For Jimmy Devaux, much of his time is spent driving. The harness racing lifer has worked a bit of an unconventional “split shift” in order to become one of New York State’s winningest drivers. For the last several years, Devaux has done double duty, driving on a full-time basis at Monticello Raceway and at Saratoga Casino Hotel. A former driving champ at Monticello, Devaux became a Spa regular several seasons ago and has been a constant in the top five in the driver standings ever since. Spending seemingly all of his time driving, whether it be in a sulky or on the Thruway commuting between his two home tracks, the 50 year old is in the midst of a career year. After all, Devaux holds a sizeable lead in the Monticello driver standings and is well on his way to another title there. And while he is yet to be THE top driver at Saratoga, Jimmy is having another terrific season at the Spa and finds among the top handful of drivers once again this year.
Devaux has piled up the wins in the last several years while doing the double duty. Averaging over 380 victories and more than $2 million in purses per year in the last four, Jimmy now stands just about 50 wins from the 5,000 career plateau. Devaux in on pace to shatter his career best mark for both wins and purses earned. Aided by the monster campaign he is enjoying at Monticello, Devaux already has piloted more winners than he did in 2015, the year that saw him earn career-best purses of more than $2.3 million. His all-time high win total of 412 from the ’13 campaign is more than a little bit in jeopardy as well as the veteran reinsman continues to climb the standings at the Spa. Devaux, who has piled up some big win totals on a given day at Monticello this season, had his best day of the year at the Spa on Thursday. Of the eleven races on the matinee card, Devaux piloted five winners, wrapping up the afternoon by scoring with a 26-1 longshot in the finale. With that seasonal best performance, Devaux propelled himself into fourth in the driver standings, the highest spot he has found himself in this year.
On Friday night, Jimmy sat behind a horse that he says is his favorite horse to drive. Little Santamonica has been a force in the Fillies and Mares Open when she has come to town over the course of the last several years. A speedy, gutsy mare, Little Santamonica won the $18,000 feature on Friday to record her twelfth victory of the season. Of those wins, four have come in the local ladies Open. Devaux has piloted the nine year old mare to all of those wins. The four Open scores for Little Santamonica ties her with distaffer So Nice for most among the top flight mares at the track. So Nice, who is the defending Filly and Mare Pacer of the Year at Saratoga, has scored four Open wins and in three of them, she was driven to victory by….Jimmy Devaux. Devaux has dominated the Fillies and Mares Open this season so it was only fitting that he followed up his biggest day of the meet with yet another score in the Friday feature last week.
Devaux’s monster Thursday afternoon launched him into fourth in the driver standings as he and Mark Beckwith jockey for position in the standings behind Billy Dobson, Frank Coppola Jr. and Bruce Aldrich Jr. Aldrich, like Devaux, is doing double duty at Monticello and Saratoga and ranks third in the standings at both tracks. Dobson won five consecutive driving titles at the Spa from 2010-2014 and finished in the top three as Aldrich and Frank Coppola Jr. secured titles in the past two seasons. While Devaux isn’t a viable threat to supplant Dobson, Coppola or Aldrich in the standings in ‘17, he could once again end up fourth. After all, with Wally Hennessey returning to Florida after a several month stint at Saratoga and with the injury suffered by Stephane Bouchard early in the summer, Devaux has a great chance to end up among the top four at the Spa.
Despite sharing a stable with his wife for the majority of his career, Devaux now specializes purely as a catch-driver and is thriving. He has missed a few nights racing at the Spa in the last couple of weeks though. Where has Devaux been? Well, driving again. That is, traveling. Devaux has become the regular reinsman for the Perry Simser-trained freshman pacer Jersey Jim. After prevailing in an impressive lifetime debut in July, Jersey Jim has brought his talents to the New York Sire Stakes circuit. It was right here at Saratoga where the freshman pacer scored his first stakes win in August. Devaux piloted Jersey Jim to victory in the $42,025 Sire Stakes try. Following a fourth and a third place finish in his next two starts, Jersey Jim won again at Batavia on September 1st, this time while competing for a purse of $52,500 in an ultra-impressive 1:54.1. On Saturday night, Devaux went with Jersey Jim to Tioga Downs to pilot the two year old who has punched his ticket to the October Night of Champions where he will compete for a purse of an estimated $225,000. Not bad for a two year old. For Devaux, it has been a sensational season that will soon turn into a career year as the veteran reinsman has thrived with everything from aged mares in the local Open to two year olds traveling the state in Sire Stakes competition. One thing is for sure, times are certainly busy for a guy that fancies himself a bit of an outdoorsman in his free time. The question is, just what free time does the standout have these days as he spends his afternoons and evenings driving, whether in a sulky or in his car up and down the Thruway in a 2017 campaign that will wind up being a career year for Jimmy Devaux.
Live racing takes place every Thursday and Sunday afternoon beginning at 12:15pm and on Friday and Saturday nights starting at 6:45pm. Until next week, I’m Mike Sardella wishing you the best of luck and we’ll see YOU at the finish line!