Horse Racing

Former mining coach Cohen testifies in mermaids trial

It was almost two years ago when former Standarbred trainer Ross Cohen was among 27 trainers, veterinarians and others entangled in the largest equine doping prosecution in US history.

In a New York courtroom on January 26, Cohen appeared on the stand as a key government witness against Dr. Seth Fishman – the first of those arrested in the case. in March 2020 to go to trial on charges of conspiracy to commit adultery and misbranding of the law.

As Fishman watched from the defense desk, Cohen testified that when he was training horses at Yonkers Raceway many years ago, he purchased performance-enhancing drugs years ago from Lisa Giannelli, who had worked as a consultant. way as a distributor for Fishman and the Florida-based veterinarian’s Equestology drug manufacturing business. .

Cohen, 50, who lives in upstate New York, testified that he discussed with Fishman a product called “Frozen Pain.”

“He says it helps with pain and keeps the horse from getting tired during the race,” says Cohen. “It has a performance enhancing effect.”

Cohen testified of another conversation with Fishman in which he complained that Frozen Pain worked well for some horses when they were racing in his stables, but not for others. Are not.

Cohen said the drug’s inconsistency annoyed Fishman.

“He said it was very difficult to keep it steady and get good people to make it,” the witness said of Fishman. “He said he would stop doing it.”

In his testimony, Cohen said that he agreed to expose in June 2020. He pleaded guilty to conspiracy and agreed to testify on behalf of the government in exchange for leniency in sentencing. Prosecutors kept the plea agreement private until Wednesday.

Prosecutors said Fishman manufactured performance drugs that trainers use on horses to increase their chances of winning races. They say doping puts racehorses at risk of damage and death. They say Fishman managed to make the drug undetectable during post-race testing.

While questioning Cohen, prosecutor Andrew Adams showed photos of six of those charged in the case and asked witnesses to identify them. One of the photos is of former top thoroughbred trainer Jorge Navarro, who pleaded guilty to conspiracy. He was sentenced to five years in prison in December.

After Cohen identified Navarro, Adams showed the judges a video of the Navarro-trained XY Jet sprinter winning the $2.5 million G1 Dubai Golden Shaheen in 2019. The video shows an excited Navarro celebrating his victory in the paddock.

Next, Adams asked the jury to read a text Fishman sent to Navarro and the response he received.

“Congratulations, you just watched the race,” Fishman’s text read.

“Thanks boss. You’re an important part of it,” Navarro replied.

Cohen has admitted to a past of praise when he was a harness trainer. He was previously suspended for drugs and banned from racing at the Monticello and Yonkers Circuit. He was finally allowed to return to Yonkers.

In the plea agreement, Cohen admitted to fixing the races.

“I paid drivers to have someone keep their horses in races,” he testified.

Maurice Sercarz, on cross-examination, managed to suggest that Cohen activated Fishman to save his own skin.

“Who decides if you tell the truth?” lawyer asked.

“I suppose the government,” Cohen replied.

The sixth day of the trial in US District Court in Manhattan also featured testimony from Dr Cynthia Cole, director of the racing lab at the University of Florida, where she oversaw drug testing of the animals. Horses compete at racetracks in Florida.

Cole was called in as an expert witness to determine the drugs Mermaids peddled and whether they would be performance enhancers if administered to horses when they were racing. In her opinion, Fishman products are PED.

During his time in the stands, Cole was asked to comment on a Mermaid production called Serenity. She said it appeared to be a sedative.

She testified that giving a horse sedative before a race might seem counterintuitive, but she explained that some horses, especially young horses, can be stressed.

“The ability to produce a mild sedative could work, if you will; can help a horse perform better in a race,” she told the judges.

The trial will resume on January 27.

Leading industry publications Thoroughbred are working together to cover this important trial.

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