New England: Tony Cataldi Successful Young Conditioner; His First Ambition Was to Become a Jockey; Budding Saddle Career One of Frustration, Daily Racing Form, 1959-05-08


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New England By Fred Galiani Tony Cataldi Successful Young Conditioner His First Ambition Was to Become a Jockey Budding Saddle Career One of Frustration SUFFOLK DOWNS, East Boston, Mass., May 7.— Tony Cataldi is a stocky, green-eyed chap, with a flattop haircut and one of the sunniest dispositions around the track. At 31 he fits into what is called the younger set of the training brigade. He does pretty well at it, too. At this meeting he started horses 15 times and got back 11 checks, which is a good average, even if they are not all for front end victories. The stable pays its way, which is a thing to be most desired in this sport. If Tony has made a success out of being a trainer, and, "incidentally, when he got his license in Florida in 1948 at the age of 20, he* was the youngest in the business, his first ambition to be a jockey was a study in frustration. A native of north Providence, Cataldi has been around the race track since he was 10 years old — in summers at any rate — and had designs of being a jockey. When he was 16, he was ready to make his debut, and was under contract to Robby Robertson, who was training the Sam Garfield horses. It was 1945 and he was in Floridawhen the racing ban was put on. Tony had been slated to make his bow that January. "Ill never forget that horses name," he said, "it was Briar Play. The order came out racing would stop on January 3rd. There were only a couple of days left and Robby got Briar Play in. But he said whats "the use of you riding it. The horse might win and youll have "broken your maiden. But there wont be any more racing, for how long we dont know. So he put Evan Jenkins up. Briar Play won and paid 3." Victim of Several Setbacks During the blackout Cataldi returned to New England where he helped his father in his tomato packing plant and continued to gallop horses at various farms. After V-E day, racing was resumed in the country and Cataldi vigorously prepared to resume his riding career. Robertson had him set for a debut a second time. "So what happened?" recalled Tony, "right away I get appendicitis and wind up in the hospital. The doctor said I was the only person whom he ever operated on that gained so much weight after having his appendix out." When he finally got his weight down, he promptly broke his right ankle. Setback number three. The months flicked off the calendar that year and Tonys ankle had healed and it is now the Florida season again. Cataldi may have been down three times, but he wasnt out. Well, at least for a time. He wasnt in Florida long when one day he was handling a yearling in the Hialeah stable area. A fire truck went by, the yeailing went up in the air, and Tony was down under it. A broken left ankle and left arm. By now, youd think Cataldi had had enough. Not quite. That next summer, broken bones all mended and the needle on the scale hitting a respectable weight, he got to Pascoag. "At last I thought I had it made," said Tony with a snake of his head. "I came out of the jockeys room all clad in my silks. But I still did not get to ride. The horse flipped in the paddock and had to be scratched. Thats jvhen I finally quit the idea of being a jockey. If I wasnt getting hurt, the horse was. And thats the closest I ever got to being a jockey." After accepting the destiny of fate negating a jockeys career, Tony concentrated on a training profession. He had been around the tracks since he was a kid and had worked for stables in New York, Florida and Kentucky. In 1948 he took out his permit. He recalls that "Sunny" Jim Fitzsimmons gave him a high recommendation even though he was still under 21. First Was Always Second Cataldi bought his first horse after that, a beast named Curler. He presaged of things to come, getting three seconds right off the bat at Hialeah and Cataldi was on his way. Its now 1949. His next horse was Tom Ferris, whom he bought from Gene Jacobs. He ran him twice at Bowie and got a win and a second, and then shipped back to his native New England. Things were rolling along merrily and successfully when Uncle Sam stepped in and drafted him for the army. He served 23 months and 26 days, as he puts it, omitting the number of hours and minutes, which he claims to have forgotten. When he was discharged he resumed training at Sunshine Park and soon had a public stable formed again. Since then he has never been horseless. Cataldi for many years had horses for Mrs. Tilyou Christopher, W. L. Huntley, Dr. G. E. Woollard and others. His two latest patrons are Don Peterson, who manages a motion picture theatre in Providence, and John Sidewheel Dale, a former jockeys agent now turned automobile dealer. Tony plies his trade between the Miami tracks and New England. One year he did essay a trip to ThistleDown and wound up second I leading trainer with only eight horses. He lost by one winner and was tied for second with Norman Haymaker, who had a much larger stable. He doesnt lead the trainers list, but his stable mostly operates in the black, which is more important than titles, which have glory but little monetary return. Since he has been around the track Cataldi has been a hot walker, groom, exercise boy, assistant Continued on Page Seventeen NEW ENGLAND By FRED GALIANI Continued from Page Seven starter, pony boy at Sunshine Park and jockeys agent. He had Dick McLaughlins book when he first started to ride. He has also become a breeder. He has a year- j ling filly by Noble Creek — Pop Bottle for a start. Cataldis breadwinner over the years J has been a solid mare named Game Heart, | whom he had since she was a yearlipg. J He manages to win four or five races a year with her and she is now seven. Game Heart will become a broodmare after this, season. Last year Cataldi joined the married ranks when he wed Eleanor Barbanti, whose cousin also is a trainer in New England. The flash has settled down. i

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