Best of 2020: John Terranova
by Ryan Martin
Just one live day – the New Year’s Eve card at Aqueduct Racetrack – remains in 2020 to complete a remarkable year of racing action on the New York Racing Association, Inc. (NYRA) circuit. The NYRA Press Office checked in with a selection of New York-based racing personalities to get their reflections on the memorable year.
John Terranova took out his trainer’s license in 1992 and conditioned his first winner in April of the following year. A native and resident of Syosset, Terranova was introduced to racing by his father, who owned thoroughbreds.
He got his big break in 2000 when becoming the trainer of Gatsas Thoroughbreds’ Gander, who went on to be a multiple New York-bred champion and made over $2 million in lifetime earnings. Additionally, he has conditioned Grade 1 winners Negligee, Franny Freud, Laragh and Lilacs and Lace. Terranova’s 2020 highlights include winning three stakes races with New York-bred Funny Guy and capturing Saratoga’s Tale of the Cat with Stan the Man.
In terms of training horses, what was the most challenging part of this year given the COVID-19 pandemic?
Terranova: For a while, it was just dealing with the uncertainty of when racing would come back. In this game, as things go, we’re only as good as our last group of horses that have run. We just had to keep going and waiting for the next meet to happen and hope we do well and keep moving forward. Also, there was uncertainty as far as the owners not knowing what to do with their horses; should we give them a break? Turn them out? Rest them? How long is it going to be? It was hard to train horses with no races, targets to point for or any races in mind. That was challenging – not knowing when or if racing was going to start back. Thankfully, looking back, it was only a short period of time, but it felt like an eternity. Two days felt like two weeks, two weeks is like two months in this game. A lot can happen in a short amount of time.
It was a lot of wanting everyone to stay healthy, too. That was really the most important thing. The uncertainty of whether or not your family, workers, or yourself would get sick and how bad it would be. Even now, it continues to be something that’s on our minds. When it comes down to it, that’s [staying healthy] the most important thing.
What was your favorite on-track moment this year?
Terranova: Funny Guy winning the Commentator [June 12 at Belmont Park]. We had just started back racing after being shut down because of the pandemic and he had been ready for quite a while. We didn’t know where to go, what to do or what would be the right spot to get him back. We hoped for an allowance type race to start, but we knew we had a solid New York-bred that was a barn favorite. Everybody loves him. After all that time off, we were just trying to do right by him and make the right call for him and the owners. He was doing really well and he really exceeded our expectations that day. It’s not like he was the favorite. He went off at double-digit [11-1] odds. We were beyond thrilled with the way he ran, and it was a nice way to kick off the resumption of racing in New York for us and our team.
What was the best ride on a horse of yours?
Terranova: Joel Rosario on Funny Guy in the Commentator was a hell of a ride. He had never breezed him, never rode him in a race or anything [prior]. He’s obviously a world-class rider, so guys like him are able to adapt to all types of horses in all types of situations. He went in with a lot of confidence riding him that day. He had a bit of trouble in the race where he had to check a couple times. Rosario certainly gave a beautiful ride on him and I’m grateful he had the horse to do it with. That would certainly stick out. All around, it was the biggest thrill of this unprecedented season.
Who would you say has been your most improved horse?
Terranova: Stan the Man rebounded very well for us this year. He started off early in the winter with a couple of disappointing efforts and it had us scratching our heads. We knew he had done well at Aqueduct previously and he didn’t give us any real indication of what was going on. The shutdown gave us even more time to get him back going. We changed some things up with him and it sort of did a turnaround from the way he started off. Certain horses needed the time, but obviously at the time, we didn’t know. It changed things up for him. What was interesting with him was that generally, his time off was over the summer. He was a horse we used strong and hard through the winter and into the spring and the summer would be his downtime and he’d come back in the late fall. This year, with all that went on, we had to switch things up with him and we had to space his races out. He got to run at Saratoga and that was something different for him.
What was the best improvement at a NYRA track in 2020?
Terranova: The new track at Saratoga is right up there. I know they’re remodeling and expanding the Oklahoma [training] track which is a necessity given how many horses train up there during the offseason and how many horses train on that one track during the meet. The barns also have been a big improvement, but that’s gone on for several years.
I know there was much more focus and a whole lot more attention to the overall safety of the horses and that’s always an important move forward. You can’t get anywhere without trying. Obviously, there are steps being made in the right directions. The main track at Saratoga is one of them. Anywhere a horse steps needs to be maintained to the best it can possibly be on a regular basis. Whether it’s the surface, the horse paths, anything. Obviously, weather plays a part in it. I know there are a lot of efforts made and they listen to people. A lot more voices have been heard.
As you look ahead to a 2021 campaign what are you looking most forward to?
Terranova: We’re going to take and do the best with what we have, and we’re hopeful that we have one or a few of them rise to that occasion where we can have some fun and compete to the graded stakes level. Maybe a horse or two can take us to a place we’ve never been. We’re just grateful to be racing and that we have fantastic owners and great people that are supporting us. We’re hoping we can do that best we can with each one of them and that good fortune comes our way.
The 2020-21 winter meet at Aqueduct returns to action on Thursday, December 31 and continues through Sunday, March 28.
NYRA Bets is the official wagering platform of Aqueduct Racetrack, and the best way to bet every race of the winter meet. Available to horseplayers nationwide, the NYRA Bets app is available for download today on iOS and Android at www.NYRABets.com.
For additional information, and the complete winter meet stakes schedule, please visit https://www.nyra.com/aqueduct/racing/stakes-schedule.