The vile Jorge Navarro is back in the news. The animal abuser is to be sentenced this month for his part in a doping ring that resulted in various federal indictments in 2020. He faces up to five years in prison and possible deportation. Last week, his defense presented reams of character references from family, friends, and, most despicably, racing people. Several focused on his relationship with the dead X Y Jet.

Veterinarian Joel Lugo: “Because of his delicate knee conditions [surgeries in both ’15 and ’17], [X Y Jet] stayed in Ocala for a few months of the year…to rest and rehab. We never discussed the use of any illegal or unethical treatment with him or with any of the other horses. The horse return [sic] to race when we though [sic] the horse was healthy and ready. There was never any pressure from Navarro or the owners. We even discussed his retirement on multiple occasions.” (Paulick Report)

Lugo: “[He] always considered the health and well-being of his horses. Decisions and treatments were made as animal lovers and not for any financial considerations or personal ambitions. I remember the day when X Y Jet passed away [passed away?]. Jorge called me crying…. I know [he] was devastated because he truly loved [him].” (Thoroughbred Daily News)

Navarro’s mother-in-law, Cindy Harries: “That horse loved Jorge; I mean I never seen anything like it. That horse was mean with everyone and not easy to deal with. When X Y Jet died walking in the shed row [yeah, just died walking – at the age of seven] after a routine gallop, a part of Jorge died too.” (Paulick) Meanwhile, former jockey Rene Douglas wrote about Navarro’s “care as a horseman and character as a person.”

And here is what Navarro himself said when he announced X Y’s death in Jan 2020:

“With deep regret, I am sorry to notify you that X Y Jet died this morning as a result of a heart attack. X Y Jet was more than a horse on my trained list, it [not ‘he’] was the one that took us through a wonderful and exciting roller coaster of emotions. He always fought against adversity and despite the injuries that affected him during his career, he always brought out that kind of champion he was.

“Beyond the racetracks, XY Jet becomes [sic] part of my family, was like the older brother of my children and of course, that affection extended to all those who in one way or another related to this swift, mood [sic], but noble racehorse.

“Since his arrival at my stable, I immediately felt that connection with him, which remained until today and will surely remain with me until the day of my departure. I owe X Y Jet so much, that I’m sure there are no words that can specify my thanks to his nobility and class. I do not say goodbye to a horse, I say goodbye to a friend that I will carry forever in my heart. Keep running fast to your next destination X Y Jet.”

And here is what the indictment said:

“[JORGE] NAVARRO and others administered several adulterated and misbranded PEDs to XY Jet prior to both the February 13 race in Florida and the March 30 race in Dubai. On or about February 9, 2019, NAVARRO and MARCOS ZULUETA had a telephone conversation in which they discussed NAVARRO’S need for a particular customized analgesic PED, referred to as a ‘blocker.’ NAVARRO specified that the PED was for administration to XY Jet, and ZULUETA agreed to supply that PED via an overnight shipment.

“NAVARRO further attempted to source additional PEDs for XY Jet…including additional doses of a ‘blocker’ PED. On February 10, NAVARRO wrote to OAKES: ‘Do u have any of that new block that dr makes [?],’ and in subsequent calls between NAVARRO and OAKES, OAKES agreed to procure and deliver the ‘blocker’ PED to NAVARRO in advance of XY Jet’s February 13 race.

“On or about February 11, NAVARRO complained to ZULUETA about XY Jet’s performance in a pre-competition run…. NAVARRO and OAKES discussed a plan to secretly introduce a bottle of the ‘blocker’ into the stable where XY Jet was being held prior to the February 13 race. OAKES confirmed that he would smuggle that PED into the racetrack and meet NAVARRO once inside.

“On or about February 13, the day of the Florida race, NAVARRO instructed OAKES to visit XY Jet to administer the PED, and to lie to racing officials if necessary to access the racehorse: ‘Drive through. If anything, if they stop you, you are an owner and you come to Navarro’s barn.’

“On or about March 22, while in the UAE with XY Jet, NAVARRO personally administered various adulterated and misbranded PEDs to XY Jet, including a substance NAVARRO referred to as ‘monkey.’ During an April 3 call between NAVARRO and MARCOS ZULUETA, the two discussed, among other things, NAVARRO’s administration of PEDs to XY Jet in the weeks leading up to, and on the day of, the race in Dubai, and NAVARRO explained: ‘I gave it to him through 50 injections. I gave it to him through the mouth.’

“Following XY Jet’s victory in Dubai, SETH FISHMAN [a veterinarian who was also indicted] congratulated NAVARRO on the win via text message, and NAVARRO replied, in part and among other things, ‘Thank u boss u are a big part of it.'”

To recap:

Navarro: “He always fought against adversity and despite the injuries that affected him during his career, he always brought out that kind of champion he was.”

FBI: “NAVARRO and OAKES discussed a plan to secretly introduce a bottle of the ‘blocker’ into the stable where XY Jet was being held prior to the February 13 race.”

Navarro: “Beyond the racetracks, XY Jet becomes [sic] part of my family, was like the older brother of my children.”

FBI: “NAVARRO instructed OAKES to visit XY Jet to administer the PED, and to lie to racing officials if necessary to access the racehorse.”

Navarro: “[I] immediately felt that connection with him, which remained until today and will surely remain with me until the day of my departure.”

FBI: “NAVARRO personally administered various adulterated and misbranded PEDs to XY Jet, including a substance NAVARRO referred to as ‘monkey.'”

Navarro: “I do not say goodbye to a horse, I say goodbye to a friend that I will carry forever in my heart. Keep running fast to your next destination X Y Jet.”

FBI: “‘I gave it to him through 50 injections. I gave it to him through the mouth.'”

Again, Jorge Navarro is an obscenity and deserves not a whit of sympathy.

Recent rulings from various state commissions/track stewards.

In Minnesota: “Richard Magee was the driver of Steady Breeze in the 3rd race [at Running Aces] on 7/8/21; welts were discovered by Dr. Taylor when Steady Breeze arrived in the test barn.”

Welts. Magee received a mere 1-day suspension and $1,000 fine.

In Oklahoma: “AFTER FINISHING 1ST IN THE 2ND RACE AT WILL ROGERS DOWNS ON MARCH 22, 2021, THE RACE DAY SERUM SAMPLE FOR THE THOROUGHBRED HORSE ‘STAUNCH ELABORATOR’ TESTED POSITIVE FOR CAFFEINE.”

Caffeine. Owner/trainer Wayne George was fined just $1,500 and has been allowed to continue along merrily, having raced Staunch six times since.

In Wyoming: “The horse Sb Holly Wood finished second in the 4th race at Wyoming Downs on June 13, 2021. Luis Gonzalez was the trainer [and co-owner]. Following standard procedure…the Stewards ordered Sb Holly Wood to be taken to the test barn for collection of blood and hair samples to be tested for prohibited substances. Sildenafil [Viagra] was confirmed in the blood sample.”

Viagra. Gonzalez received a mere 30-day suspension and $1,000 fine.

This is horseracing.

Tuesday, during a meeting of the Pennsylvania Racing Commission, Tom Chuckas of the Dept. of Agriculture revealed that recent raids at Parx uncovered “a significant amount of contraband…dealing with medications, unlabeled, compounded or expired…needles and syringes and some other things.” Racing Commissioner Russell Jones told the Thoroughbred Daily News: “No names were given to us but I know they found a lot of (expletive)…a lot of evidence, syringes, whatever you call that stuff.”

Parx, like PA’s five other racetracks, is being propped up – to the tune of almost $250 million a year – by state taxpayers. That’s money that should be going to education, infrastructure, and the like. Meanwhile, 177 horses have died at Parx over the past four calendar years (’17-’20); Parx led the nation in kills in 2019 with 59.

Please take action; sign our change petition.

I have long maintained that drugs in racing is given far too much attention. Yes, the (obviously) nonconsensual drugging and doping of racehorses is a wrong, but it’s only one of many – and not even close to being the worst. For the apologists, it represents an out: All we need do is clean up the meds, like baseball did with steroids, and all will be right with the world. For some advocates, it’s a clear case of missing the forest for the trees. Still, occasionally a drug rap is so big it merits all that attention.

By now, most of you have heard that Bob Baffert-trained Medina Spirit, this year’s Derby “winner,” has tested positive for the anti-inflammatory betamethasone. Even if the split comes back negative and this does not become only the second drug DQ in Derby history, watching the industry squirm and its biggest, most successful trainer go apoplectic will have been satisfaction enough. Mr. Baffert to Sports Illustrated:

“We did not give it to him. The vet, no one, has ever treated him with it. This is a gut punch for something I didn’t do. It’s disturbing. … I don’t know what’s going on in racing right now, but there’s something not right. I don’t feel embarrassed. I feel like I was wronged. We’re going to do our own investigation.

“I do not feel safe to train. It’s getting worse and to me, you know going forward, how do I enjoy training? How do I move forward, knowing something like this could happen? It’s complete injustice but I’m going to fight it tooth and nail. I owe it to the horse, to the owner and our industry. … These contamination levels—I’m not a conspiracy theorist, I know not everyone is out to get me—but there’s definitely something going on. Why is it happening to me?”

Why indeed, Bob. Why indeed.