Former horse racing trainer given 5-year sentence in doping case

By Brad Stephens, Managing Editor

Former horse racing trainer Jorge Navarro was sentenced Dec. 17 to five years in federal prison for his role in a federal doping conspiracy case.

Navarro was sentenced at a hearing before Judge Mary Kay Vyskocil of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. In addition to the sentence of five years – the maximum under guidelines – he was also ordered to pay $26 million in restitution.

The trainer pleaded guilty Aug. 11 to charges involving the administration of performance-enhancing drugs to horses in his care. He and about two dozen other defendants were charged in March 2020 as part of a federal crackdown of a wide-ranging horse doping scheme.

The U.S. Department of Justice on Dec. 10 filed a sentencing report that states, “Navarro’s case reflects failings, greed, and corruption at virtually every level of the world of professional horse racing.”

“Navarro’s aggressive pursuit of PEDs – and his eagerness to use racehorses under his care to test the potency of novel PEDs – displayed a particularly callous disregard for the well-being of the horses under his care and control,” the sentencing report reads.

The report highlights Navarro’s doping of X Y Jet, who died in January 2020 at age 8 following an apparent heart attack. Prior to his death, the gelding – who first raced for Navarro in December 2014 – earned more than $3 million for his connections but also endured three knee surgeries.

Intercepted Navarro communications from 2019 revealed X Y Jet “was struggling, but was then-medicated so that he could race competitively,” according to the report.

The sentencing report includes a photo of a pair of customized shoes Navarro owned that were emblazoned with the phrase “#JUICE MAN” – an opaque reference to “juicing” horses with performance-enhancing drugs. The report also includes still images from a GIF that Navarro sent to an associate showing a syringe loaded with dollar bills.

“Navarro’s nonchalance is further reason for this Court to impose a (five-year) sentence in order to convey the seriousness of Navarro’s criminality,” the report states.

Prior to his arrest, Navarro’s runners earned nearly $35 million from 2008-20. During this period, horses El Deal, Private Zone, and Sharp Azteca all won Grade 1 races for the trainer on the prestigious New York Racing Association circuit.

Navarro’s sentencing comes during a time when the horse racing industry faces intense scrutiny.

2021 Kentucky Derby winner Medina Spirit died Dec. 6 of an apparent heart attack after a workout at Santa Anita Park in Arcadia, California. U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) called for a “thorough and transparent examination” of the 3-year-old’s death.

Controversy already surrounded Medina Spirit after he tested positive following the Derby for a medication banned on race days in Kentucky.

Medina Spirit trainer Bob Baffert is suspended for two years from running horses at Churchill Downs, the Louisville, Kentucky track that hosts the Derby. The Hall of Famer’s attorneys have been fighting Kentucky racing commissioners in court over the late colt’s potential disqualification from his Derby score.

Feinstein co-sponsored an act in 2020 that created the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority. The federal agency is tasked with establishing a national, uniform program to address veterinary procedures, racetrack maintenance, medication rules, and other industry issues.

Works Cited:

Matt Stahl, Jorge Navarro sentenced to 5 years prison time in doping case, Horse Racing Nation (Dec. 17, 2021, 10:55 a.m.),

Bob Kieckhefer, Navarro Pleads Guilty in Horse Doping Scheme, BloodHorse, (Aug. 11, 2021),

Matt Stahl, ‘Juice Man’: Navarro’s doping operation detailed in court filing, Horse Racing Nation, (Dec. 10, 2021, 8:34 p.m.),

Trainer Profile: Jorge Navarro, Equibase,

HRN Staff, Report: U.S. senator urges examination of Medina Spirit death, Horse Racing Nation, (Dec. 9, 2021, 9:06 a.m.),

HRN Staff, Baffert attorney: Test shows ointment led to failed Derby test, Horse Racing Nation (Dec. 3, 2021, 5:20 p.m.),

HISA press release, Federal authority submits racetrack safety regulations, Horse Racing Nation (Dec. 6, 2021, 5:55 p.m.),

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