gray lightning the most exciting horse at parx

By Dick Jerardi

There is a reasonable debate about the best horse currently stabled on the Parx Racing backstretch. There is no debate about the most exciting.

That would be the aptly named 3-year-old Pennsylvania bred filly Gray Lightning, housed in Barn 9 where trainer Tyler Servis has his 18 horses.

How many horses win consecutive races by double digit lengths? Very few. Gray Lightning did it in March and April this year at Parx.

She announced herself on March 18 when she won an optional claimer by 14 1/2 lengths, running 6 furlongs in 1:12.30. Three races later, the older male stakes horse Uncle Ernie, trained by Tyler’s father John Servis, ran the same distance in 1:12.26.

Gray Lightning’s time equated to a 94 Beyer speed figure. The secret was out. After breaking her maiden in a $40,000 claiming race last November and then running second in an optional claimer Dec. 20, Gray Lightning had blown up and became a commodity.

She was sold by owner/breeder Desmond Wynter for $370,000 to NR Club during a Fasig-Tipton digital sale in April.

“She’s worth that just based on her numbers,” Servis said.

And the new owners, a Russian group based in Dubai, chose to keep her with Servis.

“The utmost gratitude for NR Club giving me the opportunity to keep this filly,” he said.

Her first start for the new owners was April 29 in an allowance race and it looked like an instant replay of the March 18 race. She cleared the field instantly, this time at 5 1/2 furlongs, won by 12 1/4 lengths and got another 94 Beyer.

Gray Lightning “got a little sick his winter, had a little bit of a high fever.”

So they backed off of her and, according to Servis, she “really gained muscle and seemed to mature a ton.”

Still a bit of a secret, she was 7-2 in the first start back, 3-10 in the second, a mystery no longer.

Tyler Servis was 13 when Smarty Jones was rocketing across the racing landscape in 2004. Twenty years later, now 33, Tyler has his first potentially “big” horse.

“It’s very exciting,” Servis said. “I had the pleasure of working with my dad for a lot of years and been around a lot of nice horses. And then you take that leap to go on your own.”

The elder Servis, whose Barn 8 faces Barn 9, had so many good horses in the barn. Tyler knew he was not getting those kinds of horses when he was just starting in a new role.

“I’m just really blessed to have gotten it now,” he said.

Gray Lightning is by Social Inclusion, sire of such Parx standouts as Uncle Heavy, Gordian Knot and Flor de Sombra. She is out of Fairy Gray who was just 1-for-12 in her career, her only win coming in a maiden $25,000 claimer at 5 furlongs on the grass June 7, 2016 at Parx for trainer Ralph Riviezzo.

In a full circle moment, her daughter Gray Lightning will make her next start in the 6-furlong Jersey Girl Stakes almost exactly eight years later, next Thursday June 6 at Saratoga during the first day of the four-day Belmont Stakes Festival.

“She’s a really fast filly,” Servis said. “I hope she’s fast next Thursday.”

She will be fast. The question is: what happens if she gets challenged, if another filly is actually fast enough to challenge her?

“I really don’t know what her potential is,” Servis said.

Jorge Vargas, who rode Gray Lightning, in the two wins this year, retains the mount.

The instructions for the Jersey Girl will not be complicated.

“You’ve got to use that speed to her advantage,” Servis said. “It seems like she just runs them off their feet.”

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