By Bill Finley
The matter of whether or not Maximum Security (New Year's Day) should be disqualified from his victory in the $20-million Saudi Cup has been made out to be much more complicated than it is. Did any illegal substances show up in any of the battery of tests conducted on Maximum Security before and after the Saudi Cup? If the answer is no, there is no justification for not paying owners Gary and Mary West and partners the $10 million due to the winner. If the answer is yes, then disqualify him and move on.
While the Jockey Club of Saudi Arabia (JCSA) has not said one way or another what the results of those tests were, it's reasonable to assume they were negative. The race was held Feb. 29, almost 5 ½ months ago. Even if they wanted to go back and do additional tests after it was announced that Jason Servis had been indicted for allegedly using performance-enhancing drugs on his horses, that's more than enough time for the results of the drug tests to have come back from the lab. And if Maximum Security tested positive, why would they be keeping that under wraps?
Yet, we still don't have a decision. The JCSA kicked the can down the road once again Monday, announcing that it would be paying the owners who finished second through tenth in the race but would be withholding the winner's share while it continues its own investigation. In the same statement, the Saudi officials said their investigation was hampered by the fact they are not a party to the ongoing legal proceedings surrounding Maximum Security's trainer Jason Servis. If they are intent on withholding the winner's share of the purse until after the case against Servis has made its way through the courts, we could be talking a couple of years before a decision is reached.
What will the case against Servis reveal about the Saudi Cup and whether or not Maximum Security was drugged? Absolutely nothing. So why make that a factor when it comes to paying the owners? It isn't.
The concern is that the Saudis are making this more about Servis than what their drug tests revealed. That's not right. It may be true that Servis was a bad apple and that he drugged hundreds, maybe even thousands, of horses over the years. Maximum Security very well may have run on performance-enhancing drugs in the Saudi Cup, but “may have” is not good enough. The charges have to be proven and the best way to do so is through drug testing. So far, the Saudis have not revealed even a shred of evidence that Maximum Security ran on illegal drugs in their race, and it's possible they will never be able to do so. It appears that all they have is conjecture.
Instead, it seems as if the Saudis have bought into the mob mentality and are ready to make this all about Servis, that if he is found guilty of doping horses in the U.S., that will be cause to disqualify Maximum Security. In the announcement, the Saudis listed the indictment against Servis as a reason for withholding the winner's share of the purse and that the decision to do so was “taken in the interests of safeguarding the integrity of racing in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia…”
To some, that may seem like poetic justice, exactly what Servis deserves. No one may be shedding any tears for Jason Servis, but he still has rights and deserves to be treated fairly and so do his former owners. Whether it's the Saudi Cup or a $20,000 claimer he won at Monmouth or Gulfstream, you cannot retroactively disqualify any of his horses because Servis may have had a history of drugging horses. There has to be proof that a particular horse was drugged on a particular day and, at least in this race, no one has indicated that is the case.
If this race were run in the U.S., certain procedures would have been followed. A post-race inquiry would have gone nowhere and the owners would have been paid. The Saudis play by their own rules and may still disqualify Maximum Security for no other reason than they can.
(An interesting sidelight to this discussion: With the Saudis paying the purse money to all horses but Maximum Security, might that mean they plan to keep the $10 million the winner is supposed to have earned if they disqualify Maximum Security rather than distributing it to the other finishers?)
Enough time has passed that the JCSA investigation should have been concluded. If they have any evidence that Maximum Security was drugged then make that evidence public and disqualify the horse. If all they have is the case being made against Servis in the U.S., there is no ground for failing to pay Maximum Security's owners.