US RACING – The domino falls –Jason Servis, Jorge Navarro suspended

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Jason Servis

NEW YORK, USA – Setting a precedent for other racing jurisdictions around the country, the New York State Gaming Commission has suspended licenses of trainers and veterinarians indicted Monday on doping charges by the federal government.

Among those whose licenses are no longer valid include high-profile trainers Jason Servis and Jorge Navarro, who investigators allege administered performance-enhancing drugs that overextended their horses and deceived the betting public.

It is expected that other racing jurisdictions around the country will reciprocate this ruling, honoring New York officials’ decision as Servis, Navarro and the rest go through legal proceedings. They’re first expected in court in New York on March 23 to enter pleas.

In separate statements before the ruling was released, the New York Racing Association, The Stronach Group and Keeneland indicated these individuals would not be welcome on their grounds. In Keeneland’s case, that also means a ban from attending the nation’s largest sales.

“The administration of illegal medication and other improper substances to our equine athletes, as outlined by the indictments brought forth by federal prosecutors, is simply unacceptable,” said Keeneland’s president and CEO, Bill Thomason. “Putting profits and self-interest over the safety and integrity of our sport and its athletes has never, and will never, be tolerated by Keeneland. As the legal proceedings against the individuals identified by federal prosecutors unfold, the Thoroughbred racing community must continue to strengthen our screening processes.”

The Gaming Commission also names Servis’ New York-based assistant, Henry Argueta; trainer Michael Tannuzzo; and harness conditioners Rick Dane Jr., Chris Oakes and Nick Surick. Kristian Rhein and Alex Chan, two vets named in the indictments, also had their licenses suspended in the same ruling.

A hearing is scheduled for next Wednesday, the ruling states, “at which point you may be represented by counsel and present evidence and arguments on your own behalf.”

While the federal indictments are not the same as convictions, the Gaming Commission said it took its measures — termed “emergency action” — because “your continued participation in racing is a potential cause of public harm and further could result in impairment of the public’s confidence in pari-mutuel racing in New York State…”

At the scheduled hearing, according to the ruling, Gaming Commission attorneys may argue to disqualify trainers’ horses from races and redistribute purse money. Among the major New York events won last season by Servis was the Cigar Mile (G1) at Aqueduct with Maximum Security, who he is alleged to have given a PED while using vets to conceal its use.

Should any suspended parties not attend the hearing, the decision will be final, and individuals may be fined up to $25,000 for each violation imposed against him.