By Chris Lomon
As a young and successful trainer-owner, Tony Michael Gattellaro
certainly wouldn’t mind adding some more winner’s circle trips to his resume. He’d also love to see more people his age doing the very same.
With snow blanketing the ground and the mercury dipping to -30 Celsius in the Greater Toronto Area over the last couple of days in January, thoughts of horses galloping over the Woodbine Tapeta and turf might seem miles away for most.
Not for Gattellaro, though.
When he returns to the Toronto oval, he’ll have new additions to his barn – which currently stands at 30 – on the Woodbine backstretch.
“Last year was an interesting one for my stable,” noted Gattellaro of a campaign that yielded 11 wins and $402,537 in earnings. “I refer to it as a transition year. Being a younger trainer, I didn’t have an abundance of two-year-olds in past years. Last year, when we started, of the 24 horses I had, 12 were two-year-olds. So it was a challenge because you need patience. It’s very time-consuming to develop the young horses properly and not have much racing action.
“We have all those two-year-olds from last year that have turned three and we should be able to win some races early. It’s a goal of mine to win more races than last season. I see that happening.”
At age 33, Gattellaro, who has 32 career wins (since 2014) as of February 4, has stamped himself as a bona fide up-and-coming talent, a horseman committed to his craft, and to heralding the thrills of racehorse ownership to others.
Gattellaro and syndicate members
Owning thoroughbreds continues to be an integral aspect of Gattellaro’s racing philosophy.
Last season, horses he owned in partnership recorded 22 top-three finishes from 38 starts.
“It’s always been a part of my business model,” he said. “I did come in with just my own horses when I started and I have a lot of great owners that I work with now. My syndicates, which I’m part of, will always be a big part of the stable. I try to get younger people involved in ownership and I find if I own a percentage of the horse, it entices those individuals and makes them feel a little bit more comfortable to get them to join. I plan on continuing to own horses and develop horses for my loyal clients as well.”
What advice would he offer to people pondering racehorse ownership?
“Surround yourself with the best people you can. Honesty and integrity goes a long way. That’s a pretty obvious thing to say, but something I heard Roger Attfield say one time was, ‘You want your trainer to be someone you’d go out and have a beer or drink with.’ You are going to spend a lot of time on the phone, in the barn and at the races with these people, so you want to have that rapport. I would tell the younger generation considering ownership to go with a trainer or bloodstock agent that you’d want to spend time with away from the racetrack.”
Throughout his time in Florida, Gattellaro has soaked up the horse racing scene at various cities and venues, including one of the biggest days on the North American racing calendar.
“I went to the Pegasus World Cup and it was great to see. It’s an amazing event for young people and for those who might not have been to see a horse race. The events, the big races – it’s a fantastic way to encourage the younger generation to discover our great sport.
“I was hanging out in Wellington, too. Whether it’s polo players, equestrian, show jumpers… it’s a very horse-rich community. But I find that not all equestrians are fully aware of the excitement racing offers. So if I can help bridge that gap, maybe we can get a few new people who already appreciate the equine industry interested in our sport.”
Brian O'Leary, Owner, Polo Management Services,
With more eyes on his barn and an increasing list of owners seeking his services, life is indeed good for Gattellaro, whose biggest win (as a trainer and co-owner) to date came when Clickity Clack won the 2017 edition of the $225,000 Princess Elizabeth Stakes, with a group of his high school friends.
“Career-wise, this is definitely the happiest I’ve been. We’ve accomplished some amazing achievements. But I’m also very appreciative of where we are at. People are starting to take notice of what my team has created.”
He’d also appreciate seeing a younger generation of fans at the racetrack, and having them consider an opportunity to get involved in the sport.
Gattellaro and friends, along with Darren Dutchyshen (TSN)
and actor Andrew Herr (Letterkenny) - Will Wong photo
“I’d love to see the younger crowd experience what horse racing ownership has to offer,” he said. “It’s extremely easy to be part of this excitement. It’s very social and can be profitable if done correctly. The animal is truly special and this industry is such a thrill.”
Gattellaro certainly knows all about that.