By Dick Jerardi
It was only fitting that, after the greatest year in the history of Parx Racing, 394 people—the biggest crowd in the history of the Horsemen’s Awards Banquet—filled the big room at Celebrations on the evening of March 27.
Many were there to be celebrated. And everybody else was there to celebrate with them.
Trainer Eddie Coletti was called to the front of the room three times with his owners to accept divisional championship awards, first with Tara’s Talent (Two-Year-Old Filly), followed by Dixie Serenade (Three-Year-Old Filly) and then Zipper’s Hero (Four-Year-Old and Up Filly or Mare). Trainer Butch Reid hit the front with Maximus Mischief (Two-Year-Old Colt or Gelding) and Navy Commander (Three-Year-Old Colt or Gelding).
Even though they were not eligible for Parx awards because they did not race enough at the track, the connections of Parx-based Jaywalk, Discreet Lover and Imperial Hint received Special Achievement awards after winning a combined five Grade I stakes in 2018.
John Servis won his first Parx training title. Frankie Pennington won his record fifth consecutive jockeys’ title.
Servis spends much of his winter training his horses in Florida, but always comes back for the Awards Banquet.
“I was really looking forward to this year with winning the Leading Trainer,” Servis said.
There was a party the night after the banquet in the track kitchen for his entire barn. Servis, a charter member of the Parx Racing Hall of Fame, has won so many awards, but never leading trainer at his home track—until now.
“You know how my operation works,” Servis said. “We concentrate on the young horses and try to come up with some good horses down the road. To be Leading Trainer at the end of the year, that just shows what a good crew I have and how much they work together as a team and how much my owners participate and want good horses.”
It was no surprise that Aztec Sense was named 2018 Parx Horse of the Year. The horse was a perfect 8-for-8 in 2018. The perfect year included four wins at Parx, three of them in stakes.
Owner Joe Besecker could not make the banquet because he was watching his son play in a high school basketball All Star game. Jeff Matty, who works closely with Besecker’s massive horse operation, was there to accept the award.
“Joe wishes he could have been here,” Matty said. “Joe found the horse, but since that day, (trainer) Jorge’s (Navarro) team did a phenomenal job. We found a couple spots throughout the year. Jorge just said be patient with the horse, he’ll run his race when we run him. We gave him the time and he just ran huge every single time we ran him.”
Aztec Sense was really good everywhere, but was great at Parx where he obviously loved the forgiving surface.
“For some reason, he floats over it,” Matty said. “When we brought him to Parx, we had the utmost confidence. It’s been a dream.”