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.