Saudi Cup: place money to be paid as Maximum Security investigation goes on

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

Saudi Arabia: The £10 million first prize Maximum Security earned for winning the Saudi Cup is still being kept back but the rest of the prize-money can finally be paid out as the Saudi authorities revealed there had been an objection to the winner.

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In April the Jockey Club of Saudi Arabia announced it had put a stop to all prize-money payments while it conducted its own investigation into the allegations against trainer Jason Servis, the then trainer of Maximum Security.

Soon after the inaugural running of the £20m Saudi Cup in February, Servis was charged – alongside a number of other individuals, including fellow trainer Jorge Navarro – with participating in the manufacturing, distributing and administering illegal substances to horses. He has pleaded not guilty to charges that have rocked the US racing community to the core.

The Saudi Jockey Club has still not concluded this investigation but has released the money earned by those who finished behind Maximum Security, including Midnight Bisou, who won $3.25m for second. Benbatl ($2m for third) and Mucho Gusto ($1.5m for fourth).

A statement said: “The Jockey Club of Saudi Arabia (JCSA) today (Monday 10 August 2020) announced its decision to award prize-money to the connections of horses placed second to tenth in the 2020 Saudi Cup, a race held at King Abdulaziz Racecourse, Riyadh on Saturday February 29.

“Prize-money will be withheld from the horse, Maximum Security (USA) trained in the USA by Jason Servis, until the JCSA is able to satisfactorily complete its investigation and any inquiry.

“This decision has been taken in the interests of safeguarding the integrity of racing in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and is based on the following considerations:

“Following the running of the 2020 Saudi Cup Jason Servis and others were indicted on charges in the USA. The sealed indictment, which covers a period of time between 2018 up to February 2020, alleges that Jason Servis administered performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs) to horses in his care, including Maximum Security.

“The administration of PEDs is prohibited under the JCSA Rules and the Horseman’s Guide to the Saudi Cup, to secure the integrity of racing and the welfare of racehorses. Prior to the race the JCSA received no allegation and no indication that Maximum Security had ever been administered PEDs.

Horse Racing Jason Servis trainer
Happier times: Jason Servis with the Saudi Cup at the post-race press conference. Photo: Jockey Club of Saudi Arabia. Mahmoud Khaled

“However, as a result of the USA indictment the JCSA received an objection to the participation of Maximum Security in the race. As a result of that objection and the indictment, the JCSA commenced its own investigation into the allegations which was notified to all connections of runners in the race, and to the wider public.

“That investigation remains ongoing but has been hampered by the Covid-19 crisis and the fact that the JCSA is not a party to the ongoing legal proceedings in the USA. Therefore, unless and until the evidence that supports the sealed indictment in the US Proceedings is placed in the public domain, that evidence is unavailable to the JCSA’s investigation and to any JCSA inquiry.”

The statement added: “The JCSA is bound to reach a fair and reasonable decision on the objection and circumstances of Maximum Security’s running in the race and it cannot do so without the consideration of relevant evidence that has been gathered by the prosecution authorities in the US Proceedings in respect of the sealed indictment.

Horse Racing Maximum Security Saudi Cup
Maximum Security (Luiz Saez) holds off Midnight Bisou to claim to $20m Saudi Cup. Photo: Jockey Club of Saudi Arabia/Doug DeFelice

“Therefore, the JCSA cannot properly conclude its investigation and any inquiry by its Stewards’ Committee cannot be commenced without consideration of all relevant evidence including that gathered by the prosecution authorities in the US.

“The JCSA will make no further comment until the conclusion of the investigation.”

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. He has since been transferred to Bob Baffert.

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.

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