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Maximum Security Owners Decry Hold on Saudi Cup Purse

Action called unfair and unprecedented in the annals of international racing.

Maximum Security after winning the Saudi Cup at King Abdulaziz Racetrack

Maximum Security after winning the Saudi Cup at King Abdulaziz Racetrack

Edward Whitaker/Racing Post

The owners of Maximum Security issued a statement Aug. 12 stating the decision by race organizers to withhold their colt's first-place purse money from the $20 million Saudi Cup was both unfair and unprecedented in the annals of international racing.

The letter attributed to Gary West and Coolmore comes two days after the Jockey Club of Saudi Arabia announced it would award the prize money to the connections of horses placed second through 10th in the Feb. 29 Saudi Cup at King Abdulaziz Racetrack in Riyadh, but continue to withhold the first-place money from Maximum Security pending the results of its investigation.  

A total of $10 million is being withheld from the connections of Maximum Security in the aftermath of a federal indictment in March, charging the 4-year-old's trainer at the time, Jason Servis, with allegations of administering illegal substances to the horses under his care, including Maximum Security, a homebred for the Wests by New Year's Day.

The JCSA said it cannot reach a fair and reasonable decision on the outcome of the race without relevant evidence that has been gathered by federal authorities in the United States in a sealed indictment.

The letter contends that the indictment of Servis was limited to his conduct from February through October 2019 and that Maximum Security has never tested positive for an illegal or prohibited substance during his career.

"For the purpose of analyzing the fairness of this decision by the Jockey Club of Saudi Arabia, let's assume that any horse tested positive for cocaine, cobra venom, frog juice, and 10 other PED's in previous races," the letter said. "Prior positive test results would not disqualify that horse from running in the Saudi Cup or any other race. And, if the horse won and tested negative by testing labs chosen by the racing authorities, that horse would be officially declared the winner of the race. That is the way things work everywhere in the world with Saudi Arabia Jockey Club being the only known exception."

The letter also says that Maximum Security was tested before he left the U.S., when he arrived in Saudi Arabia and following his now disputed victory over runner-up Midnight Bisou in the Saudi Cup, adding, "If any of those tests would have been positive, Maximum Security would have been disqualified long ago."

"We understood, once the Servis indictment was announced, that the original test results, which were extensive, including blood, urine, and DNA hair testing, needed to be re-examined post-race by the top drug-testing laboratories in the world," the letter said. "Thereafter, we received two requests from the Saudis for bank wiring instructions, leading us to believe that all test results had been negative (as we believe they were) and funds would be forthcoming. Instead of receiving the purse monies, we received a letter dated April 29 from a 'Private Investigator' who had been hired by the JCSA to conduct an 'investigation' of Maximum Security's entitlement to the purse. If this race is decided by a 'Private Investigator,' it will be the first time in the history of horse racing that a 'Private Investigator' will decide the outcome of a horse race. Winning horses are always decided on the racetrack and backed up by post-race testing. If a horse wins the race to the satisfaction of the stewards and passes post-race testing, it is universally accepted that the horse is the winner of the race, with the possible exception of the SAJC."

The JCSA has said in the past that there has been a delay in receiving results of post-race testing due to the COVD-19 pandemic.

Maximum Security wins the 2020 Saudi Cup from Midnight Bisou (rail)
Photo: Jockey Club of Saudi Arabia/Neville Hopwood
Prize money will be awarded to the connections of the Saudi Cup second through 10th-place finishers

The letter called on the JCSA for more transparency in the process,

"We have cooperated and intend to continue to cooperate with the 'investigation,' but we call on H.R.H. Prince Bandar and the representatives of the Saudi Cup to make this process transparent and swift to the international racing community," the letter said. "Transparency serves the integrity of racing and the reputations of the Saudi Cup and Maximum Security, both of which have been badly tarnished by these unheard of delays and bizarre circumstances. The entire process has been unfair and the international racing community deserved to know the outcome months ago. If the SAJC wants to compete on the big stage of international racing, they need to let everyone know what they are investigating and what their plan is. If there was a bad test, that was known long ago and the results should be made (publicly) available immediately. If Maximum Security tested positive for any illegal substance he should be disqualified. Shrouding this investigation in a cloak of secrecy is not how to gain the respect of and faith in the international racing community."

In his first race since the Saudi Cup, Maximum Security won the July 25 San Diego Handicap (G2) at Del Mar for new trainer Bob Baffert.

View the full letter here.