OLDSMAR, FL. – Assistant trainer Will Sacco says the main lessons he takes away from his father Gregg are of the unspoken variety.
“You have to really have that horsemanship” to succeed in the sport, 23-year-old Will said after his dad earned the Boot Barn Trainer of the Month Award. “I’ve seen that just by watching him in the morning.
“My dad’s love for the horses is what I’ve really taken from working with him. He always does what is best for the horse, whether it’s giving them a break or trying to find what agrees with them – the right equipment, distance, and surface. They can’t talk back, so you really have to have that level of horsemanship.”
For the elder Sacco, who is tied for third place in the Tampa Bay Downs standings with eight victories after 4-year-old filly Forever Rose’s come-from-behind maiden victory in today’s fifth race on the turf, those lessons are an extension of the legacy handed to him by his late father, trainer William J. Sacco.
Forever Rose is owned by Reeves Thoroughbred Racing and MyRacehorse and was ridden by Antonio Gallardo.
“I had a wonderful relationship with my dad, and Will reminds me a lot of him,” Gregg, 58, said. “He’s stubborn at times, but he’s a smart kid and a very talented horseman. He leads our staff, which without their tireless efforts any of our successes would not come to fruition.
“I’m looking forward to him training on his own, which I think is not that far off in the future. He started from the ground up doing everything with me, from hotwalking to grooming. He’s got a keen eye at the sales and picks out a lot of our horses, and he’s in charge of our daily routine.
“A lot of what we do on the backside, I’ve left to my son,” Gregg added.
Will, who spent most of his summers as a youngster around his father’s Monmouth Park barn, spent a month at the University of Kentucky in 2018 before deciding to follow his father’s path. He joined the operation in 2019 and was named assistant at the start of the 2022-2023 Oldsmar meet.
His father’s career will make his pedigree obvious to everyone he encounters along his way.
Now in his second season at Tampa Bay Downs, Gregg Sacco has trained 798 career winners. His best horse probably was Mind Control, who won five graded stakes under his care from 2018-2020, including the Grade I Hopeful and the Grade I H. Allen Jerkens, both at Saratoga. Other top Sacco-trained runners include Grade III winners Foreverness, a gelding, and the filly Unbridled Essence, and Joevia, who finished third in the 2019 Belmont Stakes.
He’s trained many, many more of lesser ability, and Will knows that’s part of the sport as well.
“Training horses is seven days a week, and you have to be at the barn early if you’ve had a bad day or won three races,” Will said. “You have to love it and you have to keep looking forward. When we leave the barn and get home, we talk about horses, and around the dinner table we talk about horses.”
That makes perfect sense, when you realize how much joy it brings them.
Around the oval. Oisin Murphy, the talented Irishman who was British Champion Jockey in 2019, 2020 and 2021 and won the 2021 Longines Breeders’ Cup Distaff on Marche Lorraine, came up from Gulfstream to treat fans to two victories from two mounts.
Murphy got the mount on 3-year-old colt Ari’s Magic in the sixth race when Samy Camacho was taken off after falling from his mount in the previous race due to the track’s concussion protocol.
Murphy helped the LSU Stables’s-owned, Christophe Clement-trained Ari’s Magic break his maiden for fun, then Murphy won the eighth race on 4-year-old colt Alexander Helios after a spirited stretch duel with Conspiracy Fact. Alexander Helios is owned by Diane and John Fradkin and trained by Saffie A. Joseph, Jr.
Camacho gained a measure of solace by winning the seventh race on the turf on Crafty King, a 4-year-old gelding owned by Team Equistaff and trained by Gerald Bennett.
Antonio Gallardo rode two winners. In addition to his triumph on Forever Rose, he won the first race on Sheza Nasty Girl, a 3-year-old Florida-bred filly owned and trained by Victor Carrasco, Jr.
Trainer Wayne Potts won back-to-back races. He captured the third with Fly Fly Away, a 7-year-old gelding owned by Joseph Irace and Alfred Noll and ridden by Jose Ferrer. Potts added the fourth with Bold Medication, a 5-year-old gelding owned by Irace and Noll and ridden by Kevin Gomez.
Thoroughbred racing continues Saturday with a nine-race card beginning at 12:35 p.m. The feature is the ninth race, a $53,000, 6-furlong allowance/optional claiming event for horses 4-years-old-and-upward. The 5-2 morning-line favorite in the 11-horse field is trainer Gerald Bennett’s 7-year-old Florida-bred gelding Feast, who will be ridden by Jose Ferrer.
Tampa Bay Downs currently races on a Wednesday-Friday-Saturday-Sunday schedule. The track is open every day for simulcast wagering, no-limits action and tournament play in The Silks Poker Room and golf fun and instruction at The Downs Golf Practice Facility.