Updated 08/09/2012 07:43 PM
Small town stable seeking big time success at The Spa
Names like Whitney and Stonestreet Stables are familiar to many racing fans, but not every owner at Saratoga is a blueblood with a long family history of success at the track. YNN's Matt Hunter caught up with a group of owners who prove it doesn't always take big bucks to win big.
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SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – "I bet on Sword Dancer in the Belmont in 1959 and I was hooked,” Joe Cacciolfi said. “I could've been a doctor, could've been a lawyer and now I'm a horseplayer."
Schenectady native Joe Cacciolfi was just a kid when he first fell in love with the sport of kings. Now 60, that passion has stayed with him to this day.
A regular at Saratoga Race Course, he always wanted to try his hand at ownership but couldn't find the right opportunity to get in. He even explored joining already established ownership syndicates.
"My problem was, I didn't see any enjoyment in getting into the winner's circle with people I didn't know that well," Cacciolfi said.
His chance finally came in 2003 when a friend from Kentucky had a filly he couldn't sell. The only problem was raising enough cash.
“I put some feelers out to people I go to the track with and I got about 15 responses from people who said yeah, I'll take a shot."
The group of friends quickly became known as Our Eyes Wide Open Stables.
“I told people you're heading into this with your eyes wide open and you'll probably never get our money back,” said Cacciolfi, the stable’s managing partner. “But as long as you're looking for a positive experience and have some fun, I think we'll try to do that."
The filly’s name was Spanish Serenade. After recovering from an injury sustained in training, she finally made it to the track at Belmont in 2007. In what would be her only career start, she crossed the wire in front.
"Unfortunately she hobbled off the track and that was the only time we saw her on the track,” Cacciolfi said. “But it was just unbelievable fulfillment, a once in a lifetime experience."
The group's initial investment in Spanish Serenade before training and stabling fees was about $25,000. Nine years later, Our Eyes Wide Open Stable has beat the odds and won $426,899 at the track.
On Thursday at Saratoga, the group had another shot to get back to the winner's circle with a colt in the eighth race named Big Bro, who the partners named after Cacciolfi.
Big Bro’s pedigree gave them reason to believe he had a shot at victory. That's because his mother is Spanish Serenade.
“I'm choking up right now,” Cacciolfi said before the race. “If a son of Spanish [Serenade] named after me wins at Saratoga, it will be a dream come true, it will be."
With heavy rain and a sloppy track, that dream never came true. As the group from Our Eyes Wide Open Stables watch from inside the Clubhouse, Big Bro ran fifth but still managed to provide a thrill for his owners.
"All the friends and family, it's nice to have their support. We all watched the horse since he was a baby, so there's a connection there and there's a connection to his mother too, so it makes it special."