Horse Racing Indictments

Our phones starting buzzing on the morning of March 9th.  It was news of the FBI’s surprise raids at a racetrack and horse training facility in Florida around 5:00 A.M.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York handed down 40 indictments of trainers, veterinarians, and drug distributors in multiple states. Among the individuals charged were Jorge Navarro, and Jason Servis, the trainer of Maximum Security whose win at last year’s Kentucky Derby was revoked after judges reviewed the tape and disqualified him for running into another horse. And Maximum Security just won the $10 million dollar prize at the Saudi Cup just two weeks prior to the federal enforcement actions.

The indictment claims that “virtually all” of Servis’ horses in more than 1,000 races over the past two years were drugged. In reviewing the larger set of indictments, they detail a scheme of misbranding and distributing various drugs to defraud state regulators, horseracing fans, and the betting public by secretly doping horses in the $100 billion global industry.

While the Department of Justice’s actions are a thunderbolt and give us great encouragement that justice may be served, it’s just the first critical step if we hope to see serious-minded reform in American horseracing. You see, American horseracing is addicted to drugs, and unlike the drugs at the center of the indictments, many others are legal, and have been approved for use by various state racing commissions.

That’s why Animal Wellness is pushing for the passage of the Horseracing Integrity Act, H.R. 1754  by Reps. Paul Tonko, D-N.Y., and Andy Barr, R-Ky., and S. 1820 by Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., and Martha McSally, R-Ariz. AWA executive director Marty Irby testified in support of the legislation in January that would protect American racehorses through the establishment of a national, uniform standard for drugs and medication in horseracing. It would also grant drug rulemaking, testing, and enforcement oversight to a private, non-profit, self-regulatory independent organization managed by the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) — the governing body that runs the Olympic anti-doping program.

Over the past year, we’ve seen more than 500 horses die at American racetracks, and the body count climbs every day. Unscrupulous trainers that drug horses are not only putting animals and jockeys at risk of life and limb, but they are rigging the system and making a mockery of anyone who bets based on their knowledge of the athletes involved.

You can contact your Members of Congress by clicking here and calling 202-225-3121 and asking them to cosponsor the Horseracing Integrity Act.

The indictment claims that “virtually all” of Servis’ horses in more than 1,000 races over the past two years were drugged.


1 thought on “Horse Racing Indictments”

  1. I know of doping first-hand, and have known about it for over 40 years. What has taken the states’ racing commission and legal system so long to try and stomp on the hands of those who mistreat these equine beauties? Where were the powers-that-be when Barbora broke his leg?, how about Ruffin? and all the other fatal injuries because greedy owners and trainers start thoroughbreds entirely too young; before their bones are fully formed. Even the best-of-the-best: Bob Baffert, D. Wayne Lukas, and Charlie Whittingham.

    Unsuspecting gamblers at the tracks don’t know or don’t care that nearly 10 horses a week, on average, died during racing at U.S. race courses in 2018, according to the Jockey Club’s Equine Injury Database. As many probably died in training, but as far as I know nothing official exists. My, what a surprise. As for the U.S. Department of Justice developing an Animal Cruelty Crimes Unit that isn’t handcuffed by entrepreneurs and politicians; that will be the day!

    Oh, one last thing – let us not forget the torture-training of Tennessee Walking Horses. Will TWBEA ever admit publically that the caustic chemicals on horse’s lower legs, trimming short their hooves, or applying devices such as heavy chains and weighted shoes to create the “Big Lick”, is no longer acceptable practice? They need to discontinue the Performance Division in all shows. Existing laws have been on the books for decades but the TWBEA and USDA are “self policing” and it’s not working. Please, don’t say the bill passed by the HoR is going to make a huge difference. It’s all about breeding, money, and bragging rights. Those wealthy breeders believe $5K fine is only a bee sting to their wallets; any imprisonment can always be plea bargained. Breeders need to be caught at their farms, not by the USDA at a show via thermal imaging.

    Thank you for the soap box.

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