It's difficult to get much better than perfect. Racing eight times last year, Joseph Besecker's Aztec Sense won all eight races, including five stakes, and at the annual horsemen's awards banquet Wednesday evening, he was honored as the top thoroughbred in Pennsylvania for 2018.
Claimed by trainer Jorge Navarro from a start here at Parx in August of 2017 for $12,500, Aztec Sense, a six year-old gelded son of Street Sense would become unbeatable. Opening his 2018 season at Gulfstream Park, he won a starter race by 9 ½ lengths. His closest margin of victory over the next six wins was 2 lengths. He won three stakes at Parx, the $100K Turning for Home (by 3 ½), the $100K PTHA President's Cup (by 3 ½) and the $150K PA Derby Champion Stakes (by 4). He banked over $408,000 during the year, finishing his year with a win in the Claiming Crown Jewel in December at Gulfstream.
Other highlights from the evening included jockey Frankie Pennington, winning his fifth consecutive riding title and now sixth of his career. In doing so, he became the first jockey in the history of the racetrack to win five in a row. Trainer John Servis has won some of America's biggest races, the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness, the Kentucky Oaks, the Breeders Cup Juvenile Fillies, but despite all his national success, had never won a training title at his home track. That void was filled when he was honored as the track's top trainer, winning 71 races at an amazing clip of 27.8%.
Three awards were given for Special Achievement. Trainer Uriah St. Lewis and Discreet Lover for his amazing upset win in the G1 Jockey Club Gold Cup, Luis Carvajal and Imperial Hint for G1 wins in the Alfred Vanderbilt and Vosburgh Stakes, and John Servis and Jaywalk for winning the G1 Breeders Cup Juvenile Fillies and an Eclipse Award as champion two year-old filly.
Following is a list of all other divisional and individual award winners:
2YO Colt or Gelding – Cash is King & LC Racing's Maximus Mischief (Butch Reid)
2YO Filly – Stony Brook Stables' Tara's Talent (Ed Coletti)
3YO Colt or Gelding – Swilcan Stable's Navy Commander (Butch Reid)
3YO Filly – Uptowncharliebrown Stud's Dixie Serenade (Ed Coletti)
Older Male – Joseph Besecker's Aztec Sense (Jorge Navarro)
Older Female – Mario Mangini's Zipper's Hero (Ed Coletti)
Claiming Horse of the Year – Twinkling Star Stable's Champagne Chuck (Patricia Farro)
Outstanding Claim of the Year – Smart Angle's Wonderfully Tuned (Mike Pino)
Winningest Horse – Twinkling Star Stable's Champagne Chuck (Patricia Farro)
Apprentice Jockey – Jann Hernandez
Leading Jockey – Frankie Pennington
Leading Owner – Jagger, Inc. & Top Notch Racing (Tie)
Leading Trainer – John Servis
“B” Division Trainer (top percentage with less than 150 starts and less than 10 stalls) – Howard Brown, Jr.
“B” Division Owner – Michael Cox
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