Billy Dobson has won the driving title at Saratoga Casino Hotel an incredible eight times over the course of the last eleven years. The now veteran reinsman finished atop the leaderboard at the Spa each year from 2010-2014 and rattled off another three consecutive titles from ’18-’20. This season started out as much of the same for Dobson who powered out to a big lead among local reinsmen again in the ’21 campaign. That all changed late in the springtime when a catch-driver who has been second only to Dobson in wins among local drivers over the course of the last decade made his run.
Jimmy Devaux has had years in which he has been among the top handful of drivers in the nation in the win department. Devaux achieved that feat by piloting “full time” at both Saratoga and Monticello Raceways, winning over 1,000 races in a two year span from 2018-2019. Like so many in the harness racing industry, Devaux grew up in a horse racing family. His father Butch was a trainer at Monticello before eventually relocating to Saratoga. Jimmy and his brother Ken took to careers as drivers and their sister Cherie is currently a thoroughbred trainer. Jimmy drove his first career race at Monticello in 1990 and now some thirty years later, the veteran reinsman is still on top of his game.
Devaux began doing double duty at Monticello and Saratoga over a decade ago and while life on the road can’t be easy, the standout catch-driver is surely making it work. To say the 54 year old has been a busy man over the course of the last decade is an understatement. Think about this. From the span of seven seasons from 2012 to 2018, Devaux drove in 18,458 races. That’s an average of more than 2,600 races a year over the course of that time period. Not only does that show that Devaux was able to stay healthy over that span but he put plenty of miles on his vehicle traveling up and down the Thruway between Monticello and Saratoga. For a time, Devaux was winning driving titles at Monticello in the same year that he was finishing second in the Spa driver standings.
Jimmy races full-time at Saratoga these days that is to say that when we are racing, he is here. This results in him missing a chunk of the week of the Monticello calendar. Amazingly, though he’s only there a little more than half of the time, Jimmy still currently sits fifth in the driver standings at his original home base track. The fifth place position at Monticello, though, certainly isn’t the highlight of what Devaux is doing on the track in 2021.
With all of his accomplishments in the sulky, which now include over 6,300 career wins, one thing Devaux doesn’t have on his resume is a driving title at Saratoga. While there is still a lot of season left on the calendar at the Spa (47 race days to be exact), Devaux now holds a solid lead in the standings. Jimmy came into last week’s action with 121 victories and a sixteen win lead over Dobson, his closest pursuer. While Dobson dominated the early part of the season, Devaux started to make a run in the springtime to close the gap and has just simply surged in the summertime at the Spa.
Last week, Monday’s matinee was as good of a day as Devaux has had all year. Though there were fifteen races on the card, with the New York Sire Stakes in town, Devaux only had eight drives. No problem for the sulky star as he piled up a season-high five wins on the card highlighted by a sweep of the Pick Three in which he scored victories in $10,500, $11,500 and $10,700 races for trotters. Jimmy followed up his monster Monday with another strong day on Tuesday which saw the meet’s leading driver score a hat trick, piloted three more winners on the card to add to his growing lead in the standings. Opening up a 22 win advantage over Dobson heading into Saturday, Devaux wrapped up his week in style with another driving double to build upon that lead even more.
With the afore mentioned driving titles at Monticello already to his credit, and his over 6,300 lifetime wins in the sulky, there isn’t much on the resume of Jimmy Devaux that he could or needs to do in his career to solidify himself as a top-flight catch-driver in New York. One would have to think, though, that winning the driving title at Saratoga would be a sweet icing on the cake for a career that still has a lot left in it. Devaux has put in the work. He’s been one of the busiest drivers not only in the state but in the country over the course of the last decade. Traveling back and forth to be “full time” at two different tracks every year cannot be easy. But if the longtime sulky star can add driving champion at Saratoga, where he has thrived every year since coming here full time, to his long list of credentials, it no doubt would be one of the highlights of his illustrious career. With still more than three full months left in the racing season, holding a 20+ win lead in the driver standings doesn’t come close to ensuring a title but it is the largest lead he has held locally in his time here. And if he continues to drive like he did last week piling up win after win, Jimmy Devaux may just be able to call himself Saratoga driving champion when the season concludes in mid-December.
Live harness racing is carded every Monday and Tuesday at the Spa starting at 12 Noon and features just one more Saturday evening of racing which takes place at 6:45pm this weekend before action switches to Sunday afternoons after Labor Day. Until next week, I’m Mike Sardella wishing you the best of luck and we’ll see YOU at the finish line!