By Bill Finley
Two days after the Jockey Club of Saudi Arabia (JCSA) announced that it was withholding payment of the winner’s share of the purse for the $20-million Saudi Cup won by Maximum Security (New Year’s Day), the colt’s owners issued a statement which called the Saudi’s actions something that was unprecedented in the annals of racing.
The statement was signed by Gary West and Coolmore.
Just nine days after Maximum Security won the Saudi Cup, his trainer Jason Servis was indicted on federal charges involving horse doping. The Servis indictment led the JCSA to launch an investigation into the race and withhold paying out the purse. On Monday, it was announced that the owners of the horses who finished second through 10th would be paid, but the winner’s share would be held up while the Saudis’ investigation continues.
It is not clear what the Saudi investigators are hoping to find, but they have not made public any evidence that Maximum Security was doped in the Saudi Cup. The owners seized on that point, arguing that without a positive drug test there is no basis to deny them their winnings, in this case $10 million.
“It is standard operating procedure in the Americas, Europe, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Hong Kong, and Dubai to test horses for the presence of prohibited or illegal substances and to disqualify horses if the presence of such substances is found in post-race laboratory results,” the statement read. “This internationally accepted level of transparency is both fair and vital to the integrity of the sport. However, it’s just as important and fair to declare a race official in a timely manner and to release purses if horses test negative. Those are the rules by which all major racing centers operate, but this is apparently not how racing is conducted by the Saudi Arabia Jockey Club (SAJC), which developed the Saudi Cup as an entrée into the big leagues of international racing. Nothing like this has ever happened in the history of horse racing.”
According to the statement, Maximum Security was tested in the U.S. before he left for the race, when he arrived in Saudi Arabia and once again after the race, and that samples were sent to a lab in France and another in Hong Kong.
West and Coolmore said they have asked the JCSA to release the findings from the drug tests but have not received any information.
“We have repeatedly asked through our counsel to have the Saudi Cup officials publicly announce whether Maximum Security’s test results revealed performance enhancing or illegal medications of any kind and they have refused to provide that information,” the statement said. “We have also requested a split sample so that we may have tests performed, but that request has also been denied, which is something that would never happen in the U.S.”
Their contention is that if Maximum Security had tested positive that information would have been made public.
“We can only assume if Maximum Security tested positive for any illegal or prohibited substance, the news would be out, the horse would have already been disqualified, and any ‘investigation’ would be irrelevant,” they wrote.
The owners said that on Apr. 29 they received a letter from a “Private Investigator” hired by the JCSA to investigate Maximum Security’s entitlement to the purse.
“If this race is decided by a ‘Private Investigator’, it will be the first time in the history of horse racing that a ‘Private Investigator’ will decide the outcome of a horse race,” the statement read. “Winning horses are always decided on the racetrack and backed up by post-race testing. If a horse wins the race to the satisfaction of the stewards and passes post-race testing, it is universally accepted that the horse is the winner of the race, with the possible exception of the SAJC.”
They also said that on two occasions the Saudis asked for their banking numbers, which the owners thought meant a payment was forthcoming.
“Shrouding this investigation in a cloak of secrecy is not how to gain the respect of and faith in the international racing community,” the statement continued. It also said that the reputations of the Saudi Cup and Maximum Security had been badly tarnished by “these unheard of delays and bizarre circumstances.”