There are no Breeders’ Cup contenders or Triple Crown
campaigners in his barn, but Jason Servis is well on his way to having the best
year of his training career.
everything from maiden New Jersey-breds to turf horses, but am a little light
on stakes horses right now,” said Servis, who bases his operation at Monmouth Park
while moving divisions among Saratoga Race Course, Belmont
Park, and Palm Meadows
as the racing calendar turns.
August 17, Servis ranked 69th among all North American trainers by
earnings with $1,535,501 and 54 winners from 204 starts. He is on pace to
surpass 2008, when his charges bankrolled $1,770,064 and found the winner’s
circle 65 times.
are running good at tracks all over,” said Servis, 55, who has been
conditioning horses for the past decade. “This is just turning into a real good
year. To stay steady, you need to see the little things and have good
horsemanship. You have to have a sense about this game.”
is second nature to Servis. As the son of former West Virginia State Steward
Joe Servis, who held the position for 35 years and then headed the Jockeys’
Guild for another 15 years, he has spent his entire life on the racetrack. His
brother, John Servis, trained 2004 Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes winner
Smarty Jones, his sister, Laurie, is married to Monmouth and South
Florida-based trainer Eddie Plesa. Jr. and his other sister, Jodie, is a mutuel
clerk at Hollywood Casino and Charlestown Races.
his wife, Natalie, works with him every day in the barn and his son, Garrett,
gets on some of his horses in the mornings and works as a back-up valet in the
Monmouth jockeys’ room in the afternoons.
“I was born
to do this. It is in my blood,” said the 55-year-old Servis. “There are
pictures of me riding races when I was 15 and John, who was 13 at the time, was
running the horse. That was at the old Shenandoah Downs. At 15, I was also
riding in hunt races at the old Emerald Downs in Ruby, Virginia. It wasn’t a recognized track.
There was a trailer for the jockeys’ room and there was no wagering.”
father insisted that he graduate from high school before riding professionally,
but once he had his diploma in hand, he became a jockey at age 18. He took his
tack to the old Waterford Park in West Virginia,
Thistledown in Ohio
and Monmouth among others, but as he matured weight became a detriment. So he
went to work for Peter Fortay as an exercise rider and assistant trainer in the
mornings and spent his afternoons in the jockeys’ room at Monmouth.
“I quit riding in 1975 and worked in the
jocks’ room for some 20 years,” said Servis. “Then Mr. (Dennis) Drazin asked me
if I wanted to take some horses for him and I took out my trainer’s license. I
won with some horses for him in New
York and then (the late) Jimmy Croll sent me one, and
I won with that horse, too. From there, it just snowballed and I started
picking up more clients and winning more races. When I decided to train, it was
an easy transition for me.” Servis still trains for
Drazin, the advisor to the New Jersey Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association and
Darby Development LLC, and his main client is Ron Lombardi of Mr. Amore
Stables. Desiray Fitzpatrick is his top assistant at Monmouth and Henry Arguta
oversees the shedrow in New York.
And in the mornings, he can still be found in the irons as his horses work over
the Monmouth strip.
“I get on
more horses when in Florida,”
he said. “Right now, I have a full barn here and when you’ve got that many,
you’ve got to move around more and take care of more details.”
system is working well. To date, his horses are winning at a 26% clip at all
tracks and at Monmouth, he won with 11 of his first 47 starters for a 23% rate
to rank in the top 10 of the meet’s
going really well,” said Servis, who won his first graded stakes race when
American Border took the 2008 Violet Stakes at The Meadowlands. “I’m excited to
think that they’re going to get even better.”
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