Anne M. Eberhardt

What's Going On Here: Rocked to the Core

Weekly Commentary from BloodHorse Magazine

It wasn't the coronavirus scare—Meydan's "Super Saturday" program March 7 was run without patrons—or the cratering of global financial markets that rocked the world of Thoroughbred racing the morning of March 9. Instead, it was word that trainers Jorge Navarro and Jason Servis were among those listed in a 44-page indictment on doping-related charges in racing.

Servis is accused of covertly obtaining and administering adulterated and misbranded performance-enhancing drugs, including SGF-1000, to virtually all the racehorses under his control. That includes last year's champion 3-year-old male, Maximum Security, who won the $20 million Saudi Cup Feb. 29 in Riyadh.

Navarro is accused of using blood builders referred to as "BB3," a similar PED called "ITP Plus" or "ITPP," an adulterated PED referred to as "VO2 Max," and a customized, pain-killing PED called a "Frozen Pain" shot.

The indictment specifically names X Y Jet, who earned more than $3 million and won the 2019 Dubai Golden Shaheen Sponsored by Gulf News (G1), as one of the Navarro-trained horses to receive such substances.

According to features editor Frank Angst's research of OwnerView.com, during the time frame of the accusations against Servis (2018-February 2020), he doesn't have a single failed post-race drug test. In the time frame of the federal charges against Navarro (January 2017-January 2020), he has only one failed drug test.

Last year, Servis won at a high 29% clip, winning 168 races from 574 starts. His earnings of more than $11 million ranked eighth nationally.

Navarro won with 28% of his starters in 2019—216 wins from 769 starts—and had more than $6.8 million in earnings.

Also from Angst's online report:

"In addition to developing his doping program around PEDs that are, by design, difficult or impossible for state regulators and racing officials to detect, Jorge Navarro, the defendant, and others known and unknown have tried to conceal the existence of the 'Navarro Doping Program,'" the indictment alleges, by efforts including the use of straw purchasers and false names to receive PEDs, attempts to avoid interception of phone conversations regarding their administration, and the surreptitious disposal of the bodies of horses that have died on the property of Navarro and his co-conspirators. 

The FBI cited an intercepted phone call between trainer Nicholas Surick and Michael Tannuzzo—both also indicted—in which Surick allegedly said, "You know how many (expletive) horses (Navarro expletive) killed and broke down that I made disappear? You know how much trouble he could get in … if they found out … the six horses we killed?"

Other types of drugs listed as being relative to the indictments include blood builders such as erythropoietin (Epogen or EPO) and its analogs. The indictment noted that use of these substances can increase cardiac exertion and pressure and lead to cardiac issues, including death.

On Jan. 8, BloodHorse reported that X Y Jet suffered a heart attack and died.

While the evidence is damning against the two trainers, it is also damning against the regulators and programs that have been in place to oversee these matters.

These are not "overages of therapeutic medications." These are powerful performance-enhancers designed to give their runners an edge.

These aren't horses running in low-level claiming races on a weeknight at some "B"-level track. These are grade 1 winners—and a champion no less.

Regulators have said they can protect the sport of racing at the state level. That has been racing's line in the sand against federal oversight for decades.

The scope and magnitude of this news shows pretty clearly that they haven't been able to protect racing.

We've been beating the drum over the years for the passage of the Horseracing Integrity Act. It's time to bang a lot louder.

While the indictments specifically target 27 individuals, they do much more than that. The federal charges indict the sport of Thoroughbred racing.

The snooze button has been hit too many times on the many wake-up calls we've had.

The time for talk is over.

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