By Dick Jerardi

Now that we are into 2019 and there is time to reflect on what happened in 2018 with star Parx horses, the year was every bit as amazing as it seemed.

Jaywalk, Discreet Lover, Imperial Hint, and Maximus Mischief were all stabled at Parx. Aztec Sense was not stabled at the track, but ran at Parx four times. What a group. Consider that they won a combined 21 races, including 15 stakes—five Grade I, two Grade II and one Grade III, with combined earnings of $3,656,065.

Two-year-old Jaywalk won the most money ($1,384,200) and the biggest race, the Grade I Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies at Churchill Downs. She also won the Grade I Frizette at Belmont Park and the White Clay Creek Stakes at Delaware Park after breaking her maiden at Parx on July 24. She ran five times at five different tracks (she finished second in her debut at Monmouth Park). Jaywalk did not just win her races; she blew away her rivals, winning the two Grade I stakes by a combined 11 1/4 lengths. She is a finalist for the Eclipse Award as two-year-old filly champion.

The amazing sprinter Imperial Hint won the Grade I Alfred Vanderbilt at Saratoga and the Grade I Vosburgh Invitational at Belmont Park, as well as the Grade II True North, also at Belmont. He was at less than his best when third in the Grade I Breeders’ Cup Sprint. Imperial Hint, who won $767,500 in 2018, is a finalist for the Eclipse Award as champion sprinter.

When 2018 began, Discreet Lover had run 45 times. The horse had run in many stakes, but had not won any of them. That changed when he won the Grade III Excelsior at Aqueduct, a prelude to what was arguably the most exciting win by any Parx horse in 2018. Discreet Lover was 45-1 in the Grade I Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont Park. He was way back early, but when the leaders began to tire in the stretch, there was Discreet Lover rolling down the center of the track to get up by a neck. The horse won $903,825 in 2018, not bad for a $10,000 purchase.

Aztec Sense won all eight of his starts and $408,540 in 2018. He won four times at Parx, three times at Gulfstream Park and once at Monmouth. His five stakes wins included the Turning For Home Stakes, the PTHA President’s Cup and the PA Derby Championship, all at Parx. The horse capped off his year by winning the Claiming Crown Jewel at Gulfstream. Perfect seasons are quite rare in horse racing, especially for horses whose first win was in January and last win was in December. Even though he was not stabled at Parx, the horse has Parx connections as owner Joseph Besecker runs horses at Parx regularly.

The horse on the list that raced the least has the most promise of all. Maximus Mischief may have been the most impressive first-time winning two-year-old in the history of Parx when he ran like the wind on Sept. 29, co-incidentally the same day Imperial Hint won the Vosburgh and Discreet Lover won the Jockey Club Gold Cup. He backed that maiden win up with a dominating allowance win against two overmatched opponents and then finished his short season on Dec. 1 with a visually impressive win in the Grade II Remsen Stakes at Aqueduct. The colt is now at Gulfstream Park getting ready for his first start as a three-year-old, likely the Feb. 2 Holy Bull Stakes.

So there you have it—Jaywalk, Imperial Hint, Discreet Lover, Aztec Sense and Maximus Mischief. Who knows what 2019 may bring, maybe even Maximus in the Pennsylvania Derby and Jaywalk in the Cotillion, with a Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks on their resumes.

Let’s Go Racing Parx will debut on WPHL-TV January 5th

The region’s only television program covering thoroughbred horse racing is on the move!

Starting January 5, 2019, the Parx Racing-based, weekly television show, Let’s Go Racing Parx, will air on WPHL-TV, Channel 17. The show has long been sponsored and supported by The Pennsylvania Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association (PTHA), and has been a fixture on local television for two decades.   It’s the only program in the region that features highlights of local racing, as well as major and national stakes races.

“This is a tremendous opportunity for Let’s Go Racing Parx,” said Salvatore M. DeBunda, Esq., President of the PTHA and Executive Producer of the show. “The move to Channel 17 will allow more people to see the show, since their programming is available via over the air, cable, and satellite systems. This is great for our loyal fans and will help attract a new audience to thoroughbred horse racing.” When the show moves to WPHL-TV, it will continue in its current time slot of Saturdays, at 10:00 AM.

Joe Wilson, Chief Operating Officer of Parx Racing, says he’s happy the show is making

the move, “Thoroughbred racing is obviously popular across the Delaware Valley. We see that with the current attendance at our racing events and through the increasing number of new fans visiting us at Parx Racing. Providing the show with the widest possible audience simply makes sense. We look forward to working with the team at Channel 17 to expand the audience for thoroughbred racing.”

In addition to the weekly show, the widely popular Pennsylvania Derby, the premier racing event at Parx Racing and a top prep race for three-year olds, will also now be broadcast on WPHL. “We have long targeted Let’s Go Racing Parx and The Pennsylvania Derby as assets for WPHL-TV,” said Vincent Giannini SVP/General Manager of Channel 17. “Let’s Go Racing Parx is a great fit with our growing list of local broadcast assets,” Giannini added, “and we are thrilled to be the new home of The Pennsylvania Derby. This race is the diamond in this new relationship and we look forward to sharing The Pennsylvania Derby with the current audience as well as prospective new fans.” The Pennsylvania Derby and The Cotillion Stakes—a companion event held the same day for three-year old fillies—are races that attract top horses and trainers from around the world, carry $1 million in prize money, and are typically held in late September.

Let’s Go Racing Parx is co-hosted by two Parx Hall of Fame members, longtime track announcer Keith Jones and award-winning journalist Dick Jerardi. The show is produced by former Philadelphia sports anchor Bruce Casella, also a member of the Parx Racing Hall of Fame.

More information on the show can be found at LetsGoRacingParx.com.


By Dick Jerardi

“How did that happen?”

That was John Servis’s answer when asked for his reaction to winning the 2018 Parx Racing training title.

He was not showing false humility. He was just being realistic. He typically does not have enough horses making enough starts during the year to win the title. This year really wasn’t that much different in that respect. It is just that when the horses did run, they won at a high percentage from January to December.

Servis finished with 71 winners at Parx to 68 for runner-up Patricia Farro. He started 255 horses; she started 423. He won with 28 percent of his Parx starters and his stable won $2.5 million.

Servis was part of several Parx training titles when he was Mark Reid’s top assistant before his training career officially began in 1984. But his only other personal title was in 1989 at Garden State Park.

“Joe Orseno and I were going back and forth,” Servis remembered. “I think I was one win up going into the last day. Joe had five in and I had two in. Joe won three races and took a two-win lead. Then, both my horses won and one was in the last race. So we ended up in a tie.”

This title kind of snuck up on Servis.

“A month ago, my assistant (Jennifer Hamm) came up to me and said ‘you know, you’re leading trainer,’” Servis said. “I go, ‘really, I didn’t even know.’ She said, ‘we got a shot to win this.’ I said, ‘we’re not going to win this.’”

They won it.

“The fact that we did, I’m so happy for my help,” Servis said. “I have such a good crew. They’re team players. I’m so happy for the owners too, not that the owners get anything out of it other than having a good year, but they can blow their horn a little bit.”

Overall, Servis won 111 races with nearly $6 million in earnings in 2018. It was, in many respects, the second-best year of his career. It will be hard to top 2004 with Smarty Jones, but Servis is poised to have a great 2019.

Servis won the Grade I Frizette and the Grade I Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies with Jaywalk. She is at Palm Meadows in Florida gearing up for a 2019 campaign that may begin in March at Gulfstream Park and Servis hopes will take him back to Churchill Downs for the Kentucky Oaks, a race he won in 2016 with Cathryn Sophia.

He also has a very talented colt named Lucky Lee who won twice at Parx and is being pointed to the Feb. 2 Withers Stakes at Aqueduct. Servis is really high on Lucky Lee; so high that he is thinking he could be good enough to get on the Kentucky Derby trail and stay there.

Servis will be spending much of his time this winter at Palm Meadows with a stable of horses he has there. The Parx horses are being overseen by his very capable assistants Hamm and Jesus Santiago.

Servis just went over 10,000 starters for his career. He has won 1,755 races. His horses have earned $57.4 million. He has won eight Grade I races and 28 graded stakes.

And now John Servis has his first Parx training title.