Rocked to the Core - By Evan Hammonds

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 a PED called SGF-1000, to virtually all of the racehorses under his control. That would include last year’s champion 3-year-old male Maximum Security, winner of 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, during the time frame of the accusations against Servis (2018-Feb. 2020), he doesn’t have a single failed post-race drug test. In the time frame of the federal charges against Navarro (Jan. 2017-Jan. 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, more than $11 million, ranked him eighth nationally.

Navarro won with 28% of his starters in 2019—216 wins from 769 starts, and 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 coconspirators. 

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-ing) horses he (Navarro) (expletive-ing) 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 analogues. 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 evidence 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 last years for the passage of the Horseracing Integrity Act. It’s time to bang a lot louder.

While the indictments might 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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