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Joey Evans had been on the race track for 30 years, mostly as a groom. When he was working for trainer Cindy Servideo at Parx in 2018, his favorite horse was a gelding named Undeniable Temper.
Evans, 58, passed away on March 31. There was a memorial service for him in the Parx winner’s circle at 11 a.m. on April 6. The fifth race that day, a conditioned $7,500 claimer, was named in Evans’ honor. Undeniable Temper was 4-1 for Ron Dandy, who took over the training last year, lost him briefly on a claim and got him back when the owner re-purchased him. Dandy then gave the horse some time on a farm before bringing him back to the track in late winter
Undeniable Temper battled for the lead the entire way, took over in the stretch and held on to win by three-quarters of a length, his first win in nearly 14 months.
“I know that he was with him right there with (Undeniable Temper),” said Joey’s sister Donna Evans. “I have no doubt he’s with him and he pushed him. He can keep him going. I know he will.”
Undeniable Temper had raced 62 times prior to Evans’ death. The 8-year-old had nine wins, but had never won more than two straight. Well, after he won that race on April 6, he won an open $10,000 claimer on May 5 and then a first-level $52,454 allowance race on May 21, the first three-race win streak of his career. He was 4-1 and then 10-1 and 10-1 again. He won the last two by 6 1/4 lengths and then 3 1/2 lengths, making a huge move from the back each time.
“All of a sudden I just changed his training around a little bit,” Dandy said. “I just couldn’t believe how good he came around. You know how some horses just like what you do. He was liking what I was doing.”
There is that and there may be something else going on here.
Evans and his family lived in Norristown when he was young and were around horses at a family farm in Williamstown, N.J.
“He loved all the horses, everything about them,” Joey Evans’ sister Donna said. “We grew up with show horses as kids.”
And he really loved Undeniable Temper.
“When he got with certain horses he knew could do something, he put everything into it,” Donna Evans said. “That horse was so close to him. I have a really cool picture of them together.”
Donna and Joey were especially close too. They talked every day.
“It’s a loss for me to wait for that phone call and it’s not there,” Donna said. “I think about him every day. Certain things come up. It’s hard. My mom came from Florida for that day (of the service). Family up in Norristown came down for that day.”
Donna lives near Parkwood, not far from the track in Northeast Philadelphia.
“I’d like to thank Ron Dandy from the bottom of my heart for giving the horse a shot and keeping him going,” Donna said.
Undeniable Temper has won $302,841 in a career which began Aug. 31, 2013 at Gulfstream Park.
The horse had a great run in the fall and early winter of 2016, winning three times, with two seconds and a third. But this is easily the best run since then. And the first one of the three straight, now that was special.
“The family was there,” Dandy said. “They were all in the winner’s circle. It was just a good day for everybody.”
Dandy’s younger brother passes through the area once or twice a year.
“He has never been in a winner’s circle picture with me,” Dandy said.
He was in the winner’s circle on May 5 when Undeniable Temper won his second straight.
Jean Barbanti, who owns Undeniable Temper, lives in the Boston area.
“She never comes down,” Dandy said.
She came down for the third win on May 21.
“It’s just good to be around this horse because if you’re around this horse, you’re going to get lucky,” Dandy said.
Something is definitely going on here.
– By Dick Jerardi
Live Thoroughbred racing will now be held every Monday, Tuesday and Saturday through summer!
The one exception will see racing on Fathers Day, Sunday June 16th.
The Summer Season will be capped with a series of high profile September races:
* Smarty Jones Day on Labor Day September 2nd – some of the largest crowds in the history of PA racing are expected
* The Pennsylvania Derby and The Cotillion, both $1 million stakes races will follow on September 21st.
By Dick Jerardi
I grew up 15 minutes from Pimlico. I saw my first race there. It was so long ago that the grandstand was pretty much filled. My oldest brother and I sat in what we thought were empty seats, with newspapers draped over them. What we found out when two angry men returned was the newspaper left behind was the universal signal that the seat was occupied. Kind of ironic that I ended up in newspapers covering horse racing.
My first Preakness was 1973. If you watch old films of Secretariat storming through the stretch, I am one of those people running from the infield right up next to the rail, the great horse close enough to touch, but really so fast that he was by me in an instant on his way to legend.
Last Saturday was Preakness No. 144, No. 44 for me. It is my favorite Triple Crown race because, even after 34 years of working in Philadelphia, Baltimore is home, Pimlico is my hometown track and I love going back.
Pimlico has easily the best setup for the Triple Crown races, the horses in the Preakness barn a very short walk from the back of the grandstand. So many great memories of unforgettable races – Affirmed refusing to let Alydar by, hometown hero Spectacular Bid overwhelming the field, Sunday Silence and Easy Goer inseparable in the homestretch, Smarty Jones winning by what is still the biggest margin in Preakness history, Afleet Alex miraculously recovering from a near-fall and winning easily, and then the tragedy of Barbaro.
There is a chance that next year will be the last Preakness at Pimlico. That makes me kind of sad and not a little nostalgic. I’m not close enough to it to understand the disconnect behind the Stronach Group’s wish to move the race to Laurel Park and the city of Baltimore wanting it to stay at what would eventually have to be a rebuilt and/or refurbished Pimlico, a facility fairly described as being near the end of its useful life.
Whatever happens next, it was nice to see a deserving Preakness winner in War of Will for one of America’s great trainers, Mark Casse. I spent a lot of time Friday and Saturday touring old haunts, seeing old friends, showing a first-timer around Pimlico and checking out the Preakness horses.
I decided to watch the race from the old grandstand in a seat that must have been somewhere near that seat I was in very briefly all those years ago. This time, I had a credential so I could pretty much hang anywhere. When War of Will crossed the finish line right in front of me, I was back in the moment until I wasn’t.
When I left, I knew I would be back next year. But I also knew that there may not be another next year when I leave the track in 2020. That was harder to process and, regardless of who is right about what, difficult to understand.