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Nauseating allegations detailed in indictment of trainers, others

Updated March 12, 2020 - 7:37 pm

Nauseating.

That’s the only way I can describe the allegations included in a criminal complaint filed this week against 27 owners, trainers and veterinarians who allegedly conspired to give illegal performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs) to the horses under their control. Many of the drugs, which were referred to by names such as “Monkey,” “Red Acid” and “Glass Prince,” were “customized PEDs designed to be untestable on drug tests,” according to the indictment.

The marquee name on the grand jury indictment unsealed by the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York is that of Jason Servis, known to many racing fans as the trainer of Maximum Security, the first horse to cross the finish line in last year’s Kentucky Derby only to be disqualified for veering out at the top of the stretch.

But serious racing fans also will be well acquainted with Jorge Navarro, a longtime Florida trainer whose lofty win percentage since the beginning of 2015 has long provoked suspicion.

Those suspicions weren’t lessened last year when video was posted showing an owner celebrating a victory at Monmouth Park in Navarro’s company and praising him as the “juice man.”

The indictment says Servis administered the performance-enhancing drugs to “virtually all of the racehorses under his control” from 2018 to 2020, which presumably means that Maximum Security was hopped up when he crossed the finish line in the Kentucky Derby and when he won the inaugural running of the $10 million Saudi Cup on Feb. 29.

In addition to cheating bettors and competitors to enrich themselves, the defendants demonstrated a complete disregard for the health of their horses, according to wiretapped calls cited in the indictment.

Among the equine victims was XY Jet, who won the Dubai Golden Shaheen on March 30, 2019, and the winner’s share of a $2.5 million purse, the indictment said. The feds say they have Navarro on tape talking with a co-defendant about a particular drug he gave to the horse. “I gave it to him through 50 injections. I gave it to him through the mouth,” it quotes him as saying.

In early January, Navarro announced that XY Jet had died of an apparent heart attack.

The allegations are so far just that. But I would hope that racing authorities in every state would get together and impose lifetime bans on anyone convicted in connection with this insidious plot.

Racing goes on behind closed doors

Aqueduct, Golden Gate Fields and Santa Anita announced Thursday that they will close to the public immediately because of the new coronavirus. But racing will go on, with only licensed racetrack personnel on hand. Betting will remain available through all the usual channels.

#RJhorseracing featured races

The #RJhorseracing handicappers remain focused on the road to the Triple Crown this week, with the $1 million Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park and the $250,000 Jeff Ruby Steaks at Turfway Park.

In the former, run at 1 1/16th mile, the handicapping crew is solidly behind the Bob Baffert-trained favorite, Nadal (5-2), who will be making his first start around two turns. They see Basin (3-1) and Silver Prospector (7-2) finishing second and third.

Nadal seems certain to grab the lead early and take them into deep stretch at least, but there are questions about his pedigree when it comes to longer distances. I expect Basin will be a more attractive option and will pick him over Nadal for second and Three Technique (7-2) for third.

In the Jeff Ruby Steaks (I groan every time I write that), the crowd ’cappers are edging a wee bit out on a limb and backing Field Pass, 7-2 on the morning line, over Invader (3-1) and Halo Again (8-1).

Call me crazy, but I think Dack Janiel’s (30-1) has a shot to upset the apple cart, as the Calumet Farm color-bearer has shown improvement in his last two starts and figures to get a ground-saving trip from the rail. I’ll use Finnick the Fierce (6-1) to place and Halo Again to show.

Mike Brunker’s horse racing column appears Fridays. He can be reached at mbrunker@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4656. Follow @mike_brunker on Twitter.

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