Santa Anita’s Sunshine Bonus Incentive Helps Convince Vaccarezza To Test West Coast Waters

Carlo Vaccarezza is a new name among trainers in Southern California but he’s not a racing novice. He is far from it.

The 68-year-old native of Italy who immigrated to the United States in the 1960s sent out longshot King Theo to a ninth-place finish in Friday’s seventh race at one mile on turf, a course over which Vaccarezza has had success in the past, although not as a trainer.

He was the breeder and his wife, Priscilla, the owner of Florida-bred gelding Little Mike who posted a 17-1 upset in the $3 million Breeders’ Cup Turf at Santa Anita in 2012, when trained by Dale Romans.

Vaccarezza currently has six head at Santa Anita and another six due in this Wednesday from Keeneland, two of them related to Little Mike, a 4-year-old filly (Little Jewel) and a 3-year-old colt (Militarist), both sired by Liam’s Map. Vaccarezza, who will have a string of horses at Santa Anita for the first time, has been training since 2014 but he is not a one-trick pony.

“I’ve been in the restaurant business all my life,” he said. “I own restaurants in New York City and I’m building one in Lexington, Kentucky. I have a couple in South Florida, and I’m involved in an olive oil company in La Mirada, California, but my passion was always horse racing.”

All his restaurants are named Frank and Dino’s, after Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin.

“They are high-end Italian restaurants and we play the Rat Pack music and rock and roll,” Carlos said. “I used to cook for Frank.”

How high-end are they? Spaghetti primavera is 26 bucks and a dish called Fagottini Sinatra goes for $30.50, but it’s worth visiting Frank and Dino’s website to ogle the mouth-watering fare on the expansive menu.

But back to racing.

“In 2007 I got lucky and bred a mare (Hay Jude) that actually was a giveaway, to Spanish Steps and the rest is history,” Carlo said. “The foal was Little Mike (named for Carlo’s 18-year-old son; Carlo’s 21-year-old son Nicholas, who earned his spurs as a foreman and assistant to Eclipse Award-winning trainer Chad Brown, now assists with his Dad’s business).”

Both sons miraculously survived the deadliest high school shooting in U.S. history on Feb. 14, 2018, when a gunman killed 17 people and injured 17 others at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, 15 miles from Vaccarezza’s Frank and Dino’s restaurant in Boca, where on Feb. 25, Carlo raised $182,254 in a fundraiser to benefit the school.

Little Mike, who had a 14-2-1 record from 30 starts with earnings of $3,543,392, was Hay Jude’s second foal. Spanish Steps was an unraced son of Unbridled who had a modest stud fee of $5,000.

California always held a special place in Vaccarezza’s heart.

“(Del Mar Racing Secretary) David Jerkens had invited me to race there and I just couldn’t make it, but when Chris (Merz) took over (as Director of Racing and Racing Secretary) at Santa Anita, things sort of fell into place.

“I was a board member of the HPBA (Horsemen’s Protective and Benevolent Association) in South Florida, so I know The Stronach Group really well. Craig Fravel (CEO of The Stronach Group) called me and got me involved with Chris and I couldn’t wait to try Santa Anita.”

A key factor is Santa Anita’s Sunshine Bonus Incentive Program, which offers a guaranteed $3,000 bonus for any eligible starter in its initial Santa Anita race (stakes excluded) whose previous start was made outside California.

Also, there is an additional 35 percent bonus applied to a horse’s purse earnings (first through fifth) in its initial Santa Anita race (stakes excluded) whose previous start was made outside California.

“It’s an extra incentive,” Carlo said of the program, “a beautiful gift.”

The post Santa Anita’s Sunshine Bonus Incentive Helps Convince Vaccarezza To Test West Coast Waters appeared first on Horse Racing News | Paulick Report.

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