By Dick Jerardi
Even if his father had tried to discourage him, it was not happening. Tyler Servis was going to work around horses.
“He used to refuse to let me go to the track and I’d wake myself up at 5 o’clock in the morning and go get in the passenger seat,” Tyler remembered. He thinks he was around eight years old at the time.
That passenger was at Keeneland on April 12, saddling Wentz, his first starter as a trainer. Wentz was up against 3-5 shot Curate and looked up against it when Curate passed him in the stretch. Wentz, however, came back to win the race by a nose.
Proud dad John and mom Sherry were in their Florida condo, watching on TV, “screaming; the dogs were barking. I said I was surprised somebody didn’t call to complain, (with) all the noise we were making,” John Servis said. “That was awesome.”
It was. After the race, the only unbeaten trainer in America, John Tyler Servis – as his name is listed in the program – was interviewed on TVG.
“The important thing was just how hard the horse ran,” Tyler said. “For him to get passed, I almost felt like he was doing it for me past the sixteenth pole. That horse ran right by him and he dug in.”
Wentz won $51,000 for owner Main Line Racing Stable, earning a career-best 98 Beyer Speed Figure. Nice way to start a training career.
John’s dad Joe was a jockey and then a longtime racing official. John’s brother Jason is a trainer and will have Florida Derby winner Maximum Security in the Kentucky Derby.
“He was like me, ever since he could talk about it,” John said of his younger son. “He actually wanted to be a jockey. He galloped horses for me and he was working horses. He had just turned 16, was breezing horses; was probably 100 pounds maybe. But he had big feet on him. My wife was sick; she didn’t want him to be a jockey. I said, ‘honey, if he grows into those feet, you’re not going to have to worry about him becoming a jockey.’”
Tyler, 28, stands 6-1, his jockey days long over.
But there was a time…
Back in 2005 when Servis had his stable at Oaklawn Park and he and Sherry’s two sons, Blane and Tyler, were in school there, he needed an exercise rider because they shipped in early when no riders were around. In fact, hardly anybody was on the grounds. He asked if he could use an underage Tyler until some exercise riders appeared.
“He was getting on three, four horses for me in the morning, mucking a couple of stalls and then going to school,” John said. “He learned the work ethic pretty quick… I actually have a picture of him galloping a filly for Mrs. Chapman. He’s so small, it’s hilarious.”
Tyler was not only with Wentz at Keeneland; he has been overseeing the preparation for two-year-old filly champion Jaywalk’s run at the Kentucky Oaks. He will be back at Parx in mid-May with a few horses and some stalls of his own near his father. Several owners have promised to send some horses his way. It is what he’s always wanted.
“The best way to explain it is when you’re out there and you can hear the birds chirping and the horses just galloping around there, that’s music to my ears,” Tyler said.