Jockey Club Chairman Stuart Janney delivered a powerful statement in his closing remarks at the Jockey Club Round Table on August 16 regarding the indictments of Jorge Navarro, Jason Servis and 25 other industry participants on federal charges in connection with the use of performance-enhancing drugs on racehorses. He said the investigation was viewed by the Jockey Club as part of a larger picture, importantly including the Horseracing Integrity Act, which he discusses below.
The Jockey Club began its own investigation of cheating in racing in 2015. In 2016, recognizing the broad scope of cheating, the Jockey Club and Jeff Gural, owner/operator of the Meadowlands Racetrack in New Jersey, and Tioga Downs and Vernon Downs in New York, retained 5 Stones intelligence (5Si), one of the world's leading intelligence and investigative companies, to investigate cheating in horse racing. 5Si worked closely with federal agencies, resulting in the 27 indictments in March.
In addition, to presenting these indictments in their context as a serious threat to the future of our industry, I would like to briefly mention the accomplishments of Jorge Navarro and Jason Servis as Thoroughbred trainers in 2019.
The two most important achievements for a trainer in any year are the winning percentages for the number of starts their horses make and the total earnings of their horses in these races. In 2019, while competing on important racing circuits, Servis was the #1 trainer in the country with the highest winning percentage (29 percent) and Navarro was close behind at #2 at 28 percent.
The same year, Servis was #6 in the U.S. with earnings of $11,089,040 and Navarro was #16 on $6,805,611. This is total earnings of almost $18,000.000 for Navarro, Servis and their owners.
Viewed in the context of these indictments, it is very clear how important the Horseracing Integrity Act is to the future of the industry. Without the action and financial support for the Jockey Club and Jeff Gural in retaining 5SI, and the assistance and efforts of the federal agencies, any activities that are found to be illegal in these indictments would still be ongoing on our racetracks today.
Stuart Janney’s closing remarks
The Jockey Club has two primary missions. One is to protect the integrity of the breed, and the second is to grow the sport. These two missions are linked. The Jockey Club stewards believe that, without integrity, the sport will never grow, and, in fact, it will die.
It is with that belief that The Jockey Club undertook our investigation of cheating in racing in 2015. We had become convinced that cheating was a growing activity and it needed to be pursued with increased effectiveness.
We also felt that racing’s regulatory system and testing were antiquated, under-resourced, and flawed by a lack of uniformity across 30-something jurisdictions.
With all that in mind, we hired 5 Stones intelligence, one of the world’s leading intelligence and investigative companies. In a short time, their team had proved to our satisfaction that our worst fears were correct.
They worked closely with federal agencies, particularly the FBI, to ensure that criminals in racing are indicted and prosecuted for the serious crimes they have committed.
This is an appropriate moment to thank the FBI and the federal prosecutors who have worked tirelessly on this investigation. Sadly, their plate is full with many other criminal activities, some violent.
Despite scarce resources, the FBI allocated those resources to racing because they were shown how deep and widespread the problem was. The indictments show, as the stewards of The Jockey Club believe, that industry participants, as well as our fans, are being victimized by this cheating.
Racing owes a tremendous debt to the FBI and the Department of Justice. As all of you know, or should know, on March 6, 2020, 27 arrests were made of trainers, vets, and compounders. It's reasonable to assume that more arrests are coming.
Covid-19 has affected every part of our lives, and this investigation is no different. The criminal justice system’s capacity is severely limited from investigations to convening grand juries, to arresting and arraigning criminals.
But I have no doubt that there are many arrests pending. Fortunately, they will happen, but just not as soon as we would like.
What conclusions can we draw?
First, that drugs are far more effective and harder to detect than in the past, and our current system of regulation and testing has not met, and will not meet, this challenge.
Frankly, our domestic labs are still far short of many labs overseas, such as the lab run by the Hong Kong Jockey Club, who have done important work detecting some of these exotic performance-enhancing substances. We owe a debt of gratitude to the Hong Kong officials with whom we have collaborated.
Second, with purse money never greater, the betting opportunities are far more diverse and less transparent. The opportunities for huge increases in bloodstock values tied to racing performance have also grown.
We have a huge challenge ahead of us, as all the incentives are in place for criminal behavior.
Third, it seems like too many racetrack vets feel it's okay to seek a competitive advantage for their clients. They also realize they can bring home huge profits by supplying and administering illegal drugs.
Previously, they may have felt safe from prosecution, but the current indictments say otherwise. I call on the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) to join the battle for integrity. They have been absent for far too long.
Fourth, our problems are shared by the Standardbred and Quarter Horse industries, and a unified approach to regulation and criminal investigation is much needed.
We have always viewed this investigation as part of a larger picture, which importantly includes the Horseracing Integrity Act. Without modernizing our current system of regulation, we will slip back into the present unfortunate state.
The Horseracing Integrity Act has made great progress this year under the leadership of Representatives Paul Tonko of New York and Andy Barr of Kentucky. A majority of the members of the House of Representatives now co-sponsor the bill, and momentum continues to build in the Senate.
While the Covid-19 pandemic has slowed some aspects of our lives and businesses, our commitment to passage of this bill remains as high as ever. We have actively engaged key colleagues in this sport, as well as the highest levels of congressional leadership, and I expect an announcement about the legislation very soon.
Today’s Round Table Conference provided us with a full array of ideas and concepts for us to consider: making safety and integrity paramount; better marketing of the sport through television, digital platforms, and other emerging technologies; diversifying our workforces and fan base; and embracing the very positive features of our sport, which set it apart from others.
There is much to think about and much to do.
I will close today’s conference the way I opened it, by thanking our presenters, our viewers, and especially all those individuals whose daily efforts make it possible to conduct Thoroughbred racing in the face of a global pandemic.
We are extremely grateful to all of you. Stay safe and stay healthy.
Chairman Stuart Janney
For anyone that would like more information about the indictments and the role the Horseracing Integrity Act will play in properly regulating the industry, please read this article published on TRC in March.