NEW YORK — Standardbred trainer Chris Oakes, who admitted providing Jorge Navarro with performance-enhancing drugs as well as taking illegal drugs with his own horse, has been sentenced to three years. prison on Thursday. In October, Oakes, 57, pleaded guilty to one count of misbranding and adulteration of drugs with intent to defraud or deceive.
The decision was made by Judge Mary Kay Vyskocil in the United States Southern District Court for the Southern District of New York in front of a small audience that included Meadowlands owner Jeff Gural. According to sentencing guidelines, three years is the maximum sentence allowed.
“I believe this offense is serious,” Vyskocil said. “I took that into account as well as Mr. Oakes’ characteristics as a person and as a person. But I don’t see any compelling reason to go under sentencing guidance.”
While the case against Oakes involved his own horse doping pattern, it also focused on his relationship with Navarro and Navarro’s use of doping XY Jet (Kantharos). Oakes provided Navarro with the PEDs awarded to XY Jet, including the “blocking” PED. On February 13, 2019, the same day XY Jet won an allowance race at Gulfstream, Navarro directed Oakes to the Gulfstream track to administer the sprinter PED.
“Mr. Oakes shared misbranded and adulterated drugs with others, including, and most especially, Mr. Navarro,” noted Vyskocil. “In particular, he helped Mr. Navarro mix Mr. Navarro. making XY Jet.”
While still in training, XY Jet passed away in early 2020. Navarro at the time said the cause of death was a heart attack.
Speaking in court, government attorney Sarah Mortazavi lashed out at Oakes, saying he had failed to realize the gravity of his actions.
“The defendant did not grapple with the gravity of his crime,” she said, “Instead of regret, we received from him a self-serving plea that minimized his conduct. . He said the government couldn’t prove that I killed any of the horses or did something to improve their performance, so what I did was not detrimental to these horses. But he injected these horses before and on their race day, putting their health in jeopardy.”
Oakes’ attorney, Page Pate, did not deny his client’s use of PED and broke the law but asked the court to consider the trainer as having many good qualities. He thinks it is a justification for leniency.
Pate said: “The offenses committed, while clearly wrong, were not befitting of who he was and as a trainer looking after his horses. “It is true that he was trying to win his wallet using the PEDs he got from Dr. [Seth] Fishman and the PED he created himself and that gave him an unfair competitive advantage in his races. But the story became Mr. Oakes abused his horses. Looking back at his more than 40-year career, that doesn’t align with what so many who knew him and worked with have told the court. The things he has done for his community, his random acts of kindness, they show that he is not a criminal.”
While speaking in court, Oakes, who began to choke, recounted what he said was a protracted battle with alcoholism.
“I drink when I succeed and I drink when I fail and I have failed a lot,” he said. “I didn’t ask for help because I thought that would show a sign of weakness.”
Vyskocil said Oakes will have to attend a drug and alcohol addiction program once in prison.
Oakes said he deeply regrets and blames his decision on the stress and pressure he feels to succeed.
“I was constantly unhappy, irritable and depressed,” he says. “I want everything to be perfect and I demand that of my wife, my children and my staff. I regret the path I took. I allow stress and pressure to make my decisions. I have no one to blame but myself. I am aware of the crimes I have committed, and I have learned from them. I humbly ask for leniency.”
Gural, who banned Oakes from tracking him before he was indicted, sat quietly and listened to testimony. Gural was instrumental in compiling the investigation that led to Oakes and more than two dozen others being indicted on doping-related charges.
“I’m so glad I came, if for no other reason than to see how justice works,” he said. “I think everyone is doing well and the judge understands the gravity of the situation. It was a tragedy. These horses cannot talk on their own. When I started this, I had friends who told me it was a waste of time, that these guys couldn’t be caught. Getting the 5 Stones involved, and the fact that there are so many dead horses in California, caught the attention of US Attorneys, and they were ready to prosecute. I spent a lot of time talking to US Attorneys and convincing them that there are people out there who use drugs.”
Oakes owned a handful of Purebred dogs before his capture and won 14 races. His horses were trained by Navarro. Oakes is a popular coach with 1,875 career wins and $29,631,843 in career earnings.