The world of thoroughbred horse racing is no stranger to controversy. There have been incidents of race fixing and other violations. Perhaps the most serious issue that currently troubles horse racing is the use of illegal medications. Jason Servis rose to fame by training Maximum Security. His fame did not last long. Servis was ultimately indicted for using prohibited substances and arrested. Here’s a look at his story.
Jason Servis Struggles to Become a Winning Horse Trainer
Many horse trainers of thoroughbred race horses will tell you that it can take years to reach the highest levels of the sport. Such was the case for Jason Servis. The brother of John Servis, the trainer of Smarty Jones, Jason immediately discovered that training winners at the race track is far from easy.
Still, Servis did not do bad for a new trainer. He was able to reach seven-figure earnings from his horses in 2004, just three years after taking out his license. Not many trainers can say that. With the early success came better horses from better owners. That led to more wins. By the time 2013 had rolled around, Jason Servis had earned a personal best of $3.4 million in purse earnings for the year.
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He won his first graded stakes race in 2008 with American Border. The accomplishment only added to the respect Servis’ stable was starting to get, but there were also whispers on the backstretch. Some claimed that Servis was giving his horses additional help in the form of illegal medications. Servis was quick to deny the charges when he was questioned by industry officials or the press.
Then, Servis was given the opportunity of a lifetime. He blew it.
Maximum Security Comes to the Jason Servis Barn
Gary and Mary West took a chance on Servis and decided to send him their colt, Maximum Security. The breeding on the colt looked promising. After a win in the Florida Derby, Maximum Security seemed to be firmly placed on the Kentucky Derby trail.
When Jason Servis and his entourage arrived in Kentucky with Maximum Security, the whispers started again. There were those who weren’t convinced that the colt was as talented as he seemed. They were further doubtful that a trainer that had primarily made his living working on the small circuits could condition a horse for the Kentucky Derby.
The federal authorities had Servis on their radar and were starting to put the pieces together. While investigations were underway, Maximum Security soared to a win in the Kentucky Derby only to be disqualified for interference. Maximum Security and Jason Servis became the first horse and trainer to win and lose the Kentucky Derby on the same day.
Servis and the Wests decided not to run Maximum Security in the Preakness or Belmont Stakes. They had other stakes races in mind. One of these was the inaugural running of the Saudi Cup in early 2020. It was billed as the richest horse race in the world with a purse of $20 million. Maximum Security won the race, but the celebration came to a screeching halt in March 2020 when Jason Servis was indicted on federal charges.
Jason Servis Gets Arrested
Servis was named among other in 27 indictments handed down in New York for the use of PEDs and other banned substances in horse racing. The men indicted were arrested and subsequently posted bail. Gary and Mary West were prompt to act, removing Maximum Security from the barn of Jason Servis. The horse was sent to the barn of Bob Baffert.
As of March 2021, the case of Jason Servis was still pending before the courts. Others charged in the scandal have been sentenced, with one individual receiving one year in federal prison. Regardless, the career of Servis has likely been damaged beyond repair.
The Problem of Drugging in Horse Racing
It would be unfair to say that Jason Servis is alone when it comes to breaking the rules in horse racing. The issue of illegal medications has long been a thorn in the side of the sport. Servis found himself in the unfortunate position of being caught.
Maximum Security was among the horses alleged to have been doped. Anyone can see how this can pose a problem. If this was the case, did the illegal medicines help the horse win the Saudi Cup? That would be grounds for other trainers to claim foul and strip the horse of the honor, and of the purse earnings.
What about the bettors who wagered other horses in the Saudi Cup? Should they be refunded their losing wagers. You can soon understand that illegal medications open up an entire world of problems for horse racing.
The racing world will soon find out what will happen to Jason Servis. In the meantime, Maximum Security is still being trained to compete by Bob Baffert. Their stories continue.