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Harness racing: Cappello added to Hall of Fame roster

Tuesday, June 10, 2014
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— Dan Cappello Jr., who has over 5,000 victories and purse earnings of over $23 million during his career, will be inducted into the Saratoga Harness Hall of Fame and Museum tonight at the Jefferson Street facility.

Also being inducted is Prime Interest, a hard-racing trotter who was named Horse of the Year in 2008.

Steve Greenfield will receive the Virginia O’Brien Memorial 110% Award, given annually to individuals who devote their lives to the pursuit of harness racing who might not otherwise be in the limelight. The nominees are chosen by their peers from the Saratoga Harness Horseperson’s Association.

Cappello grew up in harness racing, jogging horses for his father, Dan Sr., at Monticello. Cappello Jr. began his driving career at the age of 16, getting his first win with Gallant Romeo at Harrington, Del.

Cappello drove at Monticello for about five years before relocating to Saratoga in 1982. Over the years, Cappello’s aggressive driving style made him a favorite with the harness racing fans, owners and trainers, and over the next decade, he spent many nights driving on every race on the card.

Cappello notched his 1,000th career win in 1993 at Saratoga behind BJ’s Power, and hit the 5,000-win milestone with Cheyenne Cam in August 2012, a feat not achieved by any regular driver in the 70 years of harness racing at Saratoga.

Cappello also had his share of championship drives, including guiding This Is Wyatt to the winner’s circle in the Gerrity Pace Final. He also piloted Scorpion Moon to a track and world record trot of 1:54 in 2010.

Over the course of his 40-year career, Cappello had earned nine driving championships and four Horseman of the Year titles. In 25 of those seasons, he finished with over 100 victories, and cracked the 200-win mark in 13 seasons.

His best year came in 2006, when he piloted 304 winners, earning $1.9 million in purses.

Switch pays off

A change in trainers helped launch Prime Interest on a Hall of Fame career.

When owner Vince Laurenzo was looking for an open-class trotter to race at Saratoga, Prime Interest was racing in the open classes at Buffalo Raceway and Laurenzo thought the horse might be a good fit on Saratoga’s easier turns and purchased him in July 2007. Prime Interest made a few starts for Laurenzo in 2007, winning a couple of overnight races by the end of the meet.

The 2008 season marked the start of a stellar career for Prime Interest. A trainer change to Jackie Rousse, Saratoga’s 2007 Trainer of the Year, seemed a good fit for the high-strung gelding, as he flourished under her care. Starting his campaign in February, the 6-year-old registered 14 wins, 12 of them in the open trot; seven seconds and seven thirds in 35 starts, earning just over $139,000.

The crowning achievement of 2008 for Prime Interest was a track record and lifetime mark of 1:55.1 on Aug. 15. At year’s end, his blockbuster season earned him the Trotter of the Year title and also the coveted Horse of the Year honor. Prime Interest’s record performance still stands at seventh in the all-time trotting standings at Saratoga Harness.

In 2009, Prime Interest picked up where he left off, wheeling off a 14-5-2 record in 31 starts with earnings of $146,480

Rousse said that she thinks Prime Interest’s biggest attribute “is his consistency over the years. He’s a sweetheart to take care of, but he’s all business on the track.”

He was outstanding again in 2010, with 10 open trot wins in 27 starts and earnings over $120,000, again earning Trotter of the Year honors.

During the following three years, Prime Interest continued to be productive, although slowing down a bit. He now resides on the farm in semi-retirement, with a lifetime record of 195 starts, 65-42-19 and earnings of $659,141.

The Hall of Fame induction ceremony will begin at 6:30 p.m.

 
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