In 2004, Chuck Zacney was inspired by a Philadelphia phenom, the rabidly popular champion Smarty Jones, and decided to dive headfirst into racehorse ownership. One of the first horses he purchased was Afleet Alex, who became a champion himself the very next season, winning the Preakness and Belmont Stakes and finishing a close third in the Kentucky Derby.
Now Zacney and Smarty Jones's trainer, John Servis, are in position to celebrate an Eclipse Award together in their shared connection with Jaywalk following her scintillating win by 5 ½ lengths in the Grade 1 Tito’s Handmade Vodka Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies on Nov. 2 at Churchill Downs.
Incredibly, in their only previous foray together at Churchill, Zacney's Cash Is King Stables and Servis had prevailed with Cathryn Sophia in the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks. Zacney was in attendance for that "big one," on the First Friday in May, but he was not on the scene for Jaywalk's Breeders' Cup score due to a travel conflict that reflects how far the filly has come within a few months.
Zacney is a huge Philadelphia Eagles fan and decided over the summer to attend the team's international game in London, England, against the Jacksonsville Jaguars on Oct. 28. He booked the trip months ago, with no idea that he would be arriving back home in Pennsylvania during the same afternoon as one of the biggest races in his tenure as an owner. In early October, Jaywalk became a Grade 1 winner with a speedy victory in the Frizette Stakes, but Zacney was content to leave his European trip unchanged and arrive home in time to watch the Juvenile Fillies on television at home.
"Things were already in motion when the Breeders' Cup came into the picture and I was in Europe with some really good friends and didn't want to shorten the trip," Zacney said. "I landed at 2:30 and watched the race at 4:45 at home, just me and my dog.
"I was yelling and screaming and he was looking at me like 'What the hell is going on?' It was a great feeling."
Zacney's Cash Is King Stable owns Jaywalk in partnership with the D J Stable of Leonard and Lois Green and their son, Jonathan. Zacney and the Greens decided a couple years ago to join forces with the hope that they could be more frequently involved in premier races. Judging by Jaywalk and the unbeaten 2-year-old colt Maximus Mischief, they are well on their way.
Maximus Mischief has turned heads with two straight runaway wins at Parx, earning exceptionally fast Beyer and Thoro-Graph speed figures. Maximus Mischief is trained by Butch Reid, a Parx mainstay like Servis, and he will make his stakes debut in the Grade 2 Remsen at Aqueduct on Dec. 1.
"We are in a great spot right now," Zacney said. "I've gotten a lot of phone calls [from people interested in buying Maximus Mischief], but I've turned them all down."
Zacney employs both Servis and Reid to avoid "having all his eggs in one basket." Reid won a Breeders' Cup race in 2011 with Afleet Again, whose victory in the Marathon came not long after Cash Is King sold the horse in a private deal.
Jaywalk's Breeders' Cup score was the first for Zacney, the Greens, and for Servis, who enhanced his sparkling record at Churchill Downs: from just four career stakes starts at the Louisville track, Servis has racked up three victories, with Smarty Jones in the Derby, Cathryn Sophia in the Oaks and now Jaywalk in the Breeders' Cup.
"I have been very fortunate just to bring loaded guns [to Churchill Downs]," Servis said. "I have come with three really nice horses and they have gotten the job done."
The Greens, of New Jersey, also have experienced good fortune in the Bluegrass State, registering a Grade 1 win with Do It With Style in the Ashland Stakes at Keeneland in 1991, which Jonathan Green pointed to as the family's biggest triumph in racing prior to the Juvenile Fillies.
"Obviously we would love to be back at Churchill with Jaywalk on the first Friday in May," Green said.
Zacney and Servis first got to know each other when Afleet Alex ran in the Derby in 2005. Servis and Tim Ritchey, the trainer of Afleet Alex, were friends and since Servis had just conquered the Derby the year before, Ritchey invited Servis to join them at Churchill and help navigate the unique experience of Derby week.
Zacney later decided to base most of his roster at Parx and he has settled on Servis and Reid as go-to trainers.
Servis and bloodstock agent James McGreevy picked out Jaywalk at the Keeneland September yearling sale.
Zacney said his son, Alex, was instrumental in the selection of Maximus Mischief at the Fasig-Tipton Midlantic 2-year-old sale in May. Alex Zacney's namesake, Afleet Alex, came from the same sale.
"I had my sights set on horses by Into Mischief and Medaglia d'Oro at that sale," Zacney said. "I was looking at a Medaglia d'Oro filly out of a Tapit mare that [consignor] Cary Frommer had. She was a big, gorgeous, gray filly and you could really see the Tapit in her. I had my 19-year-old son, Alex, there at his first sale and he said, 'Dad, you have got to look at this horse by Into Mischief.' It was Maximus Mischief. He was a big, strong, strapping colt, just an awesome specimen. Butch Reid loved him and I wound up getting both the colt and the filly."
Servis trains the filly, Jennifer's Dream, and she also will be in action at Aqueduct on Dec. 1, essaying the Grade 2 Demoiselle Stakes for juvenile fillies, with a debut win at Laurel and a second-place finish in a Nov. 1 allowance on her resume.
"I'm knocking wood and thanking God and everything else right now," Zacney said. "It's amazing, from Sept. 1 on, we have been on a nice little roll. We'll be very optimistic going into 2019."