By Dick Jerardi
It was the spring of 2015 when Ron Glorioso first told me about Cait the Great. She was, he told me, the best horse he had ever trained. He was thinking about the 2016 Kentucky Oaks before she ever ran.
Anybody that knew Ron, and that would be everybody in the history of Parx Racing, understood as my friend Craig Donnelly said that he was “the most optimistic trainer I ever knew.’’
Ron arrived at old Keystone on Oct. 10, 1974, 25 days before the track was set to open. He only left the stable area when he ran out of horses in 2018 and could never get back because he just could not physically do the job anymore.
But it was horses like Cait the Great or, more accurately, the thought of horses like Cait the Great, that kept him going to the barn despite the lingering injuries from a very bad car accident on March 22, 2011.
When it came time for Cait the Great to make her debut on July 27, 2015 in the sixth race at Parx, I made the assumption that everybody at the track would know about her. Ron was never one for secrets.
The toteboard, however, kept telling a different story. Cait the Great was hanging around 6-1 during much of the betting. Then, there was a 5-minute delay because of an issue with one of the 2-year-olds at the gate. Serious money started to come in on two other horses. And Cait the Great’s price kept rising, 8-1, 10-1, 12-1, 15-1. She was 18-1 when the horses left the starting gate.
I was watching with Ron on the apron, just behind and to the left of the winner’s circle. Cait the Great, under jockey Ryan Barber, was in third, not far from the lead. Then, she began to move on the turn and kept moving.
“Where is she?’’ Ron asked as the horses hit the top of the stretch and headed for home.
“Let’s go to the winner’s circle?’’ I told him. “This race is over.’’
And it was. Cait the Great was way out on front, the others disappearing in the distance. The margin was 7 lengths at the wire. Cait the Great was everything Ron had said she was.
It was a short walk to the winner’s circle, but I will never forget the look on Ron’s face. It was a look of satisfaction, accomplishment and anticipation. I will never forget that look.
Ron was an unforgettable character in a sport filled with them. His stories were magical. I will forever treasure all of our phone conversations about college basketball and horses. He loved Villanova basketball and I was usually able to get him tickets to one game a season. He really loved Rick Pitino. I was going to take him to meet the Hall of Fame coach during this upcoming season.
Last year, I really missed having our regular lunches at the Continental Tavern in Yardley. The lunches were another pandemic casualty. I will be forever grateful that we were able to have one final lunch this past summer.
Ron never really recovered from that accident. In recent years, he had several surgeries, but walking remained difficult. The most recent surgery was earlier in October. I talked to him several times after the operation, but he just didn’t sound right.
When I got the call last Friday that Ron had passed away, once I recovered from the initial shock, I thought of that walk to the winner’s circle more than six years before.
Ron knew what a good horse looked like and he had one. Who really knew what Cait the Great might become?
After the winner’s circle picture that day, Ron had a request. He wanted to ride with me to Monmouth Park that Sunday to see American Pharoah run in the Haskell, his first race since winning the Triple Crown. Of course.
Ron was in high spirits that day, still reveling in Cait the Great’s tour de force, eager to see what was next for her and what a Triple Crown winner looked like in the flesh.
It was one of those glorious days at the track, the kind you never want to end. When I finally dropped Ron at the Park and Ride near the Scudder Falls Bridge close to midnight, I was thrilled that he was thrilled; a really good man who had a great time at a memorable event.
Ron Glorioso would have turned 80 on June 18, 2022. He grew up at Broad and Erie, went to North Catholic and spent five years in the State Police. But he was likely destined for the race track after his father took him there during his freshman year of high school. And once he decided to become a full time race tracker that was his life until that accident eventually robbed him of his ability to do what he loved.
Cait the Great was never the same after that first race. Ron discovered she had fractured a skull in a barn accident. It was a miracle she had survived at all. She won another race and finished third twice, but that overpowering maiden win was never duplicated, the injury clearly affecting her performance.Unfulfilled promise is a race track theme that has echoed through generations.
But in that one week in late July and early August of 2015, from Monday to Sunday, my friend Ron Glorioso got to see that promise in his barn come to life on the track at Parx and a fulfilled promise on wide display at Monmouth Park. It was quite a week in quite an amazing life.
By Dick Jerardi
The PTHA’s Turning for Home program was well represented at last week’s Retired Racetrack Project’s Thoroughbred Makeover at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, Ky. According to TFH program administrator Danielle Montgomery, 27 TFH horses were originally scheduled to be in the retraining competition, including Barrels, Dressage, and Show Jumping among the ten disciplines. In actuality, 17 TFH horses did compete, and seven made the top ten in their disciplines.
According to Montgomery, the typical attrition rate is 45 percent from the original schedule, but it was even higher this year due to Covid. So, the TFH horses competed at a higher percentage than many other retraining entities that typically bring horses from half the states in the USA, several Canadian provinces, and sometimes from other countries.
Gumdrop’s Chiclet raced just five times from January to
November 2020. The Pennsylvania-bred showed some speed in a few of her races for Bob Hutt’s Uptowncharlybrown Stud LLC and trainer Eddie Coletti, but just wasn’t really competitive, losing those starts by a combined 144 lengths.
Great supporters of the TFH program, the owner and trainer made the decision to retire her with TFH. Gumdrop’s Chiclet, now ridden by Kaitlin Hartford of Full Gallop Farm in Aiken, South Carolina, was retrained and has found disciplines where she can compete. She finished an impressive fourth in Eventing, where she will continue to train up the levels, and eighth in Barrels at the TB Makeover. Uptowncharlybrown progeny are becoming much sought after as natural jumpers, and we can look forward to Downtowncharlybrown entering to compete in 2022 with Hannah Freeman.
One of the main ideas behind TFH is to give retired race horses a chance at second careers. The horses initially go to partner farms and eventually find permanent owners. The TB Makeover is the perfect forum to demonstrate what they have learned.
Southern Kisses raced 63 times from April 2015 to November 2019, with all but six of those races at Parx. The Pa – bred had four wins, seven seconds and 11 thirds with earnings of $222,075. Trainer Joe Taylor had the horse at two different stages of his career. When it became obvious in late 2019 the horse could no longer compete, Southern Kisses was retired to Turning for Home. A9-year-old, Southern Kisses, now named “Pirate” due to his eye having been removed, is doing quite nicely in his second career, and remarkably executed a ninth-place Competitive Trail pattern and decent Dressage performance under the patient training of professional Kate Rakowski.
Cinco Y Cinco began his career at Hawthorne in Chicago on Dec. 2, 2012 and ended it March 14, 2020 at Penn National. The majority of his 77 races came at Parx, as did much of his $300,489 in earnings.
The horse finished his career with trainer Ronald Abrams and was retired with TFH Partner Nina Lyman of TRRAC at Maui Meadow Farm. Now 11-years-old, Cinco Y Cinco finished 20th for Nina, who competed with her husband Charlie to showcase warhorses in Competitive Trail.
D’yer Mak’er, who had several different trainers through his 36-race career, which included $157,848 in earnings, finished an elegant fifth in Freestyle and seventeenth in Dressage at the TB Makeover. Trainer Everton Smith and owner Lee Stable had the horse for the final race of his career on Dec. 23, 2019. That the New York -bred ended his career at Parx was providential. Just about everybody at Parx values the Turning for Home program and what it does for retired racehorses. When the horse is ready, so is Turning for Home.
Star Player ran five times from the fall of 2019 until early winter 2020 at Parx for trainer Lupe Guerrero and owner Emerald Field Farm. The horse had raced in New Jersey and Florida before coming to Parx and getting claimed by Guerrero. Star Player won once for his new connections but was not particularly close in his other four races. So he was retired to TFH and became the Top Team horse in Eventing at the TB Makeover. Lupe also had retiree Bluegrass Demon compete in Dressage.
Poised for Action lived up to his name, running 34 times from October 2015 to June 2019, mostly at Parx for trainer John Servis. The horse was claimed in October 2018 by trainer Patricia Farro and Vaccaro Racing Stable. Poised for Action won $206,718 in his career, but when it was clear he was no longer competitive, his owner and trainer made the decision to retire him to TFH.
Poised for Action loves his second career so much that he was second in Working Ranch and eighth in Competitive Trail at the TB Makeover for adopter Mike Leverette. Watching an ex-racehorse cut
cattle and show Western is always fun to watch. Kelly Lupton of KL Sporthorses helped with the adoption.
Since its inception in 2008, Turning for Home has found new homes for more than 3,200 retired racehorses. And many of those horses have not only found new homes, but new careers which are showcased in wonderful events like the Thoroughbred Makeover.
By Dick Jerardi
When the first Parx Hall of Fame Class was inducted a decade ago, it included such legendary horses as Smarty Jones and My Juliet, trainers John Servis and Scott Lake, jockeys Tony Black and Rick Wilson. A decade later, the 10th class, which was inducted on Oct. 12, included three horses, three trainers, one jockey and two special achievement honorees.
Pure Sensation was based in New York with trainer Christophe Clement, but make no mistake, the gray blur was a Parx horse. In the closing-on-50-year-history of the race track, no horse has earned more money at Keystone/Philadelphia Park/Parx than Pure Sensation.
The gelding raced eight times in the two Parx graded stakes turf sprints, the Parx Dash and Turf Monster. He won the Dash in 2016, 2017, and 2019 while finishing third in 2018. He won the Monster in 2015, 2017, 2018 and 2019.
“He was always trying,’’ said assistant trainer Christophe Lorieul. “He loved this place. It was something special about here. He was a delight to train.’’
And a delight to watch run.
The wonderful filly Cathryn Sophia began her career with four dominating wins, finished third in the 2016 Ashland Stakes before winning the Kentucky Oaks.
“So many good memories,’’ said owner Chuck Zacney. “We picked her out at the Fasig-Tipton Maryland sale in 2014 for $30,000.’’
Bought for $30,000, she earned $1.229 million.
“This is really special,’’ Zacney said. “This is my second one. Two years ago, Jaywalk and now Cathryn Sophia. Parx, I consider my home base.’’
The filly was Servis’s fourth Parx HOF along with Smarty Jones, Jostle and Jaywalk.
“She was a filly that showed her talent early on,’’ Servis said. “She just constantly had nagging issues. We just had to be very patient with her. We finally got her to the races and she showed her stuff, went on, had a great career and took us on a heck of a ride.’’
Indeed she did.
“This is my home and we put all of our effort into Parx, not just training, but on the (PTHA) board, trying to make this place a better place,’’ Servis said.
Trainer Carlos Guerrero always had high hopes for Spun to Run. The colt rewarded his trainer and owner Bob Donaldson with a powerful win in the 2019 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile after wins in the Smarty Jones and Ballezzi Appreciation Mile. The colt won $1.14 million that year.
“He did have an incredible year,’’ Donaldson said. “I felt the Ballezzi set us up really well. He ran a 110 Beyer and that was the highest Beyer of a mile or over of that year for a 3-year-old so that’s really what made our decision to go to the Breeders’ Cup.’’
A great decision it was.
Jockey Joe Hampshire, who grew up in South Philly, rode for 33 years from 1983 to 2015. He spent his early career at Keystone/Philadelphia Parx, went to New England for much of the 1990s and early 2000s where he was leading rider 18 times and then returned in 2004 to finish his career at Philadelphia Park/Parx.
“Joe was a star around here for many years,’’ said PTHA board member Steve Appel who accepted on behalf of Hampshire. “He had an amazing career which he finished up here at Parx.’’
Hampshire was ill so he could not attend the ceremony, but he can still be seen most every day at the track as a highly successful jockey’s agent and all-around good guy.
Trainer Butch Reid joins older brother Mark in the HOF. His career really turned when he came to Parx with wife Ginny when the purses took off 15 years ago.
He now has 12 graded stakes winners, including dual Grade I winner, Breeders’ Cup winner and 2020 champion 2-year-old filly Vequist.
“It’s a lifelong dream and struggle and (Ginny’s) been through a lot of it with me along with my daughter Whitney, living various places around the east coast,’’ Reid said.
Now, they are at Parx, winning more than ever with better horses than they ever had before. Reid has 829 career winners and his horses have earned $28.5 million.
Like the Reids, trainer Pat Farro and husband Mike are a backstretch team.
“I can’t believe it,’’ Farro sait.“ It’s still a shock to me. Everything that we’ve accomplished together. It’s great to do something you really love and make a living at it.’’
It really should not have been a shock.She deserves it.
Farro’s horses have won 1,909 races and earned $47.3 million. From 2012-17, she won 704 races, getting more than 100 wins every year during that six-year period
Eugene Euster was the trainer of My Juliet, the only Parx-based horse elected to the National Museum of Racing’s Hall of Fame. The brilliant filly won 24 of 36 career races. She raced at 16 tracks from coast to coast. She ran 24 times between 6 and 7 furlongs and won 19. She won the Black Eyed Susan, Cotillion and Test in 1975. She beat Kentucky Derby winner Bold Forbes in the 1976 Vosburgh. And she helped get her trainer elected to the Parx HOF.
Anthony J. Lacovelli, also known as Vince Reed in the Lower Bucks County sports community, was a Racing Analyst at Parx Racing. Vince passed away in 2017. He was such a track fixture that he was an obvious HOF choice in the “Special Contributor’’ category.
“It’s overwhelming,’’ said Reed’s son, also Vince. “He would have loved this. He thought the world of everybody here. This was like another family to him.’’
Reed was elected to the National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame in 2004 and the Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame in 2010.
Roberto “Bobby’’ Velez was a forever fixture at Parx when he suddenly passed away in August. He was another natural as a “Special Contributor.’’
His resume was unending, first as the assistant trainer for Budd Lepman when he had the great sprinter Eillo, winner of the inaugural Breeders’ Cup Sprint. Then, he was the exercise rider for 1985 Kentucky Derby and Jersey Derby winner Spend a Buck and an assistant to John Servis during the unforgettable Smarty Jones run.
Maureen Donnelly was also a Servis assistant back then and she and Velez became constant companions
“We’re just so proud of him that he was recognized,’’ Donnelly said. “He’s been around (Parx) since the 70s when it was Keystone. It was a special place for him.’’
And he was a special person at Parx as are all of the HOF Class of 2021.
Let’s Go Racing is on hiatus this week. We hope you enjoy this classic episode of Part 1 of Spirit & Speed.
Let’s Go Racing is on hiatus this week. We hope you enjoy this classic episode of Part 2 of Spirit & Speed.
By Dick Jerardi
Nine days after Paul Conaway, 63, tragically died from injuries suffered in a car accident, family and close friends gathered Sept. 28 at the Red Horse Motoring Club in Pottstown to tell Paul stories at a Celebration of a Life very well lived.
If you were with Paul, he insisted on you having a good time. And nowhere was that more evident than at the 2015 Breeders’ Cup at Keeneland.
After an adventure straight from horse hell, Favorite Tale, a horse Conaway bred and owned, was going to run in the BC Sprint. The race had been a year in the planning, but then a quarantine at Parx where the Pennsylvania bred was stabled with trainer Lupe Preciado, forced the horse on an odyssey that included other race tracks and training centers. Then, on the way to Lexington, Ky., a van carrying Favorite Tale broke down and the horse had to spend hours in that van by the side of the road. Then, Favorite Tale drew the 14 post against the toughest field of sprinters assembled that year.
No matter. Paul, with his beloved Judi constantly by his side and his family and friends along for the ride, took everybody out to dinner the night before the big race, just anticipating a moment that would last less than 69 seconds. And he made plans for another dinner the next night regardless of how the race played out.
Judi asked me to tell that Breeders’ Cup story at the Celebration as a prelude to a wonderful video Let’s Go Racing producer Bruce Casella masterfully crafted about that day at Keeneland. Mostly, before the video and after, I felt fortunate to listen to so many stories from those who knew Paul best. He lived his life with rare joy, no matter what might be happening.
And he really loved his horses, especially Favorite Tale, the horse which started 24 times from 2014 to 2018 with nine wins, five seconds, four thirds, earnings of $1,026,300 and four stakes wins. One of the biggest wins of the horse’s career came in the 2014 Grade III Gallant Bob Stakes on Pennsylvania Derby Day, the day the great California Chrome raced at Parx. The winner’s circle picture from the Gallant Bob had a prominent place among Paul’s memorabilia at the Celebration.
Favorite Tale’s best performance was in that 2015 BC Sprint. Sent off at 23-1 against the great Runhappy and the very accomplished Private Zone, Favorite Tale was always very wide and always very much in the race.
There were moments in the stretch when it almost seemed possible that he could win it. In the end, “Favorite’’ as Paul and Judi always called him, finished third, just 1 3/4 lengths behind Runhappy and 1 length behind Private Zone. Those two were going to be difficult for any horse in the field to beat. That Favorite Tale had finished in front of the other 11 horses felt very much like winning.
And that was the reaction in the “Conaway’’ boxes overlooking the track. Paul’s face positively glowed. In the biggest race of the horse’s life, Favorite Tale had performed brilliantly.
Those moments were re-lived the rest of that afternoon and well into the night at another dinner Paul hosted. Triple Crown winner American Pharoah’s final race, a tour de force in the BC Classic, may have been the big national story. But, for those from Pennsylvania, there was another celebration for another horse and his people.
That we lost Paul so tragically and far too young was shocking and just so sad. Thankfully, we got to remember him, learn more about his life as a brilliant salesman and how he loved to ride motorcycles and play cornhole among so many other pursuits, hobbies and charitable endeavors. Paul Conaway absolutely was, as so many said, a larger than life figure. Anybody who knew him even a little knew that. So we will all miss him, but we won’t ever forget him.