Former Harness Trainer Talks About Fishman’s PEDs

NEW YORK

It was nearly two years ago when former harness horse trainer Ross Cohen was one of 27 trainers, veterinarians and others caught up in the largest horse doping prosecution in US history.

In a New York courtroom on Wednesday, Cohen appeared in the stands as a key government witness against Dr. Seth Fishman – the first of those arrested in March 2020 in the case to face trial on charges of conspiracy to violate counterfeit and trademark laws.

As Fishman noted from the defense table, Cohen testified that when he was training horses at Yonkers Raceway years ago, he purchased performance-enhancing drugs from Lisa Giannelli, who worked as a distributor for Fishman and Florida-based vet drug manufacturing company Equestology.

Cohen, 50, of New York State, testified that he discussed a product called “Frozen Pain” with Fishman.

“He said it takes away pain and prevents horses from getting tired during the race,” he said. “It had a performance-enhancing effect.”

Cohen testified about another conversation with Fishman where he complained that Frozen Pain worked great for some horses when they race in his stable, but not so much for other horses.

Cohen said the drug’s inconsistency upset him.

“He said it was difficult to keep it stable and to get good employees to make it,” the witness testified, referring to Fishman. “He said he would stop.”

During his testimony, Cohen said he agreed to flip in June 2020. He pleaded guilty to conspiracy and agreed to testify on behalf of the government in exchange for leniency on sentencing. Prosecutors kept the plea deal a secret until Wednesday.

Prosecutors say Fishman produced performance drugs that trainers administered to horses to increase their chances of winning races. They said the doping put racehorses at risk of breakdown and death. They said Fishman was trying to make drugs that couldn’t be detected in post-race tests.

While questioning Cohen, prosecutor Andrew Adams introduced photos of six of the suspects in the case and had the witness identify them. One of the photos was that of former top trainer Jorge Navarro, who has since been charged with conspiracy. He was sentenced to five years in prison in December.

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

Adams then had the jury read a text Fishman had sent to Navarro and the response he received.

“Congratulations, I just saw the race,” Fishman wrote.

“Thank you, boss. You are a big part of it,’ Navarro replied.

Cohen admitted a controlled past as a harness trainer, including suspensions for drugs before meeting Fishman and Giannelli. He said he was banned from racing at Monticello Raceway and Yonkers at one point.

In the plea deal, Cohen admitted to fixing races.

“I paid drivers for someone to stop their horses in races,” he testified.

During the cross-examination, Maurice Sercarz tried to suggest that Cohen had turned against Fishman to save his own skin.

“Who decides whether you’re telling the truth?” the lawyer asked.

“I assume from the government,” Cohen replied.

The sixth day of the trial in the US District Court in Manhattan also featured testimony from Dr. Cynthia Cole, director of the race lab at the University of Florida, where she oversaw drug testing of horses competing on Florida tracks.

Cole was called in as an expert witness to identify the drugs Fishman was peddling and whether they would be performance enhancers if administered to horses while racing. According to her, Fishman’s products were PEDs.

During her time on the booth, Cole was asked to comment on a Fishman product called Serenity. She said it turned out to be a sedative.

It was her testimony that it may not seem intuitive to give a horse a sedative before a race, but she explained that some horses, especially young horses, can be tense.

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

The trial will resume on Thursday.

The Thoroughbred industry’s leading publications are teaming up to cover this important trial.

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