Il Villano was the first horse Chuck Russo ever bought. Turned out rather nicely.
More than a decade later, it is still turning out nicely.
That was Il Villano’s son Veeson getting his picture taken next to Russo on Tuesday when he won the $100,000 Jump Start at Parx.
“I guess no one else wanted him and somehow I got him,” Russo remembered about Il Villano’s original private purchase for $40,000. “The rest is history.”
With Susan Crowell training, Il Villano won four stakes, lost the $350,000 DeFrancis Memorial by the closest nose imaginable, also finished second in the Hutcheson, General George and Red Legend, third in the Woody Stephens and Count Fleet and a solid fourth in the Gallant Bob at Parx. Il Villano won $573,870 from 2011 to 2014. Russo especially remembers winning the Chick Lang on Preakness Day at Pimlico in 2012.
“I said, ‘give me $300 to win’,” he remembered. “The lady said: ‘honey, is that your horse?’ I said: ‘you know what, give me $500 to win.’ I had like 15 people there and we all bet him.”
Il Vilano, ridden that day by the great Parx Hall of Famer Jose Flores, paid $9.20 and won by 4 3/4 lengths, the biggest winning margin of his 18-race career.
Il Villano stands at Xanthus Farms in Gettysburg. The stallion does not get a lot of action, but Russo, who still owns him, is a supporter. Veeson is a product of Il Villano and Springingintherein, a mare that won just once in 14 tries at Penn National and that Russo eventually bought for $1,000.
Veeson came from far back to win the Jump Start at 21-1 by a head over 14-1 Prince of Rain, with 30-1 One More Scoop third in the 7-furlong race. Dexter Haddock rode for trainer Ernesto Padilla-Preciado.
“I knew there were some really nice horses in here, so I didn’t know if he’d get up in time,” Russo said in the winner’s circle. “I guess everything worked out. It was perfect.”
Russo lives in Bensalem, about a mile and a half from the track. His company, Villano Paving, does blacktop in the area.
Russo was very good friends with the late, great Parx Hall of Fame trainer Ron Glorioso. In fact, Glorioso’s last winner, Champagne Chuck, on March 13, 2018, was named for Russo.
Russo loves being an owner/breeder in Pennsylvania. He fondly remembers a week late last year when Veeson finished second in the Pa. Nursery (at 81-1) just after his Jezebel Jade, a daughter of Il Villano, won a race at Parx. It is especially good when you get stallion awards and breeder bonuses.
“I was broke Monday and then I had $120,000 in my account,” Russo remembered.
He did not think Veeson was going to run well in the Nursery so he was getting tires put on his truck while watching the race on his phone.
“I thought he was going to win,” Russo said.
Coming from way back, Veeson missed getting there by three-quarters of a length. The colt has now run in three Pa. Bred stakes – third in the Prince Lucky, second in the Nursery and now first in the Jump Start.
“There’s nothing like when a horse you bred and own comes running down the stretch and can win a race,” Russo said.
No, there is not. And Chuck Russo got that feeling again in the Jump Start.