Jorge Navarro Arrested, Jason Servis trainer of Maximum Security Indicted and Being Sought in a Race Fixing Case Involving Performance Enhancing Drugs

March 9, 2020

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:

Contributing Authors

Jon Stettin

Jonathan’s always had a deep love and respect for the Sport of Kings. Growing up around the game, he came about as close as anyone...

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Jonathan Stettin is a New York Legend. He's been a Horseplayer, earning his living at the track, since he was 19 years old. @jonathanstettin

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  1. greg Mar 9, 2020 at 10:49 am

    I always wonder why these investigations allow the players, be they trainers, drug dealers, etc. to ply their trades for YEARS before they’re indicted, if it’s gone on since early 2018 you mean they didn’t have enough evidence in Jan 2019, or May 2019, same with dealers, you read indictments saying they have evidence going back 6-7 years, you couldn’t arrest them after 2-3 years?? This happens way too often, however, hopefully this will scare some of these trainers to stop and fear jail time, especially in So Cal

  2. Mar 9, 2020 at 1:31 pm

    Need to do some investigating in state of Delaware

  3. Mar 12, 2020 at 5:05 am

    Some of us “little guys” have known this for several years. As we continue to build an honest, clean racehorse we get overlooked by the guys with the high profile and big names. I rehabbed a horse that I was told after having only raced 3 times that he would “probably” never race again. 26 races later and still sound at my barn only ever using lasix because he was a “known” bleeder, I continue to build an honest clean horse from the ground up. No it’s not easy it takes ACTUAL HORSEMANSHIP, time, effort and caring, to figure each horse out and tailor a program individually that meets their needs. I love this sport and the animals in it and shame on us for letting it get this far, greed and quick fixes caused this problem. Now actually do something about it instead of just paying lip service.

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