Jorge Navarro, who won Monmouth Park’s training title seven times before being banned from the sport of horse racing, pled guilty Wednesday to a federal felony charge of conspiracy to commit drug adulteration and misbranding with the intent to defraud and mislead. In entering the plea, Navarro admitted to conspiring to administer performance-enhancing drugs to several of his racehorses — some of whom died after being subjected to the doping regimen.
According to Thoroughbred Daily News, Navarro will face a maximum prison sentence of five years, while the government has agreed to drop a second felony charge against the trainer, who was among 27 individuals named in a March 2020 indictment that shook the sport of horse racing. Another high-profile trainer, Jason Servis, has thus far opted to fight similar charges, arguing that the FBI made several wiretapping mistakes and misinterpreted conversations Servis was involved in on tape.
Now that Navarro has pled out, it probably won’t help Servis’ case that he and his fellow trainer were alleged co-conspirators. To wit, in February 2019, Servis texted Navarro to alert him to the presence of a racing official in a barn area where the two trainers stored joint blockers, blood builders, and other prohibited substances. In a phone conversation with another defendant, Navarro was recorded saying that had Servis not tipped him off, he would have been caught “pumping and pumping” his racehorses — including one of his best horses, X Y Jet — with performance enhancers that day.
‘The Juice Man’
While the mild-mannered Servis’ inclusion in the 2020 indictment shocked many in the horse racing community, the charges against Navarro, who’d been penalized for numerous doping infractions, were nowhere near as surprising. As The New York Times noted at the time, the brash trainer seemed to relish a nickname — “The Juice Man” — that one of the owners he trained for bestowed on him during a 2017 victory celebration that was caught on video.
“That’s the juice!” the owner shouted, to which Navarro replied, “That’s the way we do it. We f— everyone.”
Everyone including himself, as many believe that video is what prompted the feds to begin investigating his behavior, which included Navarro boasting that one of his horses, Nanoosh, got “everything” in the way of drugs after a California stable operator asked him if Navarro was giving the horse “all the s–t.”
Among the most damning of the allegations against Navarro was that he euthanized some of his drugged-up horses in secret to avoid scrutiny. In one wiretapped conversation, his assistant trainer, Michael Tannuzzo, said, “You know how many f—ing horses [Navarro] f—ing killed and broke down that I made disappear? … You know how much trouble he could get in … if they found out … the six horses we killed?”
X Y Jet may have been among the horses that perished prematurely as a result of Navarro’s doping regimen. As The Washington Post noted, shortly after Navarro told Servis how close he’d been to getting caught injecting his star gelding with illegal substances, he won the $2.5 million Dubai Golden Shaheen race in the United Arab Emirates. He raced once more, finishing sixth in the Mr. Prospector Stakes at Gulfstream Park on Dec. 21, 2019 — and then succumbed to a heart attack at the age of 8 on Jan. 8, 2021.
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