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.

But why?

“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.


By Dick Jerardi

When David Osojnak took over as Parx Director of Racing last year, he saw how good the stakes schedule had already become and thought he might even be able to improve upon it. He has.

He has added on to Pennsylvania Derby Day, which was already terrific with the Grade I $1 million Pa. Derby, Grade I $1 million Cotillion Stakes and $300,000 Grade II Gallant Bob. The big day, which will be Sept. 21 and marks the first time in the 45-year history of the track that any of its races will be nationally televised (NBC), will also include the $150,000 Parx Dirt Mile, the $150,000 Turf Amazon Stakes, the $100,000 Alphabet Soup Handicap and the $100,000 Plum Pretty, seven stakes in all.

“There was a Pa. Derby Champions Stakes before,” Osojnak said. “We re-invented it somewhat. We’re calling it the Parx Dirt Mile… We have a two-turn dirt mile and several of the race tracks that hold the Breeders’ Cup run two-turn dirt miles. I think it would be a perfect prep for the (Breeders’ Cup) Dirt Mile. It could become Grade III, we could promote it and it could be huge.”

Prior to coming to Parx, Osojnak worked in jobs all over the industry, most recently in the New York Racing Association (NYRA) racing office. So he knows all about Grade I races.

“I was never at this level at NYRA,” Osojnak said. “I kind of came up the ladder a little bit. This is my first time putting these big races together. It’s exciting and nerve-wracking. We’re going to do the best we can to make a nice, full card. We’re going to try to target the big guys at Saratoga and all over the country. And we have those other stakes races where they can bring more horses on vans or planes or whatever they want to do.”

Smarty Jones Day will be Sept. 2 (Labor Day). In addition to the $350,000 Grade III Smarty Jones Stakes, there will be six other stakes, including the $300,000 Turf Monster, the $150,000 Cathryn Sophia Stakes and four MATCH Series races, each worth $100,000: the Salvatore M. DeBunda PTHA President’s Cup, the Roamin Rachel Stakes, the Bensalem Stakes and the Neshaminy Stakes.

That gives the track a second Event Day, a concept that has become big in horse racing around the country.

“We have the Smarty Jones so we thought we’d have a similar race for the (three-year-old) fillies,” Osojnak said of the Cathryn Sophia. “Maybe, we’ll get the winners to come back in 19 days (for the Cotillion and Pa. Derby).”

The idea to bundle all the MATCH races is not just being done at Parx. It is also being done at Laurel Park, Delaware Park, Penn National and Monmouth Park, the other Mid-Atlantic tracks that participate in the series.

“Instead of being all over the place on different days, we’re doing more like an Event Day, have all four MATCH races at one track on one day just to make it more of an event,” Osojnak said. “It’s better for the horsemen to ship into one track if they have a couple of horses that would have been shipping in different directions. It’s going to be great, I think.”

The stakes schedule begins April 27 with the Foxy J G Stakes and the Lyman Handicap, each $100,000 for Pennsylvania-Breds. The $100,000 Crowd Pleaser and $100,000 Power By Far for PA-Breds will join the $75,000 Turning for Home Starter Handicap on June 22 to make the 6th Annual Turning for Home Day even more exciting. The $200,000 Grade III Dr. James Penny Memorial will be run July 2 and the $200,000 Grade III Parx Dash goes July 6.

Pennsylvania’s Day at the Races has been moved from September to Aug. 3 and will include five $100,000 stakes for PA-Breds, the Banjo Picker Sprint, Mrs. Penny Stakes, Marshall Jenney Handicap, Dr. Teresa Garofalo Memorial and Roanoke Stakes.

The $200,000 Grade III Greenwood Cup will be run Oct. 5 and the $100,000 Pennsylvania Nursery ends the stakes season on Dec. 7.