Saudi Cup: $20m prize-money withheld amid Jason Servis doping scandal in US

Horse Racing Maximum Security
Luis Saez celebrates after winning the inaugural Saudi Cup on Maximum Security in Riyadh.
Photo: Jockey Club of Saudi Arabia/Neville Hopwood

By Jon Lees

Saudi Arabia: The Jockey Club of Saudi Arabia is withholding payment of all prize-money from the $20 million Saudi Cup in the wake of charges filed in the United States against Maximum Security’s trainer Jason Servis.

• Update: Saudi Cup Maximum Security inquiry held up by coronavirus

A statement was issued on Monday outlining the decision. It said: “The JCSA is aware that Mr Jason Servis, trainer of the horse Maximum Security, the first placed horse in the Saudi Cup, has been indicted in the United States of America on charges relating to the administration of prohibited substances to horses in training under his care and control.

“JCSA is conducting its own investigation in respect of the allegations and until that investigation is concluded JCSA will withhold payment of the prize-money due to all connections of horses placed in prize-winning positions in the Saudi Cup, Race 8.

“This decision has been communicated privately to connections of Saudi Cup runners.

“Due to difficult operational circumstances caused by COVID-19 global pandemic the investigation has not yet concluded. JCSA will issue no further statement until such time as the investigation is completed to our satisfaction.”

Since saddling Maximum Security to win the world’s richest-ever horse race in February, Servis has been charged – alongside a number of other individuals, including fellow trainer Jorge Navarro – with participating in the manufacturing, distributing and administering illegal substances to horses.

Servis has pleaded not guilty to charges that have rocked the US racing community to the core.

The four-year-old Maximum Security carried the colours of Michael Tabor for the first time in the inaugural Saudi Cup after the Coolmore team bought a reported 50 per cent share in the horse from original owners Gary and Mary West.

Jason Servis: Saudi Cup-winning trainer is embroiled in alleged doping scandal.
Photo: Jockey Club of Saudi Arabia. Mahmoud Khaled

The colt beat the mare Midnight Bisou by three-quarters of a length, with Godolphin’s Benbatl third, in the richly endowed contest at the King Abdulaziz racetrack in Riyadh on February 29.

Should Maximum Security be disqualified, Midnight Bisou would be promoted to first place with Benbatl second and Mucho Gusto third.

Midnight Bisou’s jockey Mike Smith received a swingeing nine-day suspension and forfeited 60 per cent of his cut of second prize-money cut for breaching Saudi whip rules.

Maximum Security’s career has been dogged by controversy. He became the first horse in history to be disqualified after a stewards’ inquiry when he passed the post first in the Kentucky Derby in 2019 – the race went instead to Country House.

• In a separate ruling the JCSA announced that the horse on which Mike Smith clinched the fourth leg of the men vs women jockeys challenge on the eve of the Saudi Cup had tested positive for cobalt.

As a result Sun Hat, trained locally by Beden Alsubaie, has been disqualified, and Mickaelle Michel’s mount Seif Alsharq promoted to first place. It means Sibylle Vogt was the overall winner of the challenge, which Smith had captured on the night.

Saudi Cup: Mike Smith loses appeal against costly Midnight Bisou whip ban

USA: Maximum Security to join Bob Baffert after Jason Servis doping allegations

Nicholas Godfrey: Why doping scandal must bring day of reckoning for US racing

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