Family affair

Like father, like son: services make it a family affair at Parx – Horse Racing News

The family is an integral part of the human and equine history of racing. Like Thoroughbreds, countless riders are born into the sport and descended from a family steeped in craft and tradition.

On Thursday morning, father and son John and Tyler Servis stood along the outside rail at the back of Parx, waiting for their horses to practice. Tyler, with his arm wrapped around his father’s shoulders, talked about their horses.

On Saturday, the Parx-based veteran trainer will be joined by his son, now also a trainer, as they send their horses out the door amid a stakes-packed schedule highlighted by the 1 million dollars from 1st year to Parx.

John has five horses entered that day, including stake riders Precious (Plum Pretty), Leader of the Band (Cotillion G1) and Irish Cork (Alphabet Soup).

Tyler will send two, led by Shooger Ray Too in the $200,000 Grade 3 Greenwood Cup. It will only be the third time he has saddled a horse in a grade stake in his short time as a trainer.

Tyler, 30, came out on his own two years ago after spending most of his young life in his father’s shadow amid 10,744 starts, 1,306 wins and $52 million in earnings. He was around 14 and had a ringside seat when the ever-popular Smarty Jones bid for the Triple Crown in 2004, sweeping the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness before falling second in the Belmont Stakes.

Together they worked side by side for long hours, through good days and bad. The eldest rider, a master of his craft, teaches his son through hands-on experience in hopes that he can one day follow in his footsteps. Now Tyler has 18 horses stabled alongside his dad on the straight.

“I started galloping for him when I was 14 in Oaklawn,” Tyler said. “I rode my first horse at the racecourse, then at 16 I was able to get a license and gallop for him before school. I did that for a few years, and I would say probably during my freshman year of high school, I became his foreman. Then in my senior year, when I graduated, I became his assistant. Then, two years ago, I decided to go out on my own.

The decision to embark on a career as a trainer may come too soon, too late or not at all as many have failed over the years. For the Servis, the decision for Tyler to stay with his father or try his hand at himself was not an easy one.

“It was a two-way street,” Tyler said. “He was kind of pushing me to try to go out and do my own thing and see what I could do, and I was getting to the point where I think I was ready for that change and that kind of task at hand. “

John, the proud dad, remembered a dream his son had over ten years ago. Tyler dreamed of being a jockey when he was older. As a freshman in high school, he was 5 feet 7 inches tall and weighed 90 pounds. By his senior year, he was 6 feet tall and doubled in weight. Now, as they train separately for different clients, the bond remains.

“He was going to be a jockey,” John said. “He was 16. I have pictures of him shuffling horses and his mother was so upset, saying ‘I don’t want him to be a jockey. I said, ‘honey, trust me , when he grows in these feet, he will not become a jockey.’

“It’s fun and it’s exciting,” John said. “Every time he races a horse, he calls me five minutes after the race and asks me: ‘what did you think? If he doesn’t call, it’s because the horse has won and is basking in glory. So I’m going to call him and say, ‘hey, you never called me!’ He will say, ‘oh, I was so busy, I didn’t have time.’

“We are right next to each other here (in the back). After a horse has run or after it has worked, I take it out the next day and review it and run it on the road and stuff like that. He does the same thing, but it’s funny that now when we do that, just one of us, the other one comes out and watches them too so it’s neat. He does it for me and I do it for him,” John said.

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When Tyler saddles Shooger Ray Too in the Greenwood Cup, he hopes third time will be the charm after saddled Wentz to a fourth-place finish in the Grade 3 Maryland Sprint Stakes in his first year solo. He then shipped to Aqueduct and finished fifth in the Grade 3 Tom Fool Handicap.

Tyler will need to win 33 graduated stakes if he is to match his father’s mark, but for now he is focused on Saturday and he likes his horse’s luck in the 1 1/2 mile race.

“He’s doing great,” Tyler said. “He did very well in his race in Saratoga (2nd in the Birdstone, August 5). We’ve been pointing this race all year, so obviously we have high hopes for him. This is his home track, and he will enjoy the distance of this race and hopefully we will get some good results.

“I’ll be taking ten to New York for the winter,” Tyler said. “My first time up there. I want to try to diversify a bit and generate some business. New face, new opportunity and maybe attract new people. The experience won’t hurt. At least I can say I tried if it doesn’t work.

Win or lose this Saturday, the future looks bright for the young rider. From a great lineage comes great opportunity with the hope of a promising career for years to come.