(Maximum Security before the 2019 KY Derby / Photo by Holly M. Smith)
It sure didn’t take long for the self righteous to take care of their self interests, did it?
The ink was barely dry on the FBI’s federal indictments filed Monday against trainers Jorge Navarro and Jason Servis and 25 others before some the sport’s highest profile owners started running faster than some of their horses.
Never mind that billionaires Gary and Mary West had sung the praises of Jason Servis and applauded the efforts of their trainer before Monday’s Massacre.
Never mind that the brash Bradley Weisboard had openly bragged to one and all about the job Servis had done for his racehorse syndications prior to the FBI’s massive throw down in the courthouse.
Never mind that Ron Lombardi had sent some of his best horses to Servis since 2007 — including the likes of G1 winner Firenze Fire. Never mind that he currently had 15 horses under Servis’ care; and never mind that he said publicly that he had no reason to ever question the man’s ethics, treatment of his horses, or his peculiar training methods ever before.
On Monday and Tuesday — just hours after a stinging federal indictment In New York hit the docket and the airwaves, detailing how their trainer was allegedly part of a master scheme to solicit, acquire and use illicit, illegal and potentially powerful performance-enhancing drugs to help improve their horse’s performances — the owners were off to the races.
Running their PR machines.
Running their mouths.
Running for cover.
One by one, they all started to release statements to the press and the public.
Nearly all of them read the same.
Every one of them meant the same.
They were appalled by the news.
They were astonished by the names in the news.
They were shocked that their horses could be in the news.
They were disgusted that they had been dragged into the news.
And, they were moving their horses to new trainers. Immediately.
In unison now (in a little sing-song manner):
“If true, how in the world could this man — any man — even consider treating their horses with performance enhancing drugs? If true, how in the world could this man, contracted to do their business, ever even think about doing this to their horses; to them? If true, how could this man imagine getting mixed up in something so nasty, distasteful, ugly, under worldly, and utterly unforgivable?”
“If true, how?”
The owner’s PR teams were spinning. And, so were our heads.
Well, let’s be honest here for a second folks.
Let’s hit the moral high ground pause button, and let reality shed a little light on the dark moments of this ugly ordeal.
The truth is?
The question is?
How did these owners not know?
How did the owners not know something was up? How did the owners not know something just wasn’t quite right? How did the owners not know that something didn’t smell right; look right; wasn’t right?
After all, the word around the racetrack has been there for the past few years.
How did little Jason Servis go from being a relative nobody with a modest little stable of even more modest horses to one of the most successful trainers in the game?
Luck? Good fortune? Hard work? A better mouse trap?
How did Servis suddenly go from a trainer that struggled to a trainer that starred?
A better idea? A better training strategy? A miracle horse whisperer? Better hay, oats, and water?
How did Servis’ win percentage sky rocket faster than Maximum Security’s feet and fame?
Better horses render better results? Just being at the right place at the right time?
How did Maximum Security go from winning a $16,000 claiming race to winning the Eclipse Award as the best 3YO in the country last year?
How did Maximum Security go months without racing; go from an occasional slower-than-slow published workout that was timed with an hour glass rather than a stop watch; and then go on to race faster than some of the best horses of his generation? Over and over.
How did it happen?
How did it happen so mysteriously?
Surely, all these owners had heard the same rumblings around the clubhouse that many were hearing and speculating around the barn areas.
It didn’t take a rocket scientist — or in this case rocket fuel — to look on social media and see, read and understand all the rumors.
It was out there for all the world to see and wonder. Aloud.
What was Jason Servis doing that enabled him to suddenly become the greatest trainer of all time; and have some of the best horses of all time?
Long-time racing analyst Andrew Beyer questioned the logic in print several years ago. Even Servis himself addressed the rumors in a 2018 interview with Jonathan Lintner, who now operates HorseRacingNation.com.
Didn’t these owners hear the same things?
Didn’t these owners wonder the same things?
Didn’t these owners question the same things?
Did the owners want to know?
Those are some of the questions that I am sure the FBI will be asking some of the 27 indicted and some of the workers for the 27 indicted over the next few months, and, perhaps, years.
Those are some of the questions that I am sure the the FBI would like to ask the grooms and the hot walkers. Those are some of the questions that I am sure the FBI would love to ask the attending veterinarians and assistant trainers. Those are the very questions that I am sure the FBI would love to ask those in and around the barns of these training operations. And, surely those are some of the questions that the FBI will probe with the drug manufacturer’s personnel.
Who made this alleged stuff?
Who got their hands on this alleged stuff?
Who sold this alleged stuff?
Who delivered this alleged stuff?
Who administered this alleged stuff?
And, who — exactly — knew about this alleged stuff was being used on some alleged horses in an alleged attempt to alter the outcome of an alleged race?
Some of these people may even get immunity to discuss the details. Some of these people may get a free pass to outline how this could ever happen. Some may be excused for their roles if they can shed light on others that had more significant decision-making powers.
It will be interesting to see how it all plays out.
It will be interesting to see who turns on whom.
It will be interesting to see who knew what; and who decided what; and who OK’d what.
It will be interesting to see “what” is and “what” can do.
It will be interesting.
But for the sake of argument, let’s say that all the owners are absolutely correct and none of them had an inkling of any potential wrongdoing by anyone associated with one of their horses.
Let’s go with that working theory.
If so, then why don’t those owners do this?
Why don’t their PR teams — whom are probably working overtime right now — come up with this idea?
Gary and Mary West, why don’t you ship Maximum Security to Rood & Riddle in Lexington, KY. Why don’t you ask Dr. Larry Bramlage — one of the most renown, thought-of and respected veterinarians and equine surgeons in history — to do a complete review of the horse.
Do a skeleton review.
Do a complete blood workup.
Do a total body scan.
Run a complete heart monitor.
Examine the horse from hoof to tail. And back again.
Then, in an act of good faith and full transparency, why don’t you hold a Press Conference and allow Dr. Bramlage to reveal the entire examination to the general public.
Allow Dr. Bramlage to give the full, final report to the FBI.
Turn over any and all evidence of what may be in the horse’s system to any one and every one. Right now.
If there is nothing to hide, then don’t hide anything.
How refreshing what that be, Gary and Mary?
You, too, Bradley Weisboard. You’re up next.
According to your own admission, you had 9 horses in training with Servis at the time of the indictment.
Give the public their names.
Send the horses to a veterinarian clinic of reputation. Even ask the FBI to appoint a veterinarian to watch the proceedings and participate as an on-looker. Do the exams. Release the results. Full transparency.
You, too, Mr. Lombardi. Nothing to hide? Then let’s reveal. All.
Now, that is a PR announcement worth reading.
That is a PR release worth sending.
That is a PR spin worth spinning.
Anything less? Anything that sketches out your feigned public distain, but has no remedy?
Anything less is bull manure in a horse stall.
In fact, let’s take it one step farther, shall we?
If the racetracks could muster the gumption, they should do more than just scratch the entries of the horses that were previously entered by both Jorge Navarro, another notable trainer served with an indictment on Monday, and Servis.
That public act of manliness is riveting, mind you. But woefully inadequate.
If it is not too much to ask, the racetracks should send out their own press releases. Not with just some corral of nice words. With some actions outlined.
The racetracks should insist that all horses under the previous care of either Jason Servis or Jorge Navarro be required to undergo a full veterinarian examination and be fully cleared before the horse can be entered, or participate in any future race on their respective grounds.
Full set of X-rays.
Now, the combination of those Press Release are worth reading.
Now, those are decisions that the horse betting public deserves.
Now, those are words that the owners should live by.