Several people, including two prominent high winning percentage horse trainers were indicted on federal charges involving performance enhancing drugs and race fixing. Both Jorge Navarro and Jason Servis have been indicted. Another trainer, Michael Tannuzzo is among those indicted. Tannuzzo has had a relatively quiet career, but has stepped up his winning percentage of late.
The racing community awoke to news Monday morning barns were being searched in South Florida, and Navarro had already been arrested at his home. Servis is believed out of the country with his star horse, Maximum Security who has recently won what was declared a “drug free” inaugural Saudi Cup, currently the world’s richest race with a 20 million dollar purse. It appears Servis will be taken into custody when he returns to the US or is located.
The indictments seem limited to the east coast. Both Servis and Navarro have summered at Monmouth Park in Oceanport New Jersey where they enjoyed winning percentages that rose the eyebrows of most knowledgeable of the sport.
The indictment reads in part Servis administered performance enhancing drugs to virtually all horses under his care since February 2018. “Virtually all” is powerful language for an indictment and would obviously include Maximum Security who crossed the finish line first in the 2019 Kentucky Derby. The horse was subsequently disqualified for bearing out, but that has nothing to do with performance enhancing drugs.
The Kentucky Derby is supposed to showcase our sport at its highest level, and also under the strictest of guidelines and protocols. If this can happen there, then the indictment is in reality an indictment against the sport itself, and how it has been managed and governed. The industry is in the midst of reform following a rash of breakdowns at Santa Anita which cast it on the radar screen of PETA, mainstream media, and animal activist groups. This indictment will strengthen all those calls for the abolishment of the game.
Many are surprised at today’s events which are still unfolding. I am not of one of those. I am surprised that it took this long. Many know who plays by the rules and who doesn’t.
With the indictment already published, it seems the focus in this case was East Coast based.
Authorities said participants in the fraud misled government agencies, including federal and state regulators, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, various state horse racing regulators and the betting public.
Prosecutors stated in the indictments that professional horse racing is a $100 billion industry followed by millions of fans worldwide, leading racehorses to sell at auction for well over $1 million.
According to the indictments, marketers and distributors of drugs known as “blood builders” to stimulate a horse’s endurance have infiltrated the horse racing industry for at least the last decade.
Authorities say the drugs can cause horses to overexert themselves, leading to heart issues or death.
The indictments said other drugs used to deaden a horse’s sensitivity to pain to improve the horse’s performance could also lead to leg fractures.
These are actually some of the practices our industry has become almost immune to, or unwilling to do anything about. A few months ago we said if we do not clean up our backyard, someone else will. As an industry we failed to do it.
The Horse Racing Integrity act is pending. This might be the push that takes it over the top.
Things should get interesting going forward. It is likely more will come out as people begin to cooperate, and it would be no surprise if a DVM or someone in the know already has.
We will update this as more information becomes available.
You can read the entire indictment here: