23rd horse dies at Santa Anita after racing accident

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ARCADIA, Calif. — A two-horse spill in the $100,000 San Simeon Stakes at Santa Anita on Sunday led to the 23rd equine fatality at the Southern California track in just over three months.

Arms Runner injured his right front leg and fell in the Grade 3 race on turf, two days after Santa Anita reopened to racing after being closed for nearly a month.

That caused a trailing horse, La Sardane, to fall. The 5-year-old mare got back on her feet and didn’t appear to sustain any injuries. Jockey Ruben Fuentes didn’t ride the rest of the day.

Fuentes was a late replacement for scheduled rider Joel Rosario.

Arms Runner was tended to by track veterinarians and vanned off. Track stewards said the horse trained by Peter Miller was euthanized. Arms Runner had three wins in 13 career starts and earnings of $125,292, according to Equibase.

Jockey Martin Pedroza, aboard Arms Runner, rode later in the day.

The accident occurred as the horses crossed the dirt surface during the transition from the hillside turf course to the main turf course.

The majority of the fatalities at the Arcadia track since Dec. 26 have occurred on the main dirt surface.

The rest of the nine-race card was completed after the accident.

The track closed March 3 so officials could inspect and renovate the dirt surface after the series of fatalities that have drawn national attention outside the sport and criticism from animal rights groups.

Track officials have not announced a singular cause for the unusual number of deaths.

The Stronach Group, which owns Santa Anita, announced an immediate reduction in the amount of anti-bleeding medication Lasix allowed on race days. The California Horse Racing Board approved the measure and it took effect Friday.

A proposed rule that would eliminate the use of whips, except in cases where a horse’s or jockey’s safety is involved, still requires the approval of various state agencies.

Jason Servis, trainer of Maximum Security, pleads guilty to drugging his horses

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NEW YORK – Trainer Jason Servis, whose horse Maximum Security was the 3-year-old champion in 2019, pleaded guilty Friday to federal charges involving a widespread scheme to drug horses.

The 65-year-old New Jersey-based trainer faces four years in prison when he is sentenced next May in U.S. District Court in Manhattan. He was the last defendant facing charges in the scheme, and now 23 of the 31 individuals charged have pleaded guilty.

Servis pleaded guilty in connection with his role in the distribution of adulterated and misbranded drugs intended for use on horses in his stable.

“Servis’ conduct represents corruption at the highest levels of the racehorse industry,” Damian Williams, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, said in a statement. “As a licensed racehorse trainer, Servis was bound to protect the horses under his care and to comply with racing rules designed to ensure the safety and well-being of horses and protect the integrity of the sport.”

Servis’ attorney, Rita Glavin, did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment.

Servis was charged in 2020 after a wide-ranging investigation into doping in the horse racing industry. Racing authorities suspended his trainer’s license.

Maximum Security finished first in the 2019 Kentucky Derby but was disqualified for interference during the running of the race. The colt finished first in the $10 million Saudi Cup shortly before Servis’ arrest in March 2020. Saudi officials later withheld the winner’s share of the purse, citing Servis’ arrest and indictment.

“I don’t take any solace in other peoples misery, actually quite the opposite I feel some empathy for them,” Kentucky Derby-winning trainer Graham Motion tweeted, “but the reality is that those of us who were beaten by Jason Service’s (sic) horses have little to show for it other than losing money, owners and horses due to his success.”

Another New Jersey-based trainer, Jorge Navarro, is serving a five-year prison sentence after pleading guilty a year ago. Eleven of the defendants were trainers and seven were veterinarians.

Servis is the brother of trainer John Servis, who trained Smarty Jones to victories in the 2004 Kentucky Derby and Preakness before the colt lost his Triple Crown bid in the Belmont.

Irad Ortiz sets single-season record with 77th stakes win

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NEW YORK – Jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. earned his record 77th single-season North American stakes victory when he guided Dr B to victory in the $200,000 Go for Wand at Aqueduct.

The 30-year-old native of Puerto Rico broke the old mark of 76 set by the late Hall of Fame rider Garrett Gomez in 2007.

“This is great. Amazing feeling,” said Ortiz, Jr., who won the Eclipse Award as outstanding jockey from 2018-20. “Gomez did it in 2007 and he was a great rider, one of the best in the game. I’m so happy just to be a part of this. I love this sport.”

Ortiz Jr. won the Belmont Stakes with Mo Donegal in June to go with Breeders’ Cup victories in the Juvenile, Filly & Mare Sprint and Sprint. He also earned nine other Grade 1 wins in New York, including Life Is Good in the Woodward and Whitney and Nest in the Alabama and Coaching Club Oaks. He won riding titles at Belmont’s spring-summer meet and Saratoga’s summer meet.

Ortiz Jr. leads North American riders with 304 overall victories this year. His purse earnings totaled over $35.8 million going into Saturday’s races, which already surpassed his single-season record of $34.1 million in 2019.