By Bill Finley
On Wednesday, disgraced trainer Jorge Navarro pled guilty to one count of distribution of adulterated and misbranded drugs with the intent to defraud and mislead, a major development in the doping scandal that has rocked the sport since indictments were announced in March of 2020. Navarro will likely spend time in prison and has been ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $25,860,514. His career is over and he may be deported to his native Panama. But was this good day or bad day for the sport? And what needs to be done from here to clean up the game? Those were among the questions we posed to some prominent trainers who are known not just for their abilities but for their integrity. Here's what they had to say:
Mark Casse: It's a start and I hope there are others out there who can't sleep at night. I bet that Jason Servis is seeing this and is starting to change some of his ideas so far as how to go forward. Servis has been trying to get the wiretaps thrown out. He's got bigger problems right now than just the wiretaps. Navarro is a very bad guy and he is getting what he deserves. He's a big bully and he thought he could get away with anything. He made his bed. I hope he like sleeping in it.
Bill Mott: I'm not happy about it and I'm not pleased that this happened in the first place. I am sorry to see that some of these guys got themselves involved in this kind of stuff. The bottom line is to be good. I don't think you have to do what these guys were doing. I don't know where this all ends. I hope that some time the sport will become proactive enough to stay in front of this problem. This is a great sport. The fact that they are on to some of this stuff is a good thing. But they can also go overboard on therapeutic medications. The testing of the therapeutic medications has become much better and they are picking things up in picograms. I'm not comfortable or confident that the penalties are in line with the testing, for the therapeutic medications. People are worrying more about that than they should be. They should be worried a lot more about the performance-enhancing drugs like EPO that probably do make a difference and are given illegally. That's the challenge. USADA is coming in and I hope they will be more focused on finding the illegal, performance-enhancing drugs.
Shug McGaughey: I'm glad this happened because it has cleared the air. Hopefully, this will be another step toward getting this problem straightened out. The biggest creep I've ever been around or seen in my whole life is Jason Servis. I hope they start getting after him. He is a horrible, horrible guy and had has been horrible for the game. I didn't really know Navarro. I saw that video they took at Monmouth and that was terrible. But the good news is that we won't have to ever worry about him ever again.
Graham Motion: Every trainer should be appalled by what this guy was doing. I don't understand how you couldn't be. Basically, he was cheating all of us. I don't see this as a good day. I feel about as down about the sport as I ever have been. We need to clean it up more. Servis and Navarro aren't the only two guys. Where are we going? What else is coming? Is this it? These guys were beating some of us all the time and I find it hard to believe they were the only ones doing this. It's incredibly disappointing that these tracks aren't more proactive and doing something about this situation. With Navarro, it was also his behavior. He was so in your face with this. It's so upsetting to know what happened to XY Jet. We can all have horses get hurt but to actually treat a horse with something that probably ended up causing his demise is pretty shocking to me. This whole thing is pretty sad.
Ken McPeek: I am disappointed that this industry has to deal with something like this. This should get the attention of those who want to stain the game, so that makes this a good thing. Navarro claimed some horses off of me over the years, but he never really did anything significant with any of them. I had heard other trainers complain about him and what he was doing. Maybe their experience was different than mine. I don't know what tricks he was up to. I think we're headed in the right direction. The threshold levels are so low that we are practically racing drug free. Good horsemen can handle that and good horsemen have shown they can play by the rules and prosper.
Christophe Clement: What I want to know is will my owners ever get paid back for every time they were beaten by Jorge Navarro over the last four of five years? What have the racetracks done to protect my owners? It's not about me, it's about my owners. People are supposed to regulate the sport and protect them from this sort of thing happening. I'm not sure how many times Navarro beat me, but I finished behind Servis a number of times and in some big races. Unfortunately, this is nothing new. It's the culture out there. The vet is in charge. We need more horsemanship and less medication. There is a great difference between how people train around the world versus how they train in the U.S. Here, the vet is so much more powerful.