An Emotional Week in Horse Racing

Jerry Bozzo (second from left) trained racehorses up until his death at age 98.
Jerry Bozzo (second from left) trained racehorses up until his death this month at age 98. (Leslie Martin/Coglianese photo)

Welcome to this week’s edition of America’s Best Racing’s Main Track. Each week in this space we spotlight the most meaningful story of the past seven days, detailing a story that stands out because of its importance or perhaps the emotional response it generates.

Looking ahead, if you believe there’s a story this week that should be featured in next week’s edition of the Main Track, let us know by tweeting it to @ABRLive using the hashtag #ABRMainTrack.

This week, we’ll look at the sadness and joy rolled into racing’s circle of life.                        

There was genuine sorrow on Nov. 11 when the news broke that Florida owner-trainer Jerry Bozzo had passed away at the age of 98.

For more than four decades, Bozzo has been a popular and respected figure on the backstretch of Florida racetracks who had enjoyed a rich life even before he started training and buying horses.

Prior to making the racetrack his calling in life, Bozzo was a World War II soldier, an aeronautical engineer, and the owner of a bottle manufacturing company in Pennsylvania.

Jerry Bozzo
Jerry Bozzo (Derbe Glass/Coglianese photo)

In his years as an owner/trainer, Bozzo never had a Breeders’ Cup or Triple Crown winner, but in the course of sending out 218 winners as a trainer since 1984 he amassed a legion of admirers.

In recent years, he set new standards as the oldest trainer to ever win a race. Born on Oct. 25, 1920, he sent out Cotton Tooyah for a victory on June 3, 2017, when he was 96 to break the record set by 95-year-old Noble Threewitt.

Bozzo is also the oldest trainer to ever win a stakes, a feat he accomplished at the age of 94 with Flutterby in the Sea Lily Stakes at Gulfstream Park.

“He was a great gentleman. It was a pleasure to ride for him, but it was also a pleasure to know him,” jockey Luca Panici, told the Gulfstream Park press office. “I’ve known him since I began riding here at Calder. He was a good horseman and a really, really good gentleman. I was more happy for him than for me when we won a race. Training a horse, having a winner, kept him in good shape. He had an amazing history, being in World War II and his business. He was always a pleasure to be around. More than business, it was a pleasure to talk with him and have a conversation in the mornings.”

Three days after Bozzo passed away, at Aqueduct there was a birth of sorts. Jockey Benjamin Hernandez won his first race in the United States by guiding Alright Alright to victory in the second race on Nov. 14 at the Big A.

The 27-year-old Hernandez started his career in Puerto Rico and was an exercise rider in New York until he started picking up mounts in the afternoon last month.

Now, he has a victory to his credit, kicking off his riding career in New York.

"It's so exciting," Hernandez told the New York Racing Association press office. "The best moment of my life. I've been waiting a long time for this. It's been a long journey, so it's very exciting."

The joy of a beginning after the sorrow of an ending.

Sadly, it’s something that we can never avoid, but at least we can all reminisce about some great days in the past and then find comfort in the prospect that there will be brighter days ahead.

It happens all the time. It’s the circle of life. Be it in everyday life or, as it was last week, at the racetrack.

The Also-Eligible List

Here are some of the other noteworthy stories that made for a lively week in the U.S. Thoroughbred racing industry:

John Asher wins Big Sport of Turfdom Award

Oaklawn plans hotel as part of $100 million expansion

Brad Cox gets win No. 1,000

newsletter sign-up

Stay up-to-date with the best from America's Best Racing!