View From the Eighth Pole: Truth Or Consequences

I’ve been observing the “lads” at Coolmore Stud in Ireland and at their Kentucky farm, Ashford, for more than 30 years. They have revolutionized the bloodstock world, maximized stallion revenue, and elevated customer service and marketing.

Through early identification and acquisition of promising stud prospects, embracing large books for their stallions (including no small number of their own mares), and shuttling them to Australia or South America for dual hemisphere breeding seasons, Coolmore and Ashford can “get out” financially on many of these horses before their first foals hit the racetrack.

In a business where nine out of 10 new stallions will fail to sustain or increase their initial value, it’s highly advantageous for a stud farm to break even or show a modest profit before the marketplace has a chance to see whether or not a horse’s offspring can run.

Yet the lads aren’t perfect. No one is.

I was reminded of that when I saw their recent advertisement for first-year stallion Maximum Security. It was, without a doubt, the most unconventional stallion ad I’ve ever seen.

Under the banner, “MAXIMUM SECURITY – the facts,” the ad began normally enough, citing races won, achievements, and awards.

Then it gets weird. Bullet point No. 12 in the ad states: “NEVER TESTED POSITIVE for an illegal or prohibited substance during his career despite comprehensive testing at the world’s best laboratories.”

That statement is true (though I might disagree that post-race testing for all of his races was done at “the world’s best laboratories.”). But let’s remember how many times cheating cyclist Lance Armstrong said he’d never failed a drug test:  “Twenty-plus-year career, 500 drug controls worldwide, in and out of competition. Never a failed test. I rest my case,” he said in May 2011, a little more than a year before he was stripped of his seven Tour de France titles because of doping.

But wait, there’s more.

In addition to a complimentary quote from Bob Baffert, who trained Maximum Security for the second half of his 4-year-old campaign in 2020, there is this closing argument: “MAXIMUM SECURITY is a bona fine CHAMPION that raced on water, hay, oats & fresh air!”

Everyone knows what this is about.

Less than three months after the announcement that Coolmore had purchased a significant share in the racing and breeding interests of Maximum Security – who was voted an Eclipse Award winner as outstanding 3-year-old male of 2019 – the colt’s trainer, Jason Servis was among those rounded up and arrested by the FBI as part of a broad multi-year investigation into doping of racehorses in the United States.

The indictment states that Servis and co-conspirators “concealed the administration of PEDs from federal and state government agencies, racing officials, and the betting public by, among other things, concealing and covertly transporting PEDs between barns where Servis’ racehorses were stabled, falsifying veterinary bills to conceal the administration of SGF-1000, and using fake prescriptions.”

Even worse, there were specific references to Maximum Security in the March charging document and the superseding indictment filed Nov. 5.

“Jason Servis, the defendant, was the trainer for a particularly successful racehorse, ‘Maximum Security,’ that briefly placed first at the Kentucky Derby on May 4, 2019, before racing officials disqualified the horse for interference,” the superseding indictment states.

“Following the Kentucky Derby,” it continues, “Maximum Security continued to compete in high-profile races, including in Oceanport, New Jersey. Servis worked with (veterinarians) Kristian Rhein and Alexander Chan, the defendants, among others, to procure and administer adulterated and misbranded PEDs, including the adulterated and misbranded PED SGF-1000 and invalidly administered Clenbuterol, for the purpose of doping several racehorses under Servis’ control, including Maximum Security.”

The FBI intercepted a March 5, 2019, phone call between Servis and co-defendant Jorge Navarro in which Servis is heard recommending SGF-1000 to Navarro, adding, “I’ve been using it on everything almost.” Navarro allegedly admitted also giving SGF-1000 to some of his horses, then ended the call, saying: “I don’t want to talk about this shit on the phone, OK.”

The indictment states that SGF-1000 is a “customized PED purportedly containing ‘growth factors,’ including fibroblast growth factor and heptocyte growth factor, which are intended to promote tissue repair and increase a racehorse’s stamina and endurance beyond its natural capability.”

So it appears, based on the indictment, that Maximum Security was getting a little something more than the “water, hay, oats, and fresh air” claim in the ad.

No one is suggesting original owners Gary and Mary West or the Coolmore partners who bought into the horse had any knowledge of what is documented in the indictment.

The Maximum Security ad also includes an excerpt from a story in the Thoroughbred Daily News stating Servis may have been buying “some fake PEDs” from Chan and Rhein, based on comments from prosecutors at a pre-trial hearing.

The arrest of Servis came just over a week after Maximum Security had won the inaugural running of the $20-million Saudi Cup. The Saudis have yet to pay the purse money, pending the outcome of what they said is their own investigation into Servis. More likely, they’re waiting to see what happens in court.

That could take a while. There is another pre-trial conference scheduled on May 14, 2021.

Maximum Security did win two of his four post-Servis starts while trained by Baffert, including the G1 Pacific Classic at Del Mar. He was retired following a fifth-place performance in the G1 Breeders’ Cup Classic at Keeneland, finishing behind two Baffert barnmates – winner Authentic and runner-up Improbable – Global Campaign, and Tacitus. He beat race favorite Tiz the Law.

I’m not going to knock Maximum Security, who could turn out to be a great success at stud. As the late Hall of Fame trainer Charlie Whittingham is often quoted as saying, “Never say anything bad about a horse until he’s been dead at least 10 years.”

But we know from other sports that suspected cheating has consequences. Barry Bonds, Major League Baseball’s all-time leading home run hitter and single-season record holder, has been shut out of the Baseball Hall of Fame. So, too, have Roger Clemens, Sammy Sosa, and Mark McGwire, all with Hall of Fame qualifications but accused of using steroids. None failed a drug test.

Servis (and by way of extension Maximum Security) is innocent until proven guilty, but the charges against him and the others named in the case are serious. If Servis is found guilty, no amount of spin is going to chase the dark clouds away from his most accomplished horse.

That’s my view from the eighth pole.

The post View From the Eighth Pole: Truth Or Consequences appeared first on Horse Racing News | Paulick Report.

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