Trainers Jason Servis (left) and Jorge Navarro.
As we prepare to close the book on 2021, it’s time for our traditional look back on the most popular stories of the year by traffic. We’ve done this for six years now (see previous editions of 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, and 2020).
This was the year of the litmus test for Thoroughbred racing: from the ongoing federal doping case against Jorge Navarro and Jason Servis to the actions of the sport’s top jockeys, as well as the ongoing drama surrounding Kentucky Derby first-place finisher Medina Spirit.
- Reports: Navarro Sobs In Court As Judge Sentences Him To Five Years In Prison For PEDs Case: This aggregation of the results of Jorge Navarro’s sentencing hearing – in which the former trainer became emotional and eventually began openly weeping in court as Judge Mary Kay Vyskocil characterized his actions – was far and away our most-read story of 2021. Other stories about the Navarro were also well-read this year, including the feds’ argument that performance-enhancing drugs “have corrupted much of the horse racing industry,” the news that Navarro’s attorney believes he is facing “almost certain deportation” after his prison sentence is completed, and a recap of the prosecution’s sentencing letter for Navarro which calls his use of PEDs “animal abuse in the service of greed.”
The federal trials are expected to continue through 2022, with another prominent former trainer, Jason Servis, among those who have entered a not guilty plea and are awaiting trial.
- Report: Irad Ortiz Jr. Fined $1,000 For Punching Paco Lopez: Actions of the sport’s jockeys were a particularly hot topic this year, with reigning Eclipse Award winner Irad Ortiz, Jr. on the top of that list. Other news about the elder Ortiz brother that made it into our most-read stories includes: a video and opinion piece about Ortiz’ dangerous riding that caused another jockey to fall (and later resulted in a 30-day suspension for Ortiz), his escape from serious injury in a June fall at Belmont Park, and a three-day suspension for his ride in the G1 Vosburgh Stakes.
- Medina Spirit Collapses, Dies After Santa Anita Workout: The tragic death of the Kentucky Derby first-place finisher was a shock to the racing community, and another hit at the end of a year in which the colt failed a post-race drug test after the Run for the Roses, trainer Bob Baffert’s record of five positive tests in the preceding year was examined, Baffert issued a public apology for his handling of the scandal, Churchill Downs banned Baffert for two years, bettors filed lawsuits against Baffert in attempt to recoup losses on the Kentucky Derby, and Baffert filed a lawsuit against the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission for extra testing of Medina Spirit’s samples.
It isn’t over yet. The KHRC has yet to schedule a hearing that may disqualify Medina Spirit from his Derby win, and the New York Racing Association has been legally required to hold a hearing to determine whether Baffert will be allowed to race at their tracks. It remains unclear when, whether, or how Baffert could fight CDI’s action against him, or what the future holds for his stable’s top 2-year-olds as owners contemplate the Derby.
- Beloved Son Of Secretariat Passes At 30: One of the four final offspring of the legendary Secretariat passed away at the beginning of 2021. The Darley-bred Secret of the Sea, from Secretariat’s final crop, fell victim to Cushing’s disease at the age of 30.
- Linda Rice’s License Revoked, Trainer Fined $50,000: The New York State Gaming Commission revoked trainer Linda Rice’s license for a period of three years and issued her a $50,000 fine for “actions inconsistent with and detrimental to the best interest of racing generally and corrupt and improper acts and practices in relation to racing.” The NYSGC first launched an investigation into Rice’s operation in early 2018, on the claim that she traded money for information from the racing office, and an eight-day hearing at the end of 2020 concluded with a hearing officer’s report that Rice’s misconduct – which involved receiving and requesting confidential entry information in overnight races – was intentional, serious and extensive. Rice was subsequently granted a temporary restraining order on the license revocation until her appeals process is played out in court, and has continued to train in New York.
- Mejia Taken Off Monmouth Park Mounts, Has Hearing Scheduled After Suspicious Photo Surfaces: A photo of jockey Tomas Mejia taken by the track photographer was posted on Monmouth Park’s Facebook page, but it was subsequently removed after officials were alerted to what appeared to be an object in Mejia’s left hand. The jockey was later handed a 10-year ban by the Monmouth Park stewards for possession of an electrical device.
- Racehorse Escapes To Expressway At Ellis Park: The aptly-named Bold and Bossy drew widespread media attention for her jaunt down the interstate after getting loose at Ellis Park. That night, the 2-year-old filly survived a barn fire with some minor burns. The Paulick Report followed up on Bold and Bossy’s condition and learned more about her trainer a few weeks later.
- Joel Rosario Fined For Misjudging Finish At Oaklawn: A curious incident in Hot Springs resulted in Rosario receiving a $200 fine. Aboard Oaklawn Mile second-place finisher Rushie, Rosario rode his mount out for another sixteenth of a mile past the wire, apparently forgetting that a one-mile race at Oaklawn finishes at the first wire.
- Owner Placed On No-Entry List At Fair Grounds After Horse Turns Up In Bail Pen: This Paulick Report investigation resulted in Churchill Downs Inc. placing owner Kim Jackson on the no-entry list at Fair Grounds after her horse appeared in a Texas bail lot while still in the entries at the New Orleans track. Little Red Kid was advertised on social media Jan. 30 by a kill pen, but at that time was still supposed to be headed to the ninth race on Feb. 3. Trainer Jacoby Landry was fined $500 for “entering a horse no longer under his care.”
- Meet Kong, The Pony Who Stole The Show On Breeders’ Cup Weekend: If you found yourself distracted during the horseback interviews of this year’s Breeders’ Cup winners, you weren’t the only one. This year, people were interested in Donna Brothers’ mount, black and white pinto – both readers and Paulick Report staff members. Kong is a 10-year-old American Spotted Draft/Percheron cross trainer Kristin Mulhall picked up at an auction. He was a pick-up horse at rodeos for many years, and the Breeders’ Cup was his first weekend working the races. What a star!
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This entry was posted in NL Article, The Paddock and tagged Bold And Bossy, Chelsea Hackbarth, irad ortiz jr, Jason Servis, joel rosario, jorge navarro, kong, Linda Rice, Medina Spirit, most read stories, Paulick Report, Tomas Mejia by Chelsea Hackbarth. Bookmark the permalink.