The fallout from the recent 27 federal indictments on horse race doping has engulfed the entire horse racing industry and has laid bare many harsh realities that have been, to a large extent, hiding in plain sight.
Much of the discussion involving Thoroughbred racing (the Standardbreds have their own issues and poster children) has been about the two most high-profile trainers indicted, Jorge Navarro and Jason Servis.
In an excellent column called, “Should Servis, Navarro Owners Pay Restitution?,” for Thoroughbred Daily News posted March 15, 2020, Bill Finley pulls no-punches comments on the horse owners who employ these trainers.
They have come at us one by one, saying they are shocked, they are disgusted, they love the animal, they love the sport and they had no idea they had been employing drug cheats.
That’s what we have heard from the owners who employed Jason Servis and Jorge Navarro and have spoken up in the aftermath of indictments that are not only shocking but threaten to do severe and irreparable damage to the sport.
How could an owner employ someone who performed training feats that were, basically, impossible if they were clean, and not know they were dirty? Everyone else knew. The gamblers, the honest owners and trainers, the guy working the hot dog stand on the second floor. Also, racetrack executives and racing commissioners. As clueless as they now seem, they knew.
For those owners involved who have a conscience, any maybe, well, some of them don’t, they need to stand up and take some responsibility and do something to make amends to a sport that has been crippled by this.
Start by saying something along these lines: “I understand that the money my horses have earned while racing for (fill in the blank) was tantamount to stealing because they were drugged. I find that unacceptable and I cannot in good conscience accept that money.”
Then write a check.
Mr. Finley was, of course, not the only straight shooter commenting on the matter. In a March 18, 2020, posting on the Paulick Report titled, “From The Brink Of Retirement, Federal Indictments Have Given Casse Renewed Hope,” a national Hall of Fame nominee, trainer Mark Casse, said, “I'm just kind of tired of the cheating. That was a big step the other day. They took out some bad guys. There's more to come, I hope. I think maybe if it looks too good to be true, it usually is. Let's not just rely on testing but let's look at common sense.
“We have a pretty good idea who's cheating.”
A snapshot of the Monmouth Park’s 2019 trainers’ standings (from Equibase) shows the extent to which Mr. Navarro and Mr. Servis dominated the race meet.
Name Starts 1st 2nd 3rd Earnings
Jorge Navarro 219 68 40 25 $2,144,588
Jason Servis 136 40 37 23 $2,214,900
Kelly J. Breen 125 36 18 14 $1,071,603
Jose H. Delgado 81 25 18 13 $602,32
J.Kent Sweezey 116 22 17 18 $551,256
Patrick B. McBurney 111 17 16 12 $711,752
Jorge Duarte, Jr. 51 16 5 10 $643,150
Jane Cibelli 66 14 7 10 $345,822
Gregory D. Sacco 76 13 14 11 $537,562
Chad C. Brown 55 13 10 10 $706,425
The connection with Monmouth Park and two of the indicted trainers does not end there. Dennis Drazin, chairman and CEO of Darby Development and operator of Monmouth Park, is also a horse owner who is permitted by the state to race horses at his track. Jason Servis is his primary trainer.
According to Equibase, Mr. Drazin’s horses have earned more than $500,000 in each of the past three years (2017-2019). Most of his wins have come at Monmouth Park. Of his 22 wins at Monmouth, 19 have been trained by Mr. Servis. Below is a summary of each of the 19 wins. The earning beside each win is the winner’s share, not the gross purse.
- May 4, 2019 Sunny Ridge Stakes (Grade 3) $105,000
- June 9, 2019 Amazing Cat MSW $33,750
- June 30, 2019 Auldwood Lane Allowance $28,500
- Aug. 10, 2019 Liana Susquehanna Clm $15,600
- Sept. 8, 2019 Shangaischool Mdn Clm $16,800
- Sept. 15, 2019 Magical Jamie MSW $35,625
- May 27, 2018 Bam Bam Blu Mdn Clm $12,300
- June 10, 2018 Sports Betting MSW $21,600
- June 23, 2018 Lucky Jamie MSW $27,000
- June 24, 2018 Auldwood lane Allowance $24,000
- Aug. 18, 2018 Lucky Jamie Allowance $30,000
- May 28, 2017 Blue Bahia Stakes $36,000
- June 4, 2017 Liana Susquehanna MSW $21,600
- June 9, 2017 Je Ne Sais Pas Clm $9,000
- July 1, 2017 Liana Susquehanna Allowance $24,000
- July 7, 2017 Sunnyridge Blu Mdn Clm $16,200
- July 16, 2017 Je Ne Sais Pas Clm $9,000
- July 29, 2017 Mighty Patient Clm $9,480
- Sept. 2, 2017 Mighty Patient Clm $8,400
In a piece posted March 17, 2020, at Online Gambling, Mr. Drazin is quoted:
“I should also reinforce that unfortunately, two of Monmouth Park’s own trainers were indicted and although they also raced in New York, Florida, and elsewhere, we must accept the fact that we have to do a better job, even though these offenses are handled by our regulators.”
This is true. But it’s only partially true. Steps beyond regulatory action can and should have been taken. First, a racetrack can ban an individual from participating at its race meet. And, as a horse owner, you certainly have the freedom to select a person of the highest caliber and reputation to be your trainer.
I do wonder what trainers at Monmouth were thinking while retrieving their horses after a race when they casted a sideway glance toward the winner’s circle only to see the owner and his super trainer beaming from ear to ear?