Legal and gambling troubles mar Ahmed Zayat on eve of Belmont Stakes


Horse racing is a dirty sport. We've known that for years and years. Horses have historically been loaded up with drugs, some of which are of the legal variety, and some of which have been of the illegal variety. They've been put through grueling tests where their relatively scrawny legs, which aren't designed for racing, are asked to run at a clip of over 40 miles per hour, all the time holding up their own body weight and the weight of their jockey. It's all in the name of being the first to cross a hypothetical line.

And gambling.

There isn't a single person in horse racing who believes that this is a sport borne of the desire for competition between animals. This was a sport which was originally created to wager on, and it has become an institution amongst bettors for hundreds of years.

So perhaps it shouldn't be shocking that maybe the most powerful man in horse racing right now, Ahmed Zayat, the owner of American Pharoah, is in legal troubles stemming from – you guessed it – gambling.

Zayat has allegedly run up $2 million in gambling debt through a Costa Rican betting site, Tradewinds Sportsbook. The case is now in federal court and has been incredibly public and messy thanks in large part to his sudden fame.

Howard Rubinsky was the go-between for Zayat and the sportsbook, and he was supposed to be making commissions which were never paid due to the fact that Zayat wouldn't pay Tradewinds, according to allegations.

Rubinsky, of course, isn't the most honorable person in the world either, as he pled guilty in 2008 for a role he played in an illegal booking operation.

Zayat has called the lawsuit "a fraud" and "a scam from A to Z."

It wouldn't be the first time that Zayat found himself in trouble financial. His stables declared bankruptcy in 2010, and in spite of the fact, he was able to keep his best assets, his horses, one of which (Pioneerof the Nile) ultimately sired American Pharoah.

Furthermore, in 2009, Zayat was sued by Fifth Third Bank for defaulting on a $34 million loan. He also had issues with Freehold Raceway, as he bet more money than what was in his online account. In New Jersey, it is illegal to bet on credit.

Zayat still maintains his innocence in this lawsuit, but that isn't changing the fact that he is still in a lot of potential trouble. This will continue to be a highly talked about problem for Zayat and his stables during a time where we should all be talking about the marvel that is American Pharoah.

Then again, perhaps this isn't a surprise. After all, horse racing isn't about the horses. It's still all about the gambling.

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