KING GUILLERMO ducked out slightly at the start, was quickly righted to gain terms with the pacesetter attending the pace racing to the first turn, conceded some position to track just off that foe through the backstretch, continued with a steady bid to challenge for command racing through the far turn, wrested the advantage racing into upper stretch then went clear under strong handling and right handed pressure.
Hours after 10 races at Aqueduct had completed, those walking away with the biggest sum may have been a pair of armed robbers who reportedly made off with $250,000 from the Queens, N.Y., track.
According to the New York Post, the bandits committed their crime at about 10 p.m., concealing their identities with surgical masks. When police arrived on the scene, the Post was told, they went to reviewing security camera footage in hopes of tracking down the suspects.
The quarter-million figure was cited by the Post through officers' radio transmissions, with a more formal report on the crime pending.
An excerpt from Daily Beast article: The Mysterious Deaths That Exposed Horse Racing’s Brutal Underbelly
Santa Anita announced their stall applications had some new fine print: trainers would have to race each horse a set minimum of days, or pay a fine for every day they didn’t. Outcry was immediate. “Everyone was saying, Oh my God, I’ve got to run so much or I’ll pay a fine,” Boracio said. The state trainer’s association sent a concerned letter; the track never responded. The fine never materialized, but the issue remained unsettled. And the message was clear. “They were threatening people to run,” one owner said. “They were real assholes.”
That winter, when trainers tried to “scratch,” or pull their horse from a race, several said they met resistance. A woman named Shelbe Ruis took to Twitter to express her anger. “I was harassed from the new racing secretary for scratching my horse for unsafe conditions,” Ruis wrote in a since-deleted tweet (Ruis did not respond to requests for comment). “They don't care about horse safety at Santa Anita.” Another trainer, Vladimir Cerin, recalled a day when he scratched four horses due to rain: “I got a call from a racing official who said: You can’t do this, you can’t scratch all four horses. I said: Yeah, I can. It’s not safe. He said: Well, why did you enter? I said: It wasn’t raining when I entered.” Asked if he had similar stories, trainer Bob Bean sighed: “Yes, yes, yes, and more yes.” Later, an article in Trainer Magazine summed up the park’s warnings: “Run more often or your stalls are at risk.” It ran under the headline: “A Cluster F***ailure!”
With the dust still settling from Maximum Security’s historic disqualification from the 2019 Kentucky Derby last June, trainer Jason Servis nearly had another controversy on his hands.
According to an indictment handed down Monday by the U.S. District Attorney’s Office of Southern New York, which includes extensive allegations of Servis doping his horses with an illegal substance, Maximum Security had received a shot of SGF-1000 in the days leading up to his return race. But New Jersey regulators wanted a drug test.
The colt, already a winner of the Florida Derby (G1) and first across the wire in the Kentucky Derby, was to make his comeback in the June 16 Pegasus Stakes. In his system was a substance that, per the indictment, “is a customized (performance-enhancing drug) purportedly containing ‘growth factors.’”
Veterinarian Kristian Rhein, named as a defendant, reassured Servis, saying, “There’s no test for it in America.”
Still, SGF-1000 could show up as a positive for the anti-inflammatory dexamethasone, more commonly referred to as “dex.” According to the indictment, Servis had another veterinarian falsify records saying Maximum Security was administered dex in case the test flagged it.
The Gary and Mary West homebred was beaten across the wire for the only time in his career in the Pegasus after a stumble at the break. Since then, he went on to earn the Eclipse Award 3-year-old championship with victories in the Haskell (G1) and Cigar Mile (G1). On Feb. 29, Maximum Security debuted as an older horse with a victory in the $20 million Saudi Cup overseas.
As the Wests continued to fight the legalities of the first Kentucky Derby disqualification for interference in the race’s history, Servis was allegedly drugging his star colt.
Servis’ misdoings may have come on federal investigators’ radar when they looked into fellow trainer Jorge Navarro, who the U.S. District Attorney’s Office says conducted a “widespread scheme” to obtain, conceal and use illegal substances on his racehorses.
On March 5, 2019, a call between Servis and Navarro was intercepted during which, according to the indictment, Servis recommended SGF-1000 to Navarro.
“I’ve been using it on everything almost,” Servis said, according to the indictment.
Navarro said he had more than a dozen horses using SGF-100. The conversation didn't last much longer.
"Jay, we'll sit down and talk about this s---," Navarro said. "I don’t want to talk about this s--- on the phone, OK?"
In addition to stabling in New Jersey last summer, Maximum Security spent time in New York as connections mulled a run at the Travers Stakes (G1) at Saratoga. Accordingly, Servis’ New York-based assistant, Henry Argueta, is also named as a defendant in this case.
On May 8, 2019, investigators tapped into a conversation between Servis and Argueta about administering PEDs to World of Trouble, who the next month won Belmont Park’s Jaipur Invitational (G1) in his career finale.
To hide the use of PEDs in horses, Servis enlisted people such as Alexander Chan, who according to his LinkedIn profile has worked as a track veterinarian for the New York Racing Association since October of 2012. According to the indictment, Chan kept “false billing records that did not reflect drugs Chan had injected into racehorses under Servis’ control, and falsified his own prescription records” in an effort to conceal their use from investigators.
There were close calls, too.
Documents detail a Feb. 18, 2019, conversation via text message between Servis and Navarro. Servis warned his peer of a racing official near the barn where PEDs were stored and administered. In an intercepted call Navarro made later that day to another party, Navarro said, "He would've caught our asses f------ pumping and pumping and fuming every f------- horse (that) runs today.”
While legal outside of withdrawal times at racetracks, clenbuterol is another substance that appears in findings about Servis. Chan is said to have provided it to Servis’ horses with a valid prescription. Investigators also heard Servis and his assistant, Argueta, discussing “the illegality” of clenbuterol uses in a horse.
Recently, Hall of Fame finalist Mark Casse advocated for a total ban on the respiratory treatment which when used in excess can act as a steroid. In an op/ed published March 2 by The Thoroughbred Daily News, Casse wrote that clenbuterol “leads to unimaginable form reversals on a weekly basis,” something for which Servis is often chided about by gamblers.
In a July 2018 interview with Horse Racing Nation, Servis denied cheating while on a personal hot streak, winning at the time with 54 percent of starters at Monmouth Park and 49 percent at Belmont Park.
“People are talking a lot of s---,” Servis said, “and I’m really not happy about it.”
He defended his record, saying he spots horses carefully and can thus be expected to win more often.
“If I can’t be 3-1, I don’t really want to be in there,” Servis told Horse Racing Nation.
That was months before Maximum Security debuted the following December at Gulfstream Park with a $16,000 claiming tag, then ascended to become the world’s best dirt horse in training.
Indicted trainers Servis, Navarro were in on it together
For years, sharp horseplayers speculated that despite their horses passing drug tests, high-percentage trainers Jason Servis and Jorge Navarro were doing something to give runners an edge at the races.
Then on Monday, part of bombshell federal indictments against the duo for use and concealment of performance-enhancing drugs revealed they were in on it together.
Multiple calls and texts between Servis and Navarro were intercepted during an investigation by federal agents, including instances of Servis recommending a substance to Navarro and warning his training peer of a racetrack official’s presence close to where drugs were stored.
In the wake of the indictments, racing researcher Chris Rossi further evidenced a relationship between Servis and Navarro, two trainers who featured stock from the claiming game up to the Grade 1 level.
According to Rossi’s data, Servis has claimed only two horses from Navarro, both on the same Sept. 30, 2012, card at Monmouth Park. Navarro made only one claim off Servis — the week prior, on Sept. 23, 2012, at Belmont Park.
That’s despite the two conditioners spending quite a bit of time on the same circuits. Nowadays, they winter in Florida and spend summers at New Jersey’s Monmouth Park.
Rossi tallied 1,154 Monmouth starters between the two in claiming company since 2013. Conditioners known for their claims, however, didn’t take a single horse off one another during that time.
Meanwhile, according to Rossi, horses first off the claim from Navarro have gone 63-for-377 (16.7%). Servis’ former claimers are 71-for-400 (17.7%) debuting for their new barns.
Both percentages pale in comparison to the rate at which Navarro and Servis typically send out winners. That level of success led the journalist and handicapping pioneer Andy Beyer to list Servis among his “miracle” trainers in a 2009 column, a few years before Navarro’s rise.
“They compile winning percentages that dwarf the records of horsemen enshrined in the Hall of Fame,” Beyer wrote at the time. “They acquire horses and transform them in ways that history's greatest trainers never dreamed of.”
And, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, in addition to putting horses at risk with PEDs that could leave them running beyond their limits, Servis and Navarro conspired in ways that deceived the betting public.
“The care and respect due to the animals competing, as well as the integrity of racing, are matters of deep concern to the people of this district and to this office,” U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman said on Monday.
Federal investigators allege Navarro operated a “widespread scheme of covertly obtaining and administering various adulterated misbranded PEDs to racehorses under his control.” He’s connected to a lengthy list of blood-building and pain-relieving substances.
Navarro also allegedly has in common with Servis SGF-1000, which according to the feds is “a customized PED purportedly containing ‘growth factors’” that promote tissue repair and increase stamina.
Feb. 18, 2019, Servis texted Navarro warning him “of the presence of a racing official in the barn area where Servis and Navarro stored and administered PEDs to their respective racehorses,” according to the indictment. The same day, investigators tapped into a call between Navarro and another party.
“He would've caught our asses f------ pumping and pumping and fuming every f------- horse (that) runs today,” Navarro said.
Servis and Navarro's charges carry five-year maximum prison sentences. They were named in two counts apiece. They're due in court March 23 when they can enter initial pleas.
Beyer: Racing's stakeholders 'didn't want to rock the boat'
The indictments handed down Monday against 27 figures in racing, including trainers Jason Servis and Jorge Navarro, came as no surprise to Andy Beyer.
The author, journalist and speed figure pioneer aired some strong opinions in an interview with Steve Byk, host of the “At the Races” radio show, saying Tuesday that federal investigators' findings “help confirm what horseplayers have already known for decades: that the use of illegal drugs in racing is the major problem in the game, and it’s pervasive, and that the industry on its own hasn’t done anything to combat it.”
Beyer told Byk that over the years, there has been a succession of trainers “who perform feats that just defy all common sense.” And he thinks the supervision of racing at Gulfstream Park, where both Servis and Navarro were common names in the entry box, “has probably been consistently weak.”
“Even before what happened [Monday],” Beyer said, “if you had talked to any horseplayer at Gulfstream who’s paying attention to what’s going on and said, ‘Is anybody obviously cheating here?’ they would take two seconds to say, ‘Well, yeah, Navarro and Servis.’ And many of them would give you a third name which I won’t mention because it wasn’t part of the indictments. But everybody recognized that Navarrao and Servis had some kind of an edge that didn’t make sense.”
Beyer said he can get a sense of who might be cheating by looking at statistics.
“I’ve always thought that a trainer who can win 20 percent of the time is a really outstanding trainer,” he said. “And if you look at current guys who are active now and are in the hall of fame, Steve Asmussen is like a 20 percent winning trainer. Bill Mott, 21 percent for his career. Bob Baffert a little over that.
"Over the last five years, Jorge Navarro has won with 29 percent of his starters; Jason Servis 28 percent. You mean these guys just came from nowhere and they’re better than Bill Mott and Steve Asmussen? I don’t believe it.
“The statistic for me that is even more revealing … is a trainer’s winning percentage the first time off a claim. When one trainer can consistently improve on horses – like not over a long period of time, but overnight, or in the first start since claiming – when they do that consistently, it certainly raises my eyebrows.
"Navarro over the last five years has won 24 percent first time off the claim. Jason Servis has won 35 percent in his first starts after a claim. That’s impossible.”
Beyer argued that the stakeholders in racing don’t want a level playing field.
“The people running racetracks just didn’t want to rock the boat," he told Byk. "Stewards didn’t want to rock the boat and have a big scandal on their hands. Owners flock to these trainers who have the worst reputations. Do you think (owners) Gary and Mary West were regretting the lack of a level playing field when Maximum Security won a $20 million race two weeks ago?
“There has really been no great emphasis within the industry to try to clean up an issue which I think all the customers recognize is problem No. 1.”
Beyer said he was surprised by the scope of the allegations.
"Maybe I was just naïve," he said, "but when I saw a trainer who was working miracles on a daily basis, I always assumed that maybe a guy like Navarro was ... an unscrupulous trainer trying to take an edge, and he had a vet who was also ready to take an edge, and so the trainer and the vet were working together and they were cheating.
"Well, that was such a simplistic view. When you read the indictment ... this was a major criminal conspiracy. This wasn’t just a couple of scuffling racetrackers, trying to do something illegal."
And there was another aspect of the scandal, Beyer said, “that really stunned me.”
“Watching the races in Florida and the other places they compete, wouldn’t you have thought that Navarro and Servis were arch rivals?" he asked.
Outside of the Florida circuit, both conditioners spend their summers at Monmouth Park in New Jersey.
"Instead, they were partners in crime," Beyer said. "Navarro would ask Servis, ‘Can you get me this drug?’ Servis would tell Navarro, ‘Boy, I’m giving my SGF-1000 to all my horses. It’s doing great.’ One of them would text the other to warn him when there was a racing official on the grounds in the area where they hid all their illegal drugs. They were partners in crime.
“If the two big trainers at a track, who win all the races anyway, are working together, what chance do you or I or the average horseplayer have to beat that corrupt game? That shocked me more than anything."
Midnight Bisou owner 'would expect' Maximum Security DQs
If it's up to Jeff Bloom, the Kentucky Derby won't be the only disqualification from a victory on Maximum Security's resume.
In the wake of the alleged doping scandal brought to light by federal authorities on Monday, the principal owner of champion mare Midnight Bisou said he "would expect" Maximum Security to be taken down from a win in the Feb. 29 Saudi Cup given the charges against trainer Jason Servis.
Bloom, of Bloom Racing, owns Midnight Bisou in partnership with Madaket Stables and Allen Racing. He said in a statement Wednesday that anticipates Maximum Security will be "disqualified from all his races, including the Saudi Cup, due to the recent findings of the use of undetectable PEDs in his training and racing.”
Midnight Bisou finished second behind Maximum Security in the $20 million event, which in its inaugural running became the world's richest horse race. The purse distribution provided $10 million to the winning connections and $3.5 million to the runner-up.
Since then, Servis faces two counts of administering illegal medications to racehorses, with Maximum Security specifically named in documents unsealed Monday. Federal investigators allege Servis gave Maximum Security a substance containing "growth factors" and made attempts to cover it up in a drug test.
“At this time we are following the news as everyone throughout our industry,” Bloom’s statement read. “We are of course deeply concerned and frustrated of the apparent cheating and blatant disregard for the equine athletes that has been pervasive for all the accused in the Federal indictments.
“We could not be more proud of our mare and her accomplishments, in particular her breathtaking performance in the Saudi Cup where she handily beat 12 of the best horses in the world.
Midnight Bisou, who was last year’s Eclipse Award-winning dirt female, remains in quarantine at Arlington Park along with Maximum Security following their trip to Riyadh. They are scheduled to be released on Friday
gftrs Oaklawn to run Rebel day without on-track spectators
Oaklawn Park on Thursday evening reversed course amid concerns of the spread of COVID-19, also known as coronavirus, and will not have spectators on track for Saturday's Rebel Stakes day card.
The races will, however, go on.
Oaklawn will run all races this Fri, Sat and Sun without spectators. Races can still be viewed on t.co/EHLLnIQH7k and #tvg, including the $1 million Rebel Stakes. The casino will remain open to the public. Details and updates at t.co/GaYilQ2UsL. — Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort (@oaklawnracing) March 13, 2020
ORIGINAL: As leagues and venues hosting sporting events grapple with how to move on amid the spread of COVID-19, also known as coronavirus, Oaklawn Park announced Thursday morning it intends to race on.
The Hot Springs, Ark., track begins its racing week Thursday and on Saturday looms a major afternoon not just for Oaklawn, but the 2020 Kentucky Derby trail. The $1 million Rebel Stakes (G2) led by unbeaten Nadal tops a card that also includes the Azeri Stakes (G2) for fillies and mares and the Essex Handicap for older horses.
"Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort currently intends to remain open during our regular operating hours and all scheduled events are continuing as planned at this time," a statement from the track reads.
Oaklawn is, however, "actively taking the appropriate preventative measures" to prevent coronavirus' spread and "expanded many of our sanitary procedures" for on-site patrons. They include:
• Providing more hand sanitizer dispensers across our property
• Increasing the frequency of all of cleaning activities in racing and casino areas, including, restrooms, restaurants, bars, entrance/exit doors, etc.
• Ensuring our protocols for cleaning and sanitation meet or exceed the guidelines of the Centers for Disease Control and that of local and state health authorities.
A number of other tracks have announced similar plans to continue activities with increased sanitary standards, among them Keeneland with sales and racing seasons approaching and JACK Thistletown in Ohio.
In the bigger picture, Churchill Downs officials have said they will monitor how other sports leagues handle coronavirus in the weeks leading up to the first Saturday in May. On Wednesday evening, the NBA suspended its season after a player tested positive for the disease, and earlier in the day the NCAA announced its basketball tournaments would be played only in front of essential team personnel, with no fans in arenas for March Madness.
An announcement also arrived Thursday from The Stronach Group, which owns Santa Anita Park and Golden Gate Fields in California, that the two venues will race on but do so without the general public on site.
The move was made in response to a policy implemented by California Gov. Gavin Newsom, who called for gatherings of 250 or more people to be canceled.
Newsom included stadium areas and outdoor events among his list of places where events should be canceled. He said smaller gatherings can proceed, but that organizers should implement social distancing of six feet per person.
"Changing our actions for a short period of time will save the life of one or more people you know,” he said in a statement. “That’s the choice before us. Each of us has extraordinary power to slow the spread of this disease. Not holding that concert or community event can have cascading effects — saving dozens of lives and preserving critical health care resources that your family may need a month from now.
"The people in our lives who are most at risk – seniors and those with underlying health conditions — are depending on all of us to make the right choice.”