BY DICK JERARDI
John Servis has been training horses for 35 years. It was 15 years before he got his first really good horse, a filly named Jostle who won two Grade I stakes.
Servis may train at Parx, but it is at Churchill Downs where his record borders on the incredible. He is 1-for-1 in the Kentucky Derby (Smarty Jones, 2004), 1-for-1 in the Kentucky Oaks (Cathryn Sophia, 2016) and now 1-for-1 in Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies after Jaywalk absolutely blew away the field in last Friday’s $2 million race.
The trainer, who lives in Bensalem not far from the Parx stable gate, is compiling a Hall of Fame resume. The Juvenile Fillies was his seventh Grade I win. He has 29 graded stakes wins. In all, he has won 1,738 races, with $56.8 million in earnings, just out of the top 50 all-time.
When asked about the Hall of Fame, Servis has always been modest. But the results are the results.
“It would be great, I’d love it,” Servis said after Jaywalk’s Breeders’ Cup win. “But this business has been so good to me. I’ve been so fortunate to train for people like the Greens and Mr. Zacney and all the owners. I’m just enjoying the game.”
And there is this. If Smarty Jones was left alone on the lead in the 2004 Belmont Stakes like American Pharoah (2015) and Justify (2018), there is zero doubt Smarty would have won the race and the Triple Crown.
Jaywalk is the latest Servis masterpiece. She finished second in her first race and has not come close to losing in four races since then. She won the Frizette big and the Breeder’s Cup just as big. Her four straight wins have come by a combined 20 lengths.
Owned by DJ Stable (Leonard and Lois Green and son Jonathan) and Cash Is King Stable (Chuck Zacney), Jaywalk is the favorite to be named 2018 2-year-old filly champion. Only a breaking precedent vote for the brilliant grass filly Newspaperofrecord would deny Jaywalk the Eclipse Award. The award typically goes to the best horse on dirt and that is definitely Jaywalk.
DJ Stable, which has been around for 30 years and has just shy of 2,500 winners is named for the Greens’ children, daughter Deborah and son Jon.
“It’s indescribable,” Jon Green said of the feeling after the Breeders’ Cup race. “You get into this game with the hopes and dreams that you’re going to be in a stakes race. And then you ramp it up after you win a stakes race and you get a little greedy and you want to win a graded stakes race and then of course you eventually want to get to the big show which is the Breeders’ Cup or the Oaks or the Derby.”
Winning an Eclipse Award?
“An Eclipse Award is one of those things that you dream about, like hitting a home run out of Yankee Stadium in the seventh game of the World Series,” Jon Green said. “It’s something that you can’t even consider.”
The Greens can now consider it.
Zacney was in England and then Ireland for vacation Breeders’ Cup week. He got off a plane in Philadelphia two hours before Jaywalk’s race, stopped at the Oaks Turf Club to get a Daily Racing Form and replenish his betting account. He watched the race by himself from his Collegeville home.
“Can you imagine the Chuck Zacney double (in May)?” Zacney said.
That would be Jaywalk in the Kentucky Oaks and Maximus Mischief, the hot 2-year-old owned by Zacney and Glenn Bennett in the Derby the next day.
So why does Servis do so well at Churchill?
“I come with good horses,” he said.
The trainer was extremely confident in Jaywalk.
“Going into this race, she trained super well,” Servis said. “I trained her a little differently to see if she’d handle the two turns and I was very confident with that.”
Jaywalk headed south after the Breeders’ Cup, first to Palm Meadows training facility in Florida and then she will go to a farm a bit north in Ocala for 30 days or so to rest and relax. Servis will train her at Palm Meadows for a 2019 campaign with the first big goal to return to Churchill Downs for the Kentucky Oaks.
Saturday was not as good as Friday for the other three Parx horses that ran in the Breeders’ Cup.
In three races at Churchill, Imperial Hint has finished 12th, sixth and third in Saturday’s Breeders’ Cup Sprint. In his other 15 races, the 5-year-old horse has won 12 times. The horse simply does not duplicate his best form on the Churchill surface. When he is at his best, there is no horse faster. Unfortunately, Imperial Hint has never been close to his best at Churchill.
Always Sunshine, who is trained by Ned Allard and also stabled at Parx, was 52-1 under four-time Parx champion jockey Frankie Pennington in the Sprint. Always Sunshine was a close third behind extremely fast early fractions, but seemed to lose his action for an instant and eventually finished last.
Discreet Lover, the $10,000 purchase, was 53-1 in the $6 million Classic for owner/trainer Uriah St. Lewis. Making the 45th and maybe last start of his career, Discreet Lover put in a little run, but could only finished eighth, 7 1/2 lengths back against 13 of the world’s best horses. Regardless of that finish, Discreet Lover, with his body of work and that unforgettable win in the Jockey Club Gold Cup at 45-1, has done quite enough to be remembered as one of the great success stories in Parx history.