardiovascular activity, which increases stamina. We are talking drugs stronger than the medication Clenbuterol.
For those saying there is no proof, he never “tested positive”. Don’t be naive. His trainer, along with several vets, used this drug because it was designed to be undetectable. It is heard on the wiretaps “there is no test for it.” The most it would test for is a Dexamethazone positive, which is used to treat allergic reactions in horses. Not only that, Jason Servis, Maximum Security’s trainer, admitted that Maximum Security was among the horses that received the drugs. You can’t get much more condemning than that.
I also have some harsh reality for you. We know what happened when he was taken off the Servis program. He struggled in the same company he routinely trounced. Remember when all this first came out and he was moved to the barn of Bob Baffert in California? I do. When Maximum Security moved to California his form unraveled.
The dominant winner of the Florida Derby and Cigar Mile, the same horse who came within .03 of a second of equaling the Monmouth Park Track record in the Haskell Invitational, struggled to defeat the likes of Midcourt and Sharp Samurai in the San Diego Handicap and Pacific Classic. Both races producing times that were pedestrian compared to his form on PED’s.
When he faced a true Grade 1 animal in the Awesome Again, Maximum Security was beaten to the tune of 4 ½ lengths by Improbable, a horse he had previously beaten in the 2019 Kentucky Derby. He was beaten by 5 ¼ lengths in that year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic, which was his final start.
It is a shame that a rags to riches story turned sour. We all love them. And, no, it isn’t his fault. It isn’t ours either. We saw what he was when the substances were removed. He simply wasn’t as good.
It’s time to strip him of his Eclipse Awards and disqualify him from any race he entered while Servis was his trainer. Yes, that includes seven graded stakes, five of them grade ones. Maximum Security won’t be upset by this, especially if he continues to get a soft bed of hay and some tasty carrots. Let’s stop pretending that this is some type of egregious action against him and just do what needs to be done.