Columbus, OH — Joe Spadaro has come a long way from his Queens, N.Y., childhood, working nearly his entire life in the harness racing industry, first as a trainer, then as a racing commission executive and now as an owner-breeder.
“Growing up in New York, harness racing was big time,” Spadaro, 77, recalled. “Later, when I lived in Hicksville, Long Island — about three miles from Roosevelt Raceway — I started training horses. It took me a long time to get established as a trainer — back then you had to earn your way into getting stalls at Roosevelt and Yonkers based on the quality of horses you had. I also bought and resold horses and did a lot of traveling along the East Coast and throughout Pennsylvania and Ohio.”
Spadaro trained Standardbreds from 1976 through 1989, competing mostly on the New York and New Jersey circuits.
“When Roosevelt shut down in 1989, I decided to move into a different area of racing and got a job with the New York Thoroughbred Breeding and Development Fund,” Spadaro said. “I worked there until I retired in 2007 — moving up from field inspector to the Deputy Director position.”
It was during those years that Spadaro became close friends with famed Thoroughbred announcer Tom Durkin and began purchasing horses as an owner-breeder.
“We became good friends, and the name Spaaartners actually came about because Tom was the announcer at Saratoga, which people refer to as ‘The Spa,’ and he used to draw out the word ‘spaaaa’ when he was announcing there,’” he explained.
“We purchased the Lindy Lane mare Electra Hanover from Albert Adams, at his farm Winterwood Farm in Bellville, Ohio, and she was in foal at the time, so it was a package deal. We bred her to Conway Hall and the result was Coraggioso. It was Tom’s job to name the foals we bred and as we both love Italy, he gave most of the foals Italian names.”
Coraggioso, the Italian word for courageous, was foaled at Winterwood in 2009 and raced four years, becoming a New York Sires Stakes champion and taking a record of 5,1:52.4 with earnings of $677,398.
“Coraggioso was a big horse and my goal was to show how, even though as big as he is, that he could get around a half-mile track,” Spadaro stressed. “Ohio was just breaking out and it was the perfect time for him to be showcased there, but that didn’t happen as he pulled a suspensory. We waited a year to try to bring him back to the races, and did everything we could, but it just didn’t happen.”
Since retirement, Coraggioso has been standing in Ohio and has a trio of youngsters that are likely starters in three $300,000 Ohio Sires Stakes championships.
“He’s been standing at Cool Winds Farm in Lima for four years,” Spadaro noted. “He’s had 13 starters, and last year Lima Gold was his first OSS contender to make the championship.”
The now 3-year-old trotting filly Lima Gold 2,1:57h ($108,562) currently sits seventh in the OSS standings with two third-place finishes, a fifth and second place finish in the OSS legs.
As well, the 2-year-old trotting gelding Panzano 2,1:58.3h ($48,520) is fifth in the OSS standings. He won OSS leg three in 1:58.3 and was second, fifth and third in the other OSS legs.
Both youngsters are trained by Chris Beaver for the Spaaaartners.
The 2-year-old trotting filly Incomeorexpenses 2,2:01.1h ($27,777) is the other OSS championship hopeful. Owned by Black Magic Racing, she is trained by Todd Luther, and had a pair of second-place finishes in the four OSS legs.
“We’re thrilled to have Coraggioso standing in Ohio and even more so to have his babies racing in the Ohio Sires Stakes,” Spadaro concluded. “Racing in Ohio validates why I want my stallion standing in Ohio. Being here is refreshing because it is what we experienced back in the 1960s and 1970s at Roosevelt and Yonkers, before The Meadowlands came into the picture. There was so much enthusiasm for the races back then and that same kind of enthusiasm is in Ohio now.”