The trainer of Maximum Security, one of the best racehorses in the world, is among more than two dozen people who have been charged in what authorities describe as a widespread international scheme to drug horses to race faster.
Jason Servis trained Maximum Security to victory at last month’s $20m Saudi Cup, the most valuable horse race in the world. Maximum Security also crossed the line first in last year’s Kentucky Derby but was disqualified after stewards ruled the colt had impeded the path of two other horses in the final turn. According to Monday’s charges, Servis doped “virtually all the racehorses under his control”.
The charges were detailed in four indictments in Manhattan federal court. Charges brought against 27 individuals, who include trainers and veterinarians, allege a doping and misbranding conspiracy. The charges allegedly affected races in New York, New Jersey, Florida, Ohio, Kentucky and the United Arab Emirates.
Authorities say participants in the fraud misled government agencies, various state horse racing regulators and the betting public. The indictments claim the scheme was “to the detriment and risk of the health and well-being of the racehorses.”
According to the indictments, marketers and distributors of drugs known as “blood builders” to stimulate a horse’s endurance have infiltrated the horse racing industry for at least the last decade. Authorities say the drugs can cause horses to overexert themselves, leading to heart issues and death. The indictments said other drugs used to deaden a horse’s sensitivity to pain to improve the horse’s performance could also lead to leg fractures.
The welfare of racehorses has been under the microscope in the US over the last year after a spike in deaths. More than 30 horses died last year at Santa Anita, one of the most famous tracks in America. According to the Jockey Club’s Equine Injury Database, death rates at American tracks are up to five times higher than in Europe and Asia, where rules and penalties against doping are tougher.