10/03/2006 11:00PM

Trainer Profile: Jason Servis

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Jason Servis was the leading trainer at the Meadowlands last year, and though he beat some stiff competition for the title, he wasn't all that surprised that he topped the standings at the end of the short meet.

"I was sitting on conditions coming into the Meadowlands meet," he said. "My horses had tons of seconds. I had lots of maidens."

Maiden races, in fact, were the strong suit of the barn at this meet last year, which makes sense, as that category is Servis's strength virtually year-round. He wins at a solid 33 percent with horses in maiden special weight races, and his maiden claimers win at 28 percent, also a very high rate. At last year's Meadowlands meet, Servis saddled two maiden claimers, and both won. He won with 4 of 6 horses in maiden special weight races, and with 2 of 3 first-time starters. With 15 winners overall for Servis at the 2005 meet, maidens were a big reason for the barn's success. He also saddled a pair of maiden special weight winners at the Meadowlands in 2004, along with four placings, from eight starters.

This year, he says, things may be a little tougher for him, but bettors should expect another solid showing from a trainer who wins his share of races despite flying under the radar just a bit.

"I'd sure like to defend my title, and I'll be running my horses," he said. "I'm a player, but I may not have as much luck as last year. I had a great summer, and I'm on track to go over $1 million on the year, like I did in 2005."

Servis is already off to a quick start at the Meadowlands, posting a win on Saturday, the second night of the meet, with Home Befor Midnite, who captured a claiming sprint for nonwinners of two. That's another situation where Servis excels, as he's able to spot his horses well in both restricted and open claimers.

One angle players can look for is when Servis has a horse making the second start after a claim. For each of the past two years, the barn has had one runner who fit that condition run at the Meadowlands, and both won. Servis also sports a positive return on investment with horses making their first start off the claim, and he wins at an 18 percent clip with that angle.

Nearly every trainer has a weakness, and for Servis it's turf runners. His dirt-to-turf

(5 percent), first-time turf (0 percent), and overall turf numbers (7 percent) are on the low side, but that's to be expected given the type of outfit Servis runs. There are only so many maiden grass races run on this circuit, and that gives the turf barns the edge in those races, and claiming horses don't fit the turf program, which is geared toward higher-priced claimers and allowance runners.

Servis has been a public trainer only since 2001, but that was after many years spent galloping horses and as a jockeys' room valet. Those experiences helped make the switch to full-time trainer a smooth one, and his racetrack pedigree helped, too. Joe Servis, Jason's father, is a former jockey who has spent the last 35 years in stewards' stands. One of his sisters, Laurie, is married to trainer Eddie Plesa, and his brother, John, is best known as the trainer of 2004 Kentucky Derby winner Smarty Jones.

Servis has 35 horses stabled at Monmouth Park for various owners, including Dennis Drazin, president of the New Jersey Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association. One horse, Tempest Fugit, provided him with three of his six stakes victories, capturing the $100,000 Oceanport Handicap in 2002 at Monmouth Park, the $55,000 Eight Thirty Stakes in 2002 at Laurel Park, and the $100,000 John B. Campbell in 2003 at Laurel.

At Monmouth Park's 2006 meet, which concluded Sept. 24, Servis finished tied for seventh in the standings with 21 wins, 24 seconds and 14 thirds from 111 starters, banking $587,705.