September 3, 2019

 

WEATHER NO WORRY TO A CONFIDENT SERVIS AND AN EXUBERANT “MAX”

 

Barbara Luna

 

With the $1 million Pennsylvania Derby just 18 days away, Maximum Security’s trainer Jason Servis says he feels no pressure. He plans to ship from his base at Monmouth Park to Parx  65 miles away to work the colt over the track on Friday morning, and although there is rain in the forecast, 62-year-old horseman is confident that he can work around the weather.

 

“I am at the age and level of training that I don’t feel a lot of pressure to run, I surround myself with the right owners who support my decisions, and I try to have Maximum Security and my other horses at 100%.”

 

“I have been watching the weather reports for Bensalem (where Parx is located),” said Servis. “It says 50% chance of rain on Friday, but only 30% on Thursday, so we can move things up a day without altering his training plan. I prefer that he work over a fast track, but I know he is very good on a sloppy track, too.”

 

Servis in intent on giving “Max” at least two works over the sandy surface at Parx. It is often a game changing experience for horses or riders who have never raced on its inside rail (slow and tiring at times) or understand that it can be cuppy and tiring mid-track, say local trainers.

 

“I have run enough horses in my years of training to know that is beneficial for a horse to breeze over a track that he has never raced on,” said Servis.  “If the schedule works, I can bring him back for another work over it well before the Derby.”

 

Jockeys and trainers acknowledge that the Parx surface is different from other tracks. Servis experienced this firsthand, in the past shipping to run from Monmouth or Belmont. “Quite a few times I have not been able to explain why horses I felt had a solid chance ran poorly over it. I really want to work this horse over it a couple of times to make sure he gets a feel of it.”

 

The timing of the PA Derby after skipping the Travers gained Servis criticism from armchair horsemen but gave his three-year-old a chance to blossom after the heat of the summer and his victory in the Haskell on his home track.

 

Servis had this to say:

 

“My gut told me I wasn’t going to make the Travers. It would have been his third race in 72 days. I feel comfortable about giving him the extra time. He looks great.The cooler nights have darkened up his bay coat, and his dapples are beginning to shine through. He is an extremely sound horse, a feeling good horse who loves to train. He gets up on his hind legs on the way to the track in the morning, but then stands quietly for a few minutes before going off to jog and gallop.”

 

He continued:

 

“His enthusiasm makes him difficult to handle—he comes bouncing off the track after training and we have a pony who accompanies him back to our barn, “

 

After his daily gallops, Servis gives Maximum Security a few minutes to be turned loose in the round pen adjacent to his barn, allowed to nibble on some grass for a while, bathed, and then handed over to his own special hot walker who can handle the strong colt.

 

Servis acknowledges that 2019 has been a crazy year. Although he tries not to read social media nor be affected by criticism of his training method, anything he reads about himself, he did discuss his thought process behind entering Maximum Security for a $16,000 tag in his debut.

Servis said:

“People don’t understand horses like Maximum Security push people to jump in with their opinions. The horse is a Cinderella story and we took heat for it by running him for $16,000 in hist first start. But the colt ’s dam was an $11,000 mare and his sire was sent to Brazil to stand at stud because he could not attract mares in the United States. Racing for $16,000 in the maiden race made him eligible for two other very soft spots, which made his confidence so high going into the Florida Derby. How do you not take a swing at that?

 

“I have always heard that you keep your horse in the worst company, and you yourself in the best, and that is what I try to do.”

 

Although Maximum Security has garnered most of the attention this year,  Servis oversees 68 horses in training at Monmouth Park, and his Saratoga string of 32 that will soon ship to Belmont and is cared for by his assistant Henry Argueta. His winter circuit includes Florida for the turf runners.

 

“I don’t know if I could do this every year. Maybe we cut down a little bit — I kind of feel that less is more in this business. If I was still 40-years old, well maybe… I don’t want to sound ungrateful,  but sometimes the business part of it—the paperwork, checking the bills — when the amount of it gets so big, it can be hard to handle,”

said Servis, speaking like a man much more interested in being in the barn with his horses.. 


In the next few months, Servis will be doing just that, walking the shed completely focused on maintaining Maximum Security’s exuberance about training, his health, and his schedule up to his final races of the season on the path to for possible Horse of the Year honors.

 

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