By T. D. Thornton
Newly disclosed transcripts of intercepted phone conversations involving alleged doping co-conspirators Jason Servis and Jorge Navarro reveal both an initial brazenness against getting caught and an utter ignorance about some of the substances the two now-barred trainers were purportedly injecting into their racehorses.
According to a previously unreleased collection wiretapped calls made public last week by federal prosecutors, Servis and Navarro didn't always know the names of some the illegal pharmaceuticals they purportedly administered to their horses. Nor were they always clear on exactly what those substances were or what they did.
But the two trainers who amassed gaudily high win percentages during the 2010s decade prior to getting arrested on doping conspiracy charges in March 2020 seemed to agree on one certainty—that those illegal concoctions worked remarkably well to make Thoroughbreds run faster.
“He sent me something with amino acid right last year. And I [expletive] gave it to this horse,” Navarro allegedly said in a Jan. 25, 2019, wiretapped call, one of many secretly recorded by law enforcement officials. “This [expletive] galloped. Galloped!”
But the alleged doping scheme might have been working too well. Two months later, when Servis's bravado had started to give way to fear, Servis allegedly told Navarro in another wiretapped call that he was “scared to death” because “the horses are running like crazy.”
Navarro's response was to laugh and reply, “You're killing them, buddy!”
Another set of intercepted calls that spring—after Servis's trainee, Maximum Security, crossed the wire first in the 2019 GI Kentucky Derby but was DQ'd for interference—depicts Servis as continually wanting validation from Kristian Rhein, a now-suspended veterinarian formerly based at Belmont Park, that SGF-1000 was “untestable” by regulators.
Rhein, according to the wiretaps, not only provided Servis with that reassurance, but he also allegedly disclosed how he hid PED charges on bills to clients and knew of Olympic-level sport horses that were clearing international drug tests after using the very same pharmaceuticals.
On Aug. 11, 2021, Navarro cut a deal with federal prosecutors in which he admitted to doping and pled guilty to one count in the years-long conspiracy in exchange for having a similar second count against him dismissed. One week earlier, Rhein had pled guilty to one count of drug adulteration and misbranding for use in the covert doping of Thoroughbreds. At that court hearing he directly implicated Servis, who was his regular client.
Servis is still fighting his drug conspiracy charge. On Aug. 3, the same day that Rhein implicated him, Servis' and other co-defendants filed a motion to get the government's wiretapped calls thrown out as evidence.
When federal prosecutors on Sept. 2 filed paperwork in support of allowing the wiretaps, the 155-page document contained the widest release yet of intercepted call transcripts. TDN is publishing them here in chronological order, edited for clarity.
March 3, 2019: Navarro and Michael Tannuzzo, a now-barred trainer, allegedly discuss modeling a doping program on a horse based on one Navarro used on his star sprinter, X Y Jet.
Navarro: What I'm going to do is tap his ankles, put him in a series every week with SGF. I'm just trying [to get] my vet to give me a good price, man, because I want to [expletive] tap every week.
Tannuzzo: You're going to tap him every week?
Navarro: Yeah, with SGF that's what I did with X Y Jet. I'm going to call my vet up north, my surgeon, to see how he did it to X Y Jet and that's it. Don't worry man, you're in good hands. Don't worry.
Tannuzzo: You're talking about the HGF, not the SGF.
Navarro: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Whatever. The SGF whatever. The thing that you sent me the
Navarro: Yeah, yeah. And [this undisclosed horse] is getting one of those SGF 1000 whatever. He's getting one today.
March 5, 2019: Navarro and Servis allegedly discuss PEDs, and made their first mention (to each other) of a drug that they also referred to as “SGF.”
Navarro: And if you know something new, if you know about something new, don't forget about your man, okay? Don't forget about your man.
Servis: I'll tell you what, Jorge. I'm using that [expletive] shot. What is it, SGF?
Navarro: Oh yeah, yeah, yeah. I got, uh, I got more than 12 horses on that so I'll let you know, okay?
Servis: I've been using it on everything, almost.
Navarro: Jay, we'll sit down and talk about this [expletive]. I don't want to talk about this [expletive] on the phone, okay?
Servis: All right. You're right.
An undated interception from around the same time frame between Servis and Navarro involves Navarro's alleged provision of an irregular (as opposed to “regular”) version of clenbuterol for Servis.
Servis: You got my message yesterday, right?
Navarro: Yeah, yeah, I got it.
Servis: I mean…
Navarro: But also the head of security was looking for me, he's a good friend of mine, so I think he was going to tell me too [It is not disclosed which racetrack they are referring to].
Navarro: Just…just…just follow everything he does, cause he could be a [expletive].
Navarro: All right. The only thing, any medications, pills and stuff, you have to have it
Servis: That was the only thing we didn't have cause [unintelligible] didn't go in today. [Unintelligible] said [unintelligible] got to have everything locked up.
Navarro: Yeah. Yes, that's the only thing, and I have cases of GastroGard. I…he confiscated all that three years ago, but he gave it right back to me, cause I had an attorney and everything that I was going to sue him and, ah…Like generic GastroGard, so everything has to be labeled.
Servis: He gave [unintelligible] a bunch of [expletive] about generic acid. I got [an] expensive colt that went to Palm Beach Equine. They want omeprazole with, uh, something else in it.
Navarro: Yeah, yeah, yeah. He could be a [expletive] about that. He could be a [expletive].
Servis: I mean, Jorge, [unintelligible] time to bullshit around about regular clenbuterol. Them horses, the three win the other day, they are just on regular.
Navarro: Yeah, well I…
Servis: You know how long.
Navarro: Well it came in already. I have it at home, but [expletive] I'm afraid. I'm afraid to bring it over.
Servis: No, I'm scared to death right now.
Navarro: Ha, ha, ha!
Servis: The horses are running like crazy.
Navarro: Buddy, you're killing them, buddy. You're killing them.
Servis: But I ain't doing it. I'm [expletive only using] just regular [clenbuterol]…But when the dust settles I'd like to get some [irregular clenbuterol].
On June 5, 2019, Servis allegedly calls Rhein to discuss concerns with drug testing, namely the possibility that the New Jersey Racing Commission would discover Servis's use of SGF-1000.
Servis: You got a minute?
Rhein: Sure, sure, sure.
Servis: Are you by yourself?
Rhein: Yeah, yeah, yeah I just walked out of the barn.
Servis: Hey. So they've been doing some out-of-competition testing, which I have no problem with. Um, they took Maximum Security Monday and they came back again today. But Monday he got the KS. I just want to make sure we are all good with that.
Rhein: Wait, what did he get?
Servis: I'm sorry, I said “KS.” The, you know, your shot. The…
Rhein: Oh, the SG.
Servis: Yeah, that stuff.
Rhein: Yeah—no, no, no. The Jockey Club tested it, and I met the guy who tested it way back when. It comes back as collagen. They don't even have a test for it.
Servis: It will probably come up with [dexamethasone] probably, right?
Rhein: Yeah, that's it. It will be dex. It will be dex. It will be like—that's it. And I've had them, I had them pull some stuff, and I was like, “Oh, [expletive], I wonder what
will happen?” Nothing. Nothing. I mean and the guy said SGF doesn't even test close, thank god. But the only thing will be the AZM and you can just say he
was like hives or something, but…
Servis: Right. But they're not even going to ask me about it.
Rhein: They won't, even.
Servis: Because you're allowed to have that anyways. Dex, I mean.
Rhein: He's allowed. He's allowed. So [unintelligible] I don't know. I've done it. I've had it tested. Jockey Club did it, and I've had at least three different times it's been tested on horses that I gave it the day before and nothing. Not a word.
Rhein: There's no test for it in America. There's no testing. There's nothing.
Servis: Okay, that's fine.
Rhein: There's nothing you did that would test.
Servis: So Monday they took Max and they got three other horses. Actually, they got two. They were looking for [Sunny Ridge] and I told them he's at Belmont. I think they got him today, Henry [Argueta] said. But they took a 2-year old filly that ran the other day and finished fourth. Um, and I'm thinking, “Why the [expletive] would they want to take her?” But maybe they are just doing random or maybe looking for clenbuterol. I don't know.
Rhein: Yeah, that's what I am wondering. I'm wondering if it's clenbuterol they are
Servis: Right, because [at] Parx you are not allowed to have it on the grounds.
Rhein: That's really an odd thing and that horse, I guarantee, has never had any [expletive like] that. I mean, I know because I met the guy inadvertently when The Jockey Club took a box of the SGF. They took it and I met the guy, and I met the guy down at the conference, and he goes, “The Jockey Club.” And he saw the hat that I had on was the same [equine pharmaceutical] company, and he goes, “Oh, man I just tested a box of that stuff.” And I go, “What stuff?” And he goes “MediVet. You've got a hat on—SGF. Yeah, Jockey Club sent it to me out in California. Yeah, it came back as just a bunch of collagen. Nothing interesting [unintelligible]. These guys think it's got something that can be like a PED.” He goes, “There's nothing in it.” And he was the actual head of the testing lab.
Servis: Yeah, I think you told me.
Rhein: Yeah, so you are golden. And like I said, we have had it done two or three times here. Nothing.
Rhein: [The expletive] I just had that I gave to some horses, and they just took it.
Servis: Well, that's what I'm saying. That horse got it Monday.
Servis: And then they come in and test it [unintelligible].
Rhein: No, but they won't. It's—you know, I promise. It's never been anywhere, anyway, anyhow, and I got guys going through [international equine drug testing] that is 50 million times stricter, because these guys are giving it for their horses in the Grand Prix. They give it to them. The Grand Prix jumping. So I have like three horses that are gold medal—well, medal winning—horses in the Olympics, and they are all on it. And they go right through the [testing] box and it's far stricter than anything we got.
Servis: All right, Kristian. Just want to make sure.
Later on June 5, 2019, following his conversation with Rhein, Servis allegedly places a call to another individual (whose identity is not disclosed) regarding falsely listing “dex” on veterinary records to obscure the use of SGF-1000.
Servis: Yeah, so I just want to give you a heads up. So they pulled blood on some horses Monday. One of them is Maximum Security, and then they pulled it again today. Um, and I talked to Kristian [Rhein]. I mean the shots shouldn't be a problem because, you know, it may come up as dex. I don't know if you cover your ass if they want to look at a [veterinary] bill and see if the horse why he got dex or some…I just wanted to give you a heads up with the dex because that horse, you gave it to him Monday, I think, right?
Individual: Yeah, he got the dex Monday.
Servis: Yeah, I don't know if [regulators might question] why did he get dex [if] it's not on the bill, or something.
Individual: Nah. [Unintelligible] put it down. [Unintelligible] put it down. Got it.
The following day, June 6, 2019, Servis and Rhein allegedly continue their conversation about SGF-1000 and the untestable nature of it.
Rhein: On what we were talking about the other day—there is no problem with it. But, like, somebody squealed around here about it.
Rhein: So that is the only thing that we should be cautious of. I got a…I got a couple of…
Servis: That's the SGF?
Rhein: So somebody squealed. Not that it is testing, or that…there's no…it's untestable. It's that they were crying about it. I don't know why. They didn't tell me who. But somebody is crying about it.
Rhein: So it's just, just that we know. I just wanted to let you know that I, you know…the guy said this is a big, higher-up official. I was like, “What are they? Is it some weird test? Or is something coming back?” And he was like, “No, not at all.”
Servis: Okay. I just, like I said, they pulled blood the same day that he got it, that is what threw me off.
Rhein: Yeah, well, this was the…I'm not worried in the sense of anything going wrong with it because, like I said, the guy already tested it, so it's not that. It's more people crying.
Servis: Right, right.
Rhein: It's more people crying about it and I am sure, as you well hear. Believe me, more people come up to me and bitch and cry about you. They are like, “Oh, he is cheating, he is cheating, he is cheating.” I was like, “Yep, sure.” I said, “They test all of his horses over and over and over again.”
Servis: I know. I hear it all the time.
Rhein: I know you do. So, but…between you and me, because [of] the testing, they called me from the test center here and I was like, “What's up?” They go, “Do you know anything?” So what they called it, they called it “growth hormone.” They were like “You're using some sheep growth hormone.” I go, “No, it has no growth hormone whatsoever in it.” And I said, “It tested as collagen, which is a protein. A fine…there is nothing wrong with it.” I told him the name of the gentleman that [had tested] it in California. I said “His name is [redacted].” He goes, “Oh, I know him.” I said, “The Jockey Club had it tested. They were all freaked out, they thought it was this, they thought it was that.” I said, “So, it has been tested up and down.” And he said, “Listen, somebody dropped a dime on me.” And I was like, “What?” They are like, “Yeah.” So all we need to do…I'm not going to say anything to anything else. I'm just going to tell [co-defendant veterinarian] Alex [Chan] and people like that. Like it is not on any of our bills. It never is.
Servis: What about is [the drug] on your truck?
Rhein: No, nah. I don't take it on my truck. I just, when they call for, it I just have it. Come and get it.
Servis: Well, if you want us to back off, I mean, I have no problem with that.
Rhein: No, no, no, no, I mean, I'm going to find out some more. I just wanted you to know. I mean, I'm not worried. I am not worried because it has been tested, you know? And the person that just called me is the guy who tests. So I'm not worried about that. We do it further out. I mean all those things. So I am not trying to be clever or tricky or anything. This guy said “Listen, I am letting you know.” And I said…
Servis: Right, somebody dropped a dime on you.
Rhein: Put it this way: They have no test, period, but we don't get close. We never do. I mean I don't get close with it.
Servis: Yeah, we are 10, 12 days.
Rhein: Exactly. The rules of New York say anything outside of seven days is anything that is not listed. And this is truly listed as a biologic. So if they really want to fight, guess what? A biologic in New York is forty-eight hours [withdrawal time].
Rhein: Because that's all it is.
Servis: The only thing I was concerned with is, is it FDA approved?
Rhein: Well, no, no. Not that I know of.
Servis: That's the only thing I was thinking, I don't…does it have to be?
Rhein: Well, no, because, no. I mean, there is so many things. That is the beauty of being a veterinarian. As a veterinarian you are allowed to use any drug that you think would be…and this is not even considered a drug. It has no drug in it, it is literally just a purified protein from a sheep's placenta.
Rhein: So, I was like, look this isn't a drug, this isn't manufactured. So the Federal Drug Administration, they wouldn't approve it anyway, just because it is not a drug. Yeah, so, I just want to beware. I am not like, “Oh my God!” panicked.
Servis: Yeah, because I use it down here.
Rhein: [Expletive]. I love the stuff. I mean, you should see like, tendons.
Rhein: He [an undisclosed individual about whom Servis had previously complained, presumably a trainer] is such a little bitch. He just is a little sawed-off bitch. I worked for him. I mean, I worked for him. He had me shock-waving horses. He would leave me these notes. They were hidden in his drawer. And then we used to use Deca-Durabolin. I used to use Winstrol, and he was like, “Don't you dare put that on the bill.”
Rhein: I'm like, you know, so this guy, he talks out of both sides of his mouth.
Servis: Yeah, he does. And one day somebody is going to write a [expletive] book. It is going to be a groom or a vet somebody and he is going to hang them all out.
Rhein: Yeah, believe me we could. I was there. I mean, I know these hypocrites. I mean I did all these guys' work. I know who was using and who was not, who needed to, who didn't. I mean. I don't say it lightly, but [expletive], I was doing [vet work for several other individuals]. I had all those barns. I was doing all their lameness. And these guys were the first ones that wanted you to [enhance performance]. “Hey what can we do?”
Rhein: And then they were like, so…We will be fine. Like I said, it is never on a bill.
It is never on a bill. That is the problem.
Servis: I have been billing it Baycox in Florida and here.
Rhein: Oh, good. Good. No, I think we do…ours are totally innocuous so…and I bill a
lot of mine as like acupuncture. I'm an acupuncturist. I'm a trained…licensed acupuncturist. So, that is for me why I do it. They can't say I am not. I have my advanced degree for equine acupuncture.
On July 10, 2019, Servis and Argueta allegedly discuss concerns about getting caught administering PEDs.
Servis: Be careful man, Henry, with that. Really careful, because…
Servis: Because we are getting really good.
Argueta: Yeah, no.
Servis: All we need is a problem like that. Oh, with the Derby and [expletive]. Oh my god.
Argueta: Yeah. Then they glad they are looking for us in the tree.
Servis: Yeah, they will.
Argueta: They are going to be in the tree looking for you with their binoculars.
Argueta: The mounts right after the road.
Argueta: They'll be over there. They be there looking for you.
Servis: No they'll be in a van or a car with black windows you won't be able to see in.
Argueta: Ha, ha!
Servis: You know what I am saying. But they can see out.
Argueta: Yeah, but what are they going to see? Nobody going to see nothing. What are they going to see? Nothing.
Argueta: We don't do nothing—ha, ha! They can look wherever they want to look.