DANNY LIMONGELLI, OWNER OF BANJO PICKER, PASSES AWAY AT 74
By Dick Jerardi
Danny Limongelli’s last winner, Quiet Please, entered the Parx winner’s circle shortly after 12:30 p.m. on Jan. 18. The longtime horse owner, with 450 wins and nearly $9 million in earnings over a career that spanned 20 years, passed away later that afternoon at Wilkes-Barre General Hospital.
His longtime trainer Steve Krebs, fellow owner Joe Besecker and his family in a poignant obituary remembered a man who would do anything for anybody.
After serving in Vietnam with the U.S. Army – F Troop, 17th Cavalry, 196th Brigade – Limongelli returned to the Wilkes-Barre area to his family and one of his other loves – cars.
Limongelli started Jo-Dan Motors with his father in 1971. Later, he was heavily involved in warranty companies. Even later, he was able to fulfill his dream by opening Jo-Dan Buick GMC in Moosic, Pa., the franchise dealership he had always wanted.
He owned classic cars, including his favorite, a 1958 Impala. According to his obituary, he loved to attend car shows, spend time on the family farm and, of course, hang out at the track with his friends, his family and his horses.
It was at what was then called Philadelphia Park on Aug, 21, 2004 that Krebs and Limongelli claimed Banjo Picker for $15,000.
“We just claimed him because he was a Pa. Bred,’’ Krebs said, “We figured maybe we could win (a first-level allowance) with him.’’
All Banjo Picker did after the claim was run 40 times, with 15 wins, five seconds, six thirds and earnings of more than $600,000. All but eight of those starts came at the track now known as Parx, with the final race on Nov. 24, 2009.
Tara Hemmings rode Banjo Picker in each of his starts for Limongelli, including a memorable win in the Dec. 18, 2005 Gravesend Handicap at Aqueduct when the horse was a cool 47-1. Banjo Picker also won four Pa. bred stakes at Parx – the Lyman, Devil’s Honor, Power By Far and Le Grand Pos.
“He just kept getting better and better,’’ Krebs said, “He just kept right on going.’’
Limongelli had so many friends because he was so friendly,
“He loved all the action,’’ Krebs said.
Krebs and Limongelli had Lothar who won six in a row in 2002. That was one of the first horses they had together. Soon, there were 20 of the owner’s horses in the barn.
“Danny was a trainer’s dream,’’ Krebs said. “Danny was a family man first. He always talked about his family. In fact, he named several horses after all his grandkids.’’
There was Pop-Pop’s Jimmy and Nicky Blue Eyes among others.
“His horses and their well-being came first,’’ Krebs said.
Besecker had known Limongelli for five or six years, but only met him two years ago.
“Just a prince of a man,’’ Besecker said.
When Joe found out Danny was a car dealer, they talked cars. And soon enough, Danny was giving Joe a deal on a pickup that ended that night with them at dinner.
Limongelli had horses at Laurel, Penn National and Parx.
“He liked to go to Parx,’’ Besecker said. “He was a guy who supported everyday racing. He was very knowledgeable. He was one of us, a really good person; looked out for other people in the business. I know he helped out backside people. He was the kind of guy that would slide a hundred to the waitress.’’
When Danny came to the track, he often came with his friends and family.
“He made it fun for everybody,’’ Besecker said. “He usually had his gang with him. And they were a colorful gang. He loved the game.’’