With Tom Chuckas in the role of game show host Wayne Brady (or, to people from my generation, Monty Hall), the Pennsylvania State Horse Racing Commission recently played a couple of rounds of “Let's Make a Deal” with trainers Mario Serey Jr. and John Servis.
On May 17, Chuckas – the former Maryland Jockey Club president hired in July 2016 to be Thoroughbred bureau director of Pennsylvania's newly configured racing commission – signed an amended ruling reducing 315 days in suspensions for Serey down to 120 days. Serey's fine was dropped from $11,500 to $7,500.
The 315 days originally meted out by stewards were cumulative suspensions for five clenbuterol positives at Parx Racing and Penn National last November and December.
Two days later, Chuckas signed off on an amended ruling against Servis for three clenbuterol positives he received from April and May 2016 at Parx. The first two rulings – in which Servis was fined $1,500 each and the horses disqualified – were left unchanged. The third ruling – which originally disqualified the filly Miss Inclusive from a victory in the $100,000 Parx Oaks, redistributed the $60,000 first-place purse and suspended Servis for 15 days – was amended.
The new ruling on Servis and Miss Inclusive reads as follows: “Miss Inclusive shall be deemed to have finished first along with the horse Eighth Wonder (the runner-up), for the purpose of both maintaining each horse's racing record and determining each horse's eligibility to enter in future races, the forfeiture of the purse will remain in effect and the redistribution of the purse will stand and the 15-day suspension shall be modified to a $5,000 fine.”
In both rulings, “articulated mitigating circumstances” were cited, along with the need for “judicial economy.” No mitigating circumstances were spelled out relative to Servis; in Serey's case, there was reference to “the timing of notice” of the positive tests, which all occurred in a two-week period. In other words, it's likely he racked up all five positives before he was notified of the first one. Judicial economy, I assume, means not wanting to spend additional state resources on the appeals process: both rulings said the trainers agreed to withdraw all appeals.
Frankly, my head is spinning, especially over the confounding ruling regarding Servis and Miss Inclusive.
Miss Inclusive, a Kentucky-bred filly by Include, is owned by plastic surgeon Dr. Lou Bucky's Main Line Racing Stable and Servis' Joshtylane Farm. The Parx Oaks was her stakes debut. She's been unsuccessful in three subsequent stakes races, so the black type she earned – then lost via disqualification and now apparently is getting back – would significantly increase her value as a broodmare. But if you're going to reinstate the win, why not reinstate the money? And why is it necessary to say runner-up Eighth Wonder is also a winner of the Parx Oaks? It's almost as if Oprah Winfrey is in charge: “You get a stakes win … you get a stakes win … everybody gets a stakes win!”
Though bureau director Chuckas hasn't responded to multiple requests for interviews on this and other subjects, sources have told the Paulick Report the levels of detection for clenbuterol in the Serey and Servis cases were between zero and two picograms per milliliter of blood. That's really picayunish, but that's often the state of medication regulation: call positives at levels that can not possibly enhance performance.
(Interestingly, when the Servis case first drew attention, Dick Jerardi of Philly.com wrote that Miss Inclusive tested for an “incredibly high” amount of clenbuterol, based on a comment from co-owner Bucky, who brought up sabotage as a possible cause. “That would indicate that a huge amount was given on race day, something that no logical person would ever think an appropriate thing to do because there was no way it was going to not be caught,” Bucky told Jerardi.)
Are the racing commission's stewards and the racing commission itself (which is, practically speaking, being run by Sal DeBunda, president of the Pennsylvania Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association) operating under different detection levels for medication? Surely there is more to this story that Chuckas and the racing commission do not want to discuss.
At any rate, Serey and Servis probably made the right decision in accepting the deal that was offered. The rest of us? We got stuck with the goat behind Door No. 3.
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