Finally.

I hate to be bleak, but reading these negative headlines this morning made me feel a small sense of joy with absolutely zero remorse. Rumblings of cheating and shady practices have been meandering through this sport’s channels of communication for what seems like years. And finally, in what is probably the first of more breaking news, two dozen people have been indicted as part of a federal probe into the usage of performance enhancing drugs in horse training. For those that don’t follow the sport, this is massive. The two main names that were on the list of implicated trainers were Jason Servis and Jorge Navarro. 

Jason Servis is best known as the trainer of shoulda, coulda, woulda controversial Kentucky Derby DQ horse, Maximum Security. What really grinds my gears so much is what went on during the weeks after the disqualification by Maximum Security’s connections. The amount of complaints from Servis and owner Gary West regarding mistakes they thought stewards made look absolutely hilarious right now. Not only did a cheating trainer try to weasel his way to a win in on horse racing’s biggest stage, but he wanted to whine, complain and file appeals after the fact. I found this quote from Gary West written in a USA Today article after the 2019 Derby. “I think this is the most egregious disqualification in the history of horse racing, and not just because it’s our horse.” Ha! As egregious as your trainer being heavily involved in possibly one of the biggest cheating scams this sport has ever seen? As egregious as your trainer somehow bringing a horse along from a $16,000 claiming race to the Kentucky Derby with a purse of $3 million. I mean, come on. It’s laughable.

The naming of Jorge Navarro in this was also not shocking, to say the least. Here’s a guy, who years ago had a horse test positive for cocaine. There’s just absolutely no room for people like this in the sport. It’s simply not fair to the bettors, trainers who do the right thing, and the industry as a whole. One of Navarro’s top horses, XY Jet, died in January of an apparent heart attack. This horse earned more than $3 million and it is absolutely sickening to think of the reason behind why he really must have died. Navarro was quoted in January saying the horse was “part of my family.” The indictments today say he allegedly gave the horse a PED that could lead to cardiac issues and death. Imagine doing that to your own family member. What a disgrace of a human. Unfortunately, we are in times where the racing industry desperately needs positive news. PETA is now going to have an absolute field day with this and continue to try to take down this wonderful sport. 

Looking back, my thoughts immediately shift to the amount of people who have lost money when these cheaters run horses against others who did the right thing in a clean way. Gamblers who got beat on the last leg of their pick 5 ticket because one of Servis’ horses ran off the screen en route to an illogical victory that seemed to come from nowhere. Or a struggling trainer who followed protocol simply trying to make ends meet with a game he/she loves and pours their soul into. How about them? I can’t even fathom how they must feel knowing that multiple victories could have been stolen from them as they entered their horses in races against slimy cheats. Sickening. 

My thoughts are all over the place. I really have so much more I could say and get into, but a tweet today from one of the good ones in racing, trainer Graham Motion, sums it up. He tweeted “A sad day for racing but a long time coming. A good day for those who try to play by the rules, we will all be better for it.” So here’s to hoping this is a positive for the industry. As those who love to play the races, let’s hope we can look at the PP’s and actually handicap a race without having to wonder if an illogical Servis or Navarro horse will randomly set a track record thus crushing our overall interest in the sport. Here’s to an overall better future for this game. I’ve loved it for years and would hate to see it come to an end. My hope is that today is the beginning of a trend in the right direction.