Groom, Security Guards Help Prevent Disaster in Servis' Barn

A fire started by a faulty motor in a fan broke out in the barn of trainer John Servis at Philadelphia Park Casino & Racetrack the afternoon of June 20, causing minor injuries to his stable pony, Jinks.

No other horses were injured, and the fire was quickly contained by several security guards who used fire extinguishers, as well as the barn’s sprinkler system. The local fire company in Bensalem Township was also dispatched to the scene.

Servis, who won the Kentucky Derby (gr. I) and Preakness Stakes (gr. I) in 2004 with the popular Smarty Jones, said the straw in Jinks’ stall caught on fire about 3 p.m., singeing the pony’s tail and mane and causing a blister on his back left leg. The fire was discovered by one of Servis’ grooms, and she alerted a nearby security guard who immediately grabbed a fire extinguisher and radioed for help.

“I wasn’t at the track at the time, and Bill (Foster, Servis’ foreman) called me on my cell phone,” Servis said. “He said the barn was on fire, and he could smell the smoke from the recreation hall, where he was at. Believe me, my heart was in my throat as I flew back there.”

Servis said they had difficulty getting the frightened Jinks out of his stall due to the smoke and the water pouring down from the sprinkler system, but they eventually were able to shoo him out. A 2-year-old filly named Blew Me Away in the next stall to Jinks was also frightened by the smoke and water but not injured.

“I have to give all the credit to Philadelphia Park,” Servis said. “They did a great job, and we avoided a real tragedy. After the fire was out they came in, stripped the stalls, and put fresh dirt down. There must’ve been two inches of water in my shedrow.”

Servis said he would give Jinks, whom he rides to the track each morning, a well-deserved vacation to recover from the incident.