joe taylor leads trainer standings at the halfway point

By Dick Jerardi

If you wondered where Joe Taylor came from and looked at his career record on Equibase, you would think he came out of nowhere. After all, the leading trainer at Parx midway through 2019 had never won a race prior to 2016 when he won two.

The truth is that Taylor has been around racetracks for a long time. He was an assistant to trainer Tony Correnti when he had 44 horses from 2004 to 2011. He started out with harness horses at Liberty Bell Park in 1977.

Then, he was out of the game for years, working various jobs. He was in the steel business for 16 years. He drove a tractor-trailer. He also found time to become a serious poker player. He even played in the World Series of Poker several times, including one year when he played in the Main Event.

“I won a seat online,” Taylor said. “I got busted with Aces the first day. I had Aces three times in a half hour and the third time I go them I got knocked out. I got beat by a flush.”

In 2016, Taylor’s stepson was galloping horses for trainer Patricia Farro and his wife, Felipa Quevedo-Hernandez, was a groom for Butch Reid. When his stepson wanted a horse, Simmstown was claimed by Ho Dee Boy Stable for $5,000 on Nov. 5, 2016. When the horse ran back on Nov. 19, Taylor was the trainer.

Simmstown won three of four, with a second, for Taylor before being claimed for $12,500. In 73 days with the barn, the horse won $54,000.

With that money, Taylor claimed two more horses that won a combined $200,000. And that was it. He was off.

The apartment across Street Rd. has now become a house two minutes from the track. Taylor’s barn won 30 races in 2017 and then 59 last year. Through July 13, Taylor had already won 59 races, 53 at Parx, which has him leading the trainer standings by 12 over Scott Lake.

The day we talked on Saturday, July 6, Taylor had just won the sixth race at Parx with Every Step. The horse was claimed by trainer Dee Curry.

“This horse has been really good to us.” Taylor said. “I love this horse. It breaks my heart to lose him. He’s the first horse I see when I come out of my office.”

How good was Every Step to Taylor and owner Marty Shaw’s Top Notch Racing? The Pennsylvania-Bred gelding was claimed for $7,500 on Oct. 8, 2018. Every Step had three wins and three thirds for Top Notch with earnings of $110,130 over the nine months they had him. And they lost him for $5,000 more than they paid for him.

Every Step was a very good return on investment, but Ruby Bleu has been the best so far for the barn. The horse was claimed by Top Notch for $12,500 on Nov. 4, 2017. Since then, the horse has won nine times and earned $359,318.

Interestingly, Every Step and Ruby Bleu are both PA-Bred sons of the stallion Messner, a son of 2006 Preakness winner Bernardini.

Ruby Bleu was so good to Top Notch and Taylor that they decided to give him a vacation after he won $234,538 in 2018. They sent the horse to Florida for a few months. Ruby Bleu ran poorly in his first two spring starts after the vacation.

“I scoped him,” Taylor said. “He was entrapped. I sent him to (Dr.) Patty Hogan. She fixed him and sent him back.”

Ruby Bleu has won his last three starts, once by disqualification.

“He became Ruby Bleu again,” Taylor said.

Top Notch Racing and John Fanelli own most of the horses Taylor trains. His wife owns a few. He has a few with Chuck Zacney.

“Chuck came up to me one day and said do you know who I am,” Taylor said.

“Of course, you’re Chuck Zacney, Afleet Alex,” Taylor told him.

“No, no you know who I am,” Zacney said. “I sat right behind you in homeroom at Ryan.”

That would be Archbishop Ryan in Northeast Philly, just a few miles from the track. Small world, indeed.

“I used to get here at 4:30 every morning,” Taylor said. “Now, I get here at 5:30. I’ve got a much bigger staff. I’ve got 40 horses.”

And the stable is winning. Everybody knows Joe Taylor now.

“I like the low profile,” Taylor said.

Good luck with that.

It is a bit harder to keep a low profile when your name is at the top of the trainer standings.

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