Trainer of champion Maximum Security gets 4 years in prison in racehorse-drugging scheme

26 July 2023

NEW YORK (AP) — The trainer of racehorse champion Maximum Security was sentenced to four years in prison on Wednesday for his role in a widespread international scheme to drug horses to make them race faster.

Jason Servis was sentenced by Judge Mary Kay Vyskocil in Manhattan federal court after pleading guilty to one felony and one misdemeanor charge alleging that he used unapproved drugs on the horses he trained. He was also ordered to pay $311,760 in forfeiture, $163,932 in restitution and a $30,000 fine.

“You have undermined the integrity of the sport of horse racing,” Vyskocil told Servis as she announced the sentence. “You cheated. You lied, and you broke the law.”

Servis, 65, of Jupiter, Florida, was among more than 30 defendants, including veterinarians, charged in March 2020 after a multiyear federal probe of the abuse of racehorses through the use of performance enhancing drugs.

Authorities said participants in the fraud — affecting races in New York, New Jersey, Florida, Ohio, Kentucky and the United Arab Emirates — misled federal and state regulators, U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents, various state horse racing regulators and the betting public.

Given a chance to speak, the bespectacled Servis cried before composing himself and speaking briefly.

“I will live with this for the rest of my life, and I’m most truly sorry,” he said.

Authorities said Servis gave Maximum Security a performance-enhancing drug called SGF-1000, recommended it to another trainer and conspired with a veterinarian to make it look like a false positive for another substance.

Maximum Security crossed the line first in the 2019 Kentucky Derby before being disqualified by Churchill Downs stewards for interference in what was an unprecedented move. Country House, which crossed the line second in that race, is now considered the winner.

Servis put the horses under his control in danger by giving virtually all of them performance-enhancing drugs, Vyskocil said. She said it was evidence that he knew what he was doing was wrong as he hid the drugs in bottles of shampoo or among containers holding bandages.

She also criticized him for falsely billing horse owners for the expense of the drugs by claiming they were paying for “Acupuncture & Chiropractic” care.

Authorities said he entered horses in races approximately 1,082 times from 2018 through February 2020.

Servis lost Maximum Security to two-time Triple Crown-winning trainer Bob Baffert in 2020 following the indictment and has been seen as a disgraced member of the industry since.

The federally mandated Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority designed to nationalize doping, medication and other safety rules went into effect in various stages over the past 13 months.

In a release, U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said the sentencing “sends a clear signal to those in the racehorse industry that no one is above the law. Endangering the welfare of animals for profit will not be tolerated. Illegally doping racehorses is a serious crime that will be met with a serious sentence.”

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AP Sports Writer Stephen Whyno in Washington D.C. contributed to this report.

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