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Jason Servis, trainer of disqualified Ky. Derby horse, pleads guilty in doping case

Jason Servis, who trained Maximum Security, the horse that finished first in the Kentucky Derby in 2019 before being disqualified, has pleaded guilty in a federal doping case.

Servis pleaded guilty Friday in U.S. District Court in the the Southern District of New York to introducing adulterated or misbranded drugs into interstate commerce, court records show.

“Servis ordered hundreds of bottles of the drug ‘SGF-1000,’ which was compounded and manufactured in unregistered facilities and contained growth factors that the defendant believed to be undetectable through regular drug screens,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office said in a news release. “ Virtually all the horses in Servis’ barn received that drug, including the thoroughbred racehorse ‘Maximum Security,’ who crossed the finish line first at the 2019 Kentucky Derby. SGF-1000 was an intravenous drug promoted as, among other things, a vasodilator capable of promoting stamina, endurance, and lower heart rates in horses through the purported action of ‘growth factors.’ Servis approved veterinary bills to racehorse owners that contained concealed charges for SGF-1000, which were falsely billed under the line item ‘Acupuncture & Chiropractic.’”

Maximum Security was disqualified for interference after crossing the finish line first in the 2019 Kentucky Derby, and Country House was declared the winner. A legal battle ensued, but Maximum Security’s owners were not successful.

“In September 2019, the New York State Gaming Commission released an advisory stating that SGF-1000 was prohibited under the racing rules and had been prohibited since 2012,” the release stated. “Servis continued to allow the administration of that drug on the horses he trained up until his arrest in March 2020.”

The release says horses that Servis trained also were often given Clenbuterol without a valid prescription as “part of a deliberate effort to conceal that conduct from racing regulators and avoid mandatory reporting requirements.”

The release states that he also got a misbranded version of Clenbuterol from Jorge Navarro, a trainer and co-defendant in the case who last year was sentenced to five years in prison and ordered to pay $26 million in restitution.

“Servis’ conduct represents corruption at the highest levels of the racehorse industry,” U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said in a news release. “As a licensed racehorse trainer, Servis was bound to protect the horses under his care and to comply with racing rules designed to ensure the safety and well-being of horses and protect the integrity of the sport. Servis abdicated his responsibilities to the animals, to regulators, and to the public. This latest conviction demonstrates the commitment of this office and of our partners at the FBI to the prosecution and investigation of corruption, fraud, deceit, and endangerment in the racehorse industry.”

Servis is scheduled to be sentenced May 18, court records show.

Servis, 65, could face up to four years in prison, according to a report published Friday in the Paulick Report and other racing news outlets..

If he had not pleaded guilty under the plea agreement, Servis could have been sentenced to up to 25 years in prison if convicted of the original charges, the report stated.

He is the last of more than two dozen defendants facing charges as part of the federal government’s doping investigation, according to the racing news outlets.

The Associated Press reported that 23 of 31 defendants have pleaded guilty.

Maximum Security’s jockey Luis Saez and trainer Jason Servis waited to see if the stewards would disqualify their colt, who had crossed the finish line first in the Kentucky Derby on Saturday, May 4, 2019. Maximum Security was disqualified and placed 17th.
Maximum Security’s jockey Luis Saez and trainer Jason Servis waited to see if the stewards would disqualify their colt, who had crossed the finish line first in the Kentucky Derby on Saturday, May 4, 2019. Maximum Security was disqualified and placed 17th.

The executive director of a Washington, D.C.-based animal rights group issued a statement Friday calling Servis a “kingpin of organized crime and abuse.”

“Jason Servis’ actions and abuse of our iconic American equines has been the worst disgrace American horse racing has ever seen,” Marty Irby, of Animal Wellness Action, said in a statement. “We applaud The Jockey Club, president Jim Gagliano, chairman Stuart Janney and everyone at the U.S. Department of Justice and U.S. Attorney’s office who worked diligently for years to bring down this kingpin of organized crime and abuse.”

Servis is the brother of John Servis, who trained 2004 Derby and Preakness winner Smarty Jones, according to the AP.