Servis uses Lasix to keep Smarty Jones in running

May 16, 2004

BALTIMORE - Notes and quotes while awaiting the Grade I, $1 million Preakness Stakes at the Pimlico Race Course: Demons Begone.

Those two words were trainer John Servis' explananation why he decided to give Lasix to Smarty Jones for the first time in the Kentucky Derby.

"I saw what happened to Demons Begone, I didn't want it to happen to my horse," said the Charles Town, W.Va., native Saturday morning at Pimlico's stakes barn.

Demons Begone entered the 1984 Kentucky Derby without the use of Lasix and was the betting favorite but bled profusely in the first race of the Triple Crown Series. Jockey Pat Day pulled up on the horse midway through the race, which allowed Alysheba to win.


Lasix is a diuretic used on horses to control bleeding through the nostrils and is used extensively by thoroughbred horse trainers.

"We scoped Smarty Jones before the Derby and he showed a little blood but nothing to get excited about. All horses show a little bleeding," Servis said. "I decided to give him some Lasix for the Derby and I didn't think I was taking any risks. We gave him about 4 ccs, the same as we used for the Preakness."

The Lasix didn't seem to bother Smarty Jones in the Kentucky Derby, as he extended an unbeaten streak to seven straight wins.

Extra income

Pat and Roy Chapman, owners of Smarty Jones, received a $5 million bonus for winning the Southwest Stakes, Rebel Stakes and Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park.

As for Servis, he's unsure of his share.

"The Chapmans have always been very fair and I think that will continue," Servis said. "We really haven't had any serious discussions concerning the bonus payoff."

More important things to worry about - like winning the Triple Crown Series.

Jostle-ing for position

Servis said he didn't have to place a "Help Wanted" ad this year when looking for a jockey to ride Smarty Jones.

The same can't be said for Jostle in 2000.

Servis had all kinds of problems getting someone to ride the talented filly, which won the Black Eyed Susan at Pimlico (the filly version of the Preakness) en route to an appearance in the Breeders' Cup Distaff at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky.

"Things were a little different this year," Servis said. "I committed to using Stew (Stewart Elliott) from the get-go and the other jocks' agents pretty much left me alone."

The picture was different in 2000.

"Stew rode Jostle early on but he got injured in the New York race and I went looking for a rider," Servis said. "I had a number of good jockeys riding the horse but they stopped for one reason or another. I then used Mike Smith as the regular."

It's tough switching jockeys, especially on horses the caliber of Jostle.

"Kent Desormeaux rode her in the Black Eyed Susan and went 'preaching to the choir' how good the filly ran. Then before the New York races (Coaching Club, Mother Goose and Alabama), Desormeaux's agent called and said I needed to find another rider. Edgar (Prado) rode her in the Mother Goose but had other obligations for some of the other races. I then switched to Mike Smith."

There's not a jockey in America who wouldn't mind riding Smarty Jones but Servis and the owners are quite happy with Elliott.

Another CT success story

Linda Albert, the trainer of Preakness Stakes entry Water Cannon, rode horses at Charles Town 20 years ago.

"I was a jockey at Charles Town in 1984," the Maryland-based conditioner said. "I was working for (trainer) Craig Nicholson at the time and he had some horses running there. I rode for a year. When they shut down, I decided to give up race-riding because I gained some weight and didn't feel like taking the pounds off. I then devoted more time to training horses."

Albert says her Charles Town career isn't over.

"When we shut down here (Pimlico), I'll be looking for places for my horses to run and I'll be taking some to Charles Town," Albert said.

Albert, who trains 25 horses, has enjoyed a successful career as a trainer.

In 2003, she was the leading female trainer in Maryland with 24 trips to the winner's circle, which ranked 17th in the state. She has won 33 career races with earnings exceeding $550,000.

Albert's career highlights include training multiple stakes winner Perfect To A Tee - winner of three added-money races in Maryland in 1999, including the Maryland Million Classic and Grade III William Donald Schaefer Handicap - and winning the 1998 Maryland Million Lassie with Perfect Challenge.

Albert gained her first victory as a trainer in 1989 with Turkish Taffy at Laurel Park.

Different Servis

Two of the Maryland stewards, Phil Grove and William Passmore, are more familiar with Joe, not John, Servis.

The trainers' dad, who resides in Charles Town, W.Va., has been involved with thoroughbred horse racing for many years.

He was a jockey before becoming a Jockey's Guild representative. He has also served as a steward in West Virginia, Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

"I rode against Joe," Passmore said.

"I was riding when Joe was a guild representative," Grove said.

Both offered high praise for the Charles Town resident.

Larry Yanos is sports editor of The Daily Mail. He covers horse racing for The Herald-Mail. He can be reached at 301-733-5131 ext. 2311, or by e-mail at

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