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Thoroughbred trainers Jason Servis, Jorge Navarro among 27 indicted on illegal doping charges

By Mark Hansel
NKyTribune managing editor

A total of 27 individuals, including thoroughbred trainers Jason Servis and Jorge Navarro, are charged in an alleged illegal doping scheme, in an indictment unsealed Monday.

Trainer Jason Servis (center) at the 2019 Kentucky Derby awaiting a decision on the status of Maximum Security. The colt, trained by Servis, crossed the finish line first, but was disqualified for interference. Servis is now charged in a subsequent doping scandal that includes Maximum Security (archive photo).

Federal prosecutors state in the 44-page indictment that the widespread and corrupt scheme involved the use of performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs).

Trainers, veterinarians and others are alleged to have deceived racing officials by using drugs that were difficult, or impossible to detect.

Horses identified as being the subjects of illegal doping in the indictment include top performers Maximum Security, trained by Servis, and the late XY Jet, trained by Navarro.

The indictments were filed in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York.

The allegations cover a period of several years up to and including February 2020 at racetracks throughout the United States including Kentucky, and in other countries.

This excerpt from the 44-page indictment provides some of the background, and highlights the concerns of officials who brought the charges:

To read the complete indictment, click here.

Names included in the indictment that was unsealed Monday (click to enlarge).

William F. Sweeney, Jr., assistant director in charge of the FBI’s New York field office, explained the impact this type of doping has on horses at a news conference Monday. 

“These substances stimulated endurance, deadened nerves, increased oxygen intake and reduced inflammation,” he said. “What actually happened to the horses amounted to nothing less than abuse.”

Servis trained Maximum Security, which crossed the finish line first in the 2019 Kentucky Derby before being disqualified for interference.

Horses trained by Servis have earned more than $52 million.

Maximum Security earned $10 million for winning the Saudi World Cup in February. The four-year-old has career earnings of $11.8 million.

The indictment states Servis and others “worked to procure and administer adulterated and misbranded PEDs including adulterated and misbranded PED SGF-1000, for the purpose of doping several racehorses under Servis’ control, including Maximum Security.”

This excerpt from the indictment describes a March 5, 2019, phone call that is stated to be between Servis and Navarro:

The indictment states that on or about June 5, 2019, New Jersey racing regulators tested Maximum Security for PEDs a short time after the horse had received an injection of SGF-1000.

In another intercepted phone call that is said to have come after the drug test, Kristian Rhein, another defendant, is alleged to have told Servis not to worry. 


Maximum Security waits riderless following the running of the 2019 Kentucky Derby. Despite crossing the finish line first, the horse was disqualified. His trainer, Jason Servis has been indicted on subsequent illegal doping charges, which include the alleged doping of Maximum Security  (archive photo).

Horses trained by Navarro, who is at the center of the doping scheme, have career earnings of nearly $35 million.

Among the charges are that he gave a horse named XY Jet PEDs prior to wins in Florida and Dubai in 2019.

The indictment claims Navarro and others administered several adulterated and misbranded PEDs to XY Jet before both races. 

XY Jet’s win in an Allowance Optional Claiming race on February 13, 2019 included a purse of approximately $31,900.

His next race, the Dubai Golden Shaheen another victory, was much more lucrative. The horse earned $1.5 million for the winners’ share of the $2.5 million purse. 

Substances described as adulterated and misbranded PEDs allegedly found in the barn of defendant Christopher Oakes, in March, 2019 (the photos were included in the indictment unsealed Monday).

XY Jet died of a heart attack in January.

Servis and Navarro are expected to plead not guilty. It’s not clear how the other defendants in the case will plead.

It’s also not clear what impact the indictment will have on horse racing. The sport is already reeling over increased concerns regarding the safety of the sport, following a rash of on-track deaths at Santa Anita since December of 2018.

Alex Waldrop, President and Chief Executive Officer of the National Thoroughbred Racing Association (NTRA) issued this statement Monday, regarding the indictment:

“The charges documented in today’s federal indictment against 27 individuals in horse racing are abhorrent. There is no place in our sport for individuals who treat horses with disregard for their well-being or who undermine the integrity ofMaximum Security, Jason Serves,  our competition for personal gain. We support the effort to bring these charges to light and are hopeful that their swift adjudication will help assure other horse racing participants and the public at large that our sport will not condone or tolerate the behavior alleged in the indictments.”

The indictment was unsealed just weeks before the Kentucky Derby and on the same day tickets went on sale for the Breeders’ Cup World Championships at Keeneland in November.

Contact Mark Hansel at mark.hansel@nkytrib.com

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  1. Earle Giggey says:

    This will teach them. All the corrupt male trainers should be gelded. . End their procreation. End the cheating.

  2. tkers70 says:

    Make every trainer submit a form detailing their usage and knowledge and apply appropriate action at this point. The next point will come if their submission has been contradicted. In this case a lifetime suspension would follow. by tkers70

  3. Timothy r. Clements says:

    This eventually led to the unnatural deaths of these animals,you do t wa t to know what kind of suffering punishments the trainers shouldget,maybe geld them ,one fellow fan sells.

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