Secretariat wins Triple Crown Showdown

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On what would have been the 146th running of the Kentucky Derby, which has been postponed to September 5 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, 1973 Triple Crown winner Secretariat won a unique race on the first Saturday in May in NBC’s Triple Crown Showdown.

For the first time since World War II, the Kentucky Derby didn’t run on the first Saturday in May, so NBC and Churchill Downs partnered to create a virtual race between all 13 Triple Crown winners (horses who have won the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes), with fans giving back to COVID-19 relief. The race was simulated using present and historical handicapping and statistics.

The morning line odds had Secretariat as the favorite at 7/2, with 1948 winner Citation (4-1), 1978 winner Affirmed (5-1) and 1977 winner Seattle Slew (5-1) close behind. Secretariat broke well, but it was Seattle Slew who set the early pace. Bob Baffert‘s pair of recent Triple Crown winners, American Pharoah (2015) and Justify (2018), stared toward the back of the pack, with Justify bringing up the rear after a poor start.

Secretariat settled in the middle of the pack before gaining on Seattle Slew down the homestretch. He won in a close finish with Citation, with Seattle Slew finishing third, Affirmed taking fourth and American Pharoah going fifth.

Secretariat was unquestionably one of the greatest American racehorses ever. Penny Chenery’s big, red horse not only dominated each leg of the Triple Crown, but set records for all three races. Decades later, his Derby run still holds Churchill Downs’ 1 1/4 mile track record and his Belmont performance is still the fastest 1 1/2 mile dirt race in U.S. history. He was trained by Lucien Laurin and jockeyed by Ron Turcotte.

He set more records than he lost races and earned over $1.3 million in 21 starts. He was retired to stud after his 3-year-old season and became a successful broodmare sire. Famous enough to garner his own movie, festival, postage stamp and collection of over 200 U.S. streets named after him, Secretariat was listed at No. 35 in ESPN’s list of the 100 greatest North American athletes of the 20th century. He was euthanized in October of 1989 due to a severe case of laminitis, a hoof disease that can become debilitating. He was buried whole at Claiborne Farm, which is a rare occurrence for a horse.

Citation was the second Triple Crown winner for jockey Eddie Arcaro and breeder/owner Calumet Farm. After finishing his first year on the track as Champion Two-Year-Old, Citation easily won the Kentucky Derby by 3 1/2 lengths and the Preakness by 5 1/2 lengths. His Belmont Stakes win tied Count Fleet’s track record. He amassed a 16-race winning streak and became the first horse to win over $1 million in race earnings. He was retired to stud at Calumet after the 1951 Hollywood Gold Cup.

Seattle Slew was the first undefeated horse to win the Triple Crown. Despite getting stuck in the back of the pack at the beginning of the Kentucky Derby, he pulled out a 1 3/4-length win. He faced a number of intimidating competitors in the Preakness but won with one of the fastest times in the race’s history. Seattle Slew kept the Belmont tight until surging down the homestretch for a four-length win. He went on to grab five more wins in eight starts, closing out his career with a victory in the 1978 Stuyvesant Handicap. He sired over 500 winners and over 100 stakes winners, including Belmont and Breeders’ Cup Classic winner A.P. Indy.

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.