There were plenty of eyes on CBS’ acclaimed news show 60 Minutes on the evening of November 12 for a segment on horse doping in racing and the future of the sport. The 13-minute expose focused on the FBI investigation into some 33 trainers, veterinarians, and drug suppliers that led to many arrests including well-known trainers Jason Servis and Jorge Navarro.
Reaction to the piece was somewhat divided, although most agreed that in the last three years, horse racing and drugs and a litany of deaths on the track due to other factors has severely damaged the industry’ look, not to mention wagering:
Again, our industry has been inaccurately portrayed, misinterpreted, and mischaracterized. That is what we’ve come to accept as an unorganized sport. Our self-appointed leadership groups, for some reason, have taken it upon themselves to participate in this slanderous hit piece. Five Stones did an excellent job taking down the two men and their suppliers. They should be proud of that. It’s difficult to characterize this as endemic, considering only two trainers are indicted on federal charges. The horses injured physically or otherwise on the show tonight tested negative for medications. These horses died due to other elements, not due to race day or illegal drugs. Every racetrack and racehorse owner needs to stand up against this rhetoric. We don’t stand for drugs or cheats. We need a level playing field and safe surfaces nationwide. I hope to see our industry organizations and their PR departments working to fact-check tonight’s segment and set the public straight. This hit piece was a one-sided view, lacking balanced information, and resorted to sensationalism rather than providing fair, objective reporting. ~ Tom Ryan
I disagree, horses died because of racing surfaces, drugs, heart attacks. The average person doesn’t care who they paint with the same brush. The public thinks there’s a PED problem and there is. Lots of blind eyes ~ Shawn Murphy
from Cecelia Vega, 60 Minutes: Horse racing, known as the sport of kings, found its crown badly tarnished last spring when a dozen horses died during the weeks surrounding the Kentucky Derby. And just days ago in California, two horses died before the Breeders’ Cup.
Horse racing has reached its moment of reckoning, and we wanted to know: can the sport really be reformed — or is it too late?
Cecilia Vega: How big of a problem is doping in horse racing?
Stuart Janney (chairman of Jockey Club) : It’s a big problem it strikes at the integrity of this — of the sport. It’s not good for the horses. Uh, there’s just nothing about it that is acceptable.
Using a trove of wiretaps, the Justice Department charged 33 veterinarians, trainers and drug distributors — including some of the biggest names in the business, like Jason Servis who trained Maximum Security, the first-place finisher at the 2019 Kentucky Derby before the horse was disqualified for interference by drifting outside his lane. Prosecutors also charged top earning trainer Jorge Navarro, heard on this expletive-filled wiretap bragging to another trainer about how the drugs made his horse run faster.
Jorge Navarro (on a recording): I f****** gave it to this horse – this motherf***** galloped – galloped!
Trainer (on a recording): OK.
Jorge Navarro (on a recording): Yes.
Trainer (on a recording): Amino acid.
You can watch the 13-minute segment here (warning – horse breakdowns on show):