Drazin to call on NJ legislature for ‘comprehensive, sweeping reforms’

By: Tom LaMarra

Posted: March 16, 2020

The operator of Monmouth Park has called on the New Jersey legislature to enact broad measures tied to the integrity of racing and health and safety of racing participants.

The track also announced that its 2020 meet would begin May 23 rather than May 2 given state restrictions that have resulted from coronavirus (COVID-19).

Dennis Drazin, Chief Executive Officer of Darby Development, which operates Monmouth on behalf of the New Jersey Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association, outlined his intentions in the wake of federal indictments that named Jorge Navarro and Jason Servis, two prominent trainers who have been based at Monmouth in recent years. He said the recommended reforms are more comprehensive than those that provide the foundation for the federal Horseracing Integrity Act, which focuses on control of medication policy and putting the United States Anti-Doping Agency in charge of drug testing.

“First and foremost, Monmouth Park and Darby Development, as well as I personally, condemn the use of performance-enhancing drugs or any drugs which are illegal to be used in our industry,” Drazin said. “I remained silent last week in the aftermath of the news of the indictment because I wanted to give our regulators, the New Jersey Racing Commission, and the Attorney General’s Office an opportunity to address the indictment and, as expected, the NJRC suspended the licenses of seven of the indicted individuals who were licensed in New Jersey.

“Jorge Navarro did not have a 2020 license; otherwise his license would have been suspended also according to the NJRC.”

Drazin said the NJRC “has diligently tested for drugs for many years and utilized respected reputable labs to do so. I am a former chairman of the NJRC and can assure you that our regulators take their jobs seriously and endeavor to catch all cheaters. Regarding the indictments, if proven they threaten the very integrity of our sport and must be seriously addressed. We can have no tolerance for those who cheat or try to take an illegal edge.”

In that regard, Drazin said he is looing to the New Jersey legislature.

“I am calling upon our New Jersey legislature to enact a more comprehensive form of sweeping reforms than currently has been stalled in Washington, otherwise known as the Horseracing Integrity Act,” he said. “I have already started the process of asking the state of New Jersey to pass legislation, which in addition to the worthwhile reforms contained in the HIA, will include more widespread reforms including, but not limited to: racetrack safety and integrity; racetrack surface safety inspections; increased examination of horses who intend to race or train at our racetracks; jockey health and safety; changes in the whip rule; post-racing aftercare for horses; uniformity in medication rules and penalties; sharing of all veterinary reports amongst interested parties; and, many other needed reforms.”

Drazin discussed those reforms during a congressional subcommitte hearing on the HIA earlier this year. Then and now, he said the only permitted medication permitted on race day should be Lasix.

“The American Association of Equine Practitioners has remained steadfast that the therapeutic use of Lasix is a medical necessity and the elimination of same would not be in the best interest of horses or their riders,” Drazin said. “Unless there is a legal use of medication adopted by the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium, and with the exception of Lasix, we will have a zero-tolerance policy. To be clear, there can be no use of race-day medications except Lasix and even Lasix must be administered by a third-party veterinarian, as is the current regulatory policy (as part of the National Uniform Medication Program).

“Furthermore, I am also requesting that the legislature authorize the NJRC to develop a pharmacy located at the racetrack and that no drugs or medication can be in the possession of anyone—even veterinarians on the racetrack—unless it is obtained from the track-regulated pharmacy. I am also requesting the legislature to authorize the NJRC to contact USADA or any other drug-testing agency or laboratory of their recommendation to retain their services for the immediate control of our drug testing.

“The NJRC and New Jersey Attorney General’s Office will continue to regulate horse racing in New Jersey. These reforms will help restore public confidence in our sport.”

Drazin also said he would discuss with regulators the feasibility of “enhancing camera security in our barns and purchasing additional equipment for horse diagnostics to detect pre-existing injuries and other safety risks.” Monmouth, he said, will create more committees designed to screen horses entered and applying for stalls, as well as additional positions for a medical and safety director.

Jason Servis, one of the indicted trainers who also has been based at Monmouth, trained for Drazin.

“This indictment is particularly sad in that Jason Servis was my trainer,” Drazin said. “During my 45 years as an attorney, chairman of the NJRC and racetrack operator, I have always advocated that cheating cannot be tolerated and I would never tolerate illegal conduct. My horses are being moved to Pat McBurney.”

McBurney is based at Monmouth.

Monmouth said it will close for simulcasting and sports wagering beginning at 8 p.m. March 16 because of the COVID-19 situation. Gov. Phil Murphy earlier in the day issued an order that all racetracks and close for the time being. Monmouth said given the later start to its 2020 meet, the barn area is now scheduled to open May 1.