Ignore everything you read and hear from the apologists. This is bad. Very bad. For an industry that has been under relentless siege for over a year now, the federal indictments that came down yesterday against some 27 people in, or associated with, American horseracing – including seven veterinarians (who merit an especial contempt) and renowned trainers Jason Servis (he of short-lived Derby winner Maximum Security) and Jorge Navarro (killer of X Y Jet) – couldn’t have come at a worse time. But it’s important not to get too far into the weeds on this.
As I wrote in the wake of PETA’s undercover investigation of another famous trainer’s (Steve Asmussen) barn in 2013, it’s more about the human-horse relationship than the case particulars. On this relationship, horseracing is more amoral than immoral, for traditional rules of morality simply do not apply. (Defrauding bettors is a topic best discussed elsewhere – i.e., I don’t care.) Racehorses are pieces of property, assets, things to be made, used, and discarded; you can no more act immorally toward your racehorse than you can your house or car. Accordingly, virtually anything goes. And that is the story here. And make no mistake, Navarro, Servis, and the rest, like Asmussen and Blasi before them, are horseracing, and anyone who says different is either lying, ignorant, or self-deluded.
Anyway, here are some of the indictments’ “highlights.”
“[Dealer Sarah] Izhaki represented that ‘The Devil’ was ‘[s]omething very new, you put it in the horse, you can use coke: it will come back negative.’”
“On or about October 2, 2019, [veterinarian Louis] Grasso counseled [trainer Thomas] Guido on the proper administration of misbranded and adulterated PEDs, and specifically discussed the death of a horse that Guido was training and stated had been doped with a PED…noting, ‘it happens,’ that the deceased horse’s trainer had ‘probably over juiced him,’ and that the suspected cause of the horse’s death was not unusual: ‘I’ve seen that happen 20 times.’”
“On or about October 17, 2019, Grasso reiterated to [assistant trainer Conor] Flynn his willingness to provide prescriptions without verifying medical necessity, advising…that his fee was ‘$100 per script,’ regardless of the prescription: ‘I don’t give the fuck what it is.’”
“On or about October 23, 2019…Flynn indicated that he was willing to inject misbranded and adulterated PEDs of unknown composition into his racehorses because he was ‘a fucking desperado….’”
“On or about January 2, 2016, [dealer Scott] Robinson forwarded the following customer complaint to [dealer Scott] Mangini: ‘I ordered some [PED-1]…starting bout 8 hours after I give the injection and for about 36 hours afterwards both my horses act like they are heavily sedated, can barely walk. Could I have a bad bottle of medicine, I’m afraid to give it anymore since this has happened three times.’ Commenting on this complaint, Robinson wrote, ‘here is another one.’”
“On a February 1, 2019, intercepted call between [trainer Nicholas] Surick and [collaborator] Michael Tannuzzo discussing [trainer Jorge] Navarro, Surick stated: ‘You know how many fucking horses he fucking killed and broke down that I made disappear. … You know how much trouble he could get in…if they found out?’”
“During an April 3, 2019, call between Navarro and [trainer 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, [veterinarian] Seth Fishman congratulated Navarro on the win via text message, and Navarro replied, ‘Thank u boss u are a big part of it.’”
“On or about May 29, 2019, Navarro held a conference call with the operators of a racing stable in California, for whom Navarro is a trainer, during which they discussed a series of poor performances by “Nanoosh,” a racehorse trained by Navarro. During the call, one of the operators questioned whether Navarro was ‘giving them all the shit,’ later asking, ‘Is this horse jacked out? Is he on fucking pills or what or are we just fucking -,’ to which Navarro responded, ‘Everything…he gets everything.’”
“On a March 5, 2019, intercepted call between [trainer Jason] Servis and Navarro, Servis recommended ‘SGF’ to Navarro, stating, ‘I’ve been using it on everything almost.’ Navarro stated…that he ‘got more than 12 horses on’ SGF-1000….’”
“[D]uring an intercepted call between Navarro and Tannuzzo, Navarro explained, in part, that he otherwise would have been caught doping: ‘[The racing official] would’ve caught our asses fucking pumping and pumping and fuming every fucking horse [that] runs today.’“