There is something to be said for the road less traveled, but a well-worn road can yield rewards as well. Jim Devaux’s road, for example.
Devaux spends his days -- when he’s not driving horses -- driving hundreds of miles up and down the New York State Thruway to race at Monticello and Saratoga. It’s been a road to success as Devaux is putting the finishing touches on a career-best year, both in terms of wins, 540, and purses, $2.98 million.
The 50-year-old Devaux ranks a career-high No. 6 in wins in North America and is the leading dash-winning driver at Monticello, where he has won multiple titles. He finished third, another career best, in the standings at Saratoga. In addition, in October he got career victory No. 5,000.
"It was a good year," the soft-spoken Devaux said. "I was fortunate to drive a lot of good horses and I appreciate the trainers and the owners for putting me up. That means a lot. I’ve had a lot of good horses at both tracks.
"It’s definitely a grind; a lot of road trips. That’s the most difficult part, fighting traffic, fighting rush hour. It’s long days, long nights. But we made it back and forth without any incidents, so that was good."
Devaux made all but 17 of his 2,672 starts this year at Monticello and Saratoga. Ironically, his most memorable moment came elsewhere.
In October, Devaux won a New York Sire Stakes championship with 2-year-old male pacer Jersey Jim. It was Devaux’s first victory in the NYSS championships.
"That was very special," Devaux said. "I thought I could get money in there, but as far as winning, I don’t ever go into the race thinking I’m the best because anything can happen. You just have to drive to the best of your ability and it happened to work out for me.
"I really appreciate Perry (trainer Perry Simser) putting me on him. He’s a nice horse. He’s not very big, but he’s got a motor. That was definitely the highlight of the year."
Devaux doesn’t set goals or focus on numbers.
"I don’t really worry about those kinds of things," he said. "I just go into it like anybody else going to work. I just go in there and try to bang out a paycheck.
"I drive against a lot of good guys. You definitely earn it. You just have to have the power and put them in the right spot."
Devaux’s father, Butch, raced horses at Saratoga and Monticello, and when Devaux was young he spent as much time as possible at the stables learning about the sport. Devaux focused on training at the beginning of his career and drove horses for his father when he needed a driver. Soon, though, Devaux picked up more and more drives and turned his attention to sitting in the sulky on a regular basis.
Despite his career numbers this season, Devaux isn’t putting any grand expectations on 2018.
"I’d be real happy if I could just repeat this year," Devaux said. (HRC)