JOHN SERVIS “EXCITED” FOR DELAWARE OAKS PAIR
Trainers usually try to keep the better horses in their barn apart, sending this one to a race here and that one to a race there. There are practical reasons for those decisions, of course, not the least of which is keeping the owners happy.
John Servis is set to send out two in Saturday’s Grade 3, $300,000 Delaware Oaks: Midnight Obsession, who’s 4-1 on the morning line and races in the colors of Main Line Racing Stable for owner Dr. Lou Bucky, and Leader of the Band (8-1), racing in the colors of S M D Limited (Will Schwartz). But the owners aren’t kicking at all.
“You know, it’s funny because the owners are very good friends, so they’ve been having some fun with it,” Servis said. “The options were either this or head to Indiana or even Prairie Meadows. But they were excited about running against each other, and we thought it’d be better to keep them at home.”
In fact, Servis said, the two men often play golf together and have owned numerous horses in partnership.
So a quick jaunt down I-95 from Servis’ Parx Racing base seemed like the best answer. The trip should be easy enough, but the task in front of the two fillies certainly will not be. Crazy Beautiful, the Kenny McPeek-trained 6-5 favorite, is a two-time graded winner who scored last out in the Grade 2 Summertime Oaks at Santa Anita.
Still, Servis says he’s bringing “some ammo” to the fight, and he likes the way both his charges are heading into the contest.
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Midnight Obsession, a Pennsylvania-bred daughter of Overanalyze, won the first two starts of her career, the first against state-breds and the second, more impressively, in allowance company at Belmont Park.
Last time out, in the off-the-turf Lyphard Stakes at Penn National, she and veteran Trolley Ride, a six-year-old mare, hooked up in upper stretch and battled all the way to the wire, with Trolley Ride prevailing narrowly. The two of them were 19 lengths clear of the show horse.
“I was tickled to death with the way she ran,” Servis said. “She actually jumped a couple of puddles down the backside. And the winner looked like she was going to run by everybody and win by 10, but when she got to my filly, my filly dug in.”
Both Midnight Obsession’s allowance win in New York and her runner-up effort in the Lyphard came at the 1 1/16-mile distance of the Oaks.
Joe Bravo, who rode her in the Lyphard, has the return mount.
“He rode her at Penn National and really liked her,” Servis said. “He called me the next morning and asked how she came out of it and where she was going next. I told him, and two days later his agent called me and asked if he could ride her.”
While the distance question has already been asked and answered for Midnight Obsession, the same is not true for Leader of the Band. Saturday’s Oaks will be her first race beyond seven furlongs.
“I don’t think the distance will be an issue,” Servis said. “It is the first time going two turns, but she’s trained like she can handle it with no problem.”
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Also a Pennsylvania-bred, Leader of the Band is a daughter of Bandbox out of the Sir Cat mare Catsuit.
Leader of the Band has been gradually improving, and last out in a Parx allowance, she delivered the best performance of her five-race career. Away slowly, she rushed up to stalk the pace, confronted the leader in upper stretch, and drew away to win by over four lengths.
That was back on May 3, and she hasn’t run since, though she has four solid works since then.
“Quite frankly, the reason that we gave her a little break after the last race leading up to the Oaks was that she ran a big number. Her Thoro-graph number jumped up big time,” Servis explained. “I didn’t want to have her bottomed out going into the Oaks, so I gave her plenty of time in between.”
Frankie Pennington, who’s ridden Leader of the Band twice, including in that recent victory, will be along for the ride.
All in all, it could be a big day for the Servis team.
“I’m excited to watch both fillies run,” said Servis, who’s won the Oaks twice previously, including two years ago with Jaywalk. “We’re going to have fun.”
As for his two owners, they’ll be sitting together in Delaware Park’s dining room. Do they have a side bet on the race?
“I don’t know, but I’m sure they do,” Servis said.