AUGUST 20, 2012
Trainer Jason Servis enjoying banner 2012
by Lynne Snierson
Moreover, 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 jockey's room in the afternoons.
"I was born to do this. It is in my blood," the 55-year-old Servis acknowledged. "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 jockey's room and there was no wagering."
Servis' 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 jockey's room at Monmouth.
"I quit riding in 1975 and worked in the jocks' room for some 20 years," Servis explained. "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 noted. "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."
The Servis system is working well. To date, his horses are winning at a 26 percent clip at all tracks and at Monmouth, he won with 11 of his first 47 starters for a 23 percent rate to rank in the top 10 of the meet's leaders.
"Things are going really well," said Servis, who won his first graded stakes race when American Border took the Grade 3 Violet Stakes in 2008 at The Meadowlands. "I'm excited to think that they're going to get even better."
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