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Trainer Joe Aquilino passes away at 76

By NYRA Press Office | 04/09/2014 07:30 PM ET
Joe Aquilino
PHOTO/Adam Coglianese

Trainer Joe Aquilino, a mainstay of The New York Racing Association, Inc. (NYRA) circuit for more than three decades, died today following a lengthy battle with congestive heart failure. He was 76.

Aquilino's biggest win came in 1999 when Badge won the Grade 3 Gotham at Aqueduct Racetrack. Two starts later, Badge was third in the Preakness at 58-1 after threading through traffic in the stretch.

Aquilino was a native of New York City who worked approximately 20 years as a firefighter, serving in Crown Heights, Brooklyn and later in Flushing, Queens.

After falling down a flight of stairs and suffering ligament and cartilage damage to a knee during a call, Aquilino decided to change careers, pulling double duty as a firefighter and as a hotwalker for trainer Frank LaBoccetta before taking out his trainer's license in 1977.

"I was always a fan of racing," Aquilino told the Daily Racing Form in 1995. "I had started to hang around, and I got a job as a hotwalker with Frank LaBoccetta. I would work as a swingman, filling in for grooms, and I would go in early in the morning, then go to the firehouse and work from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. for two straight days and have three days off. When I wasn't at the firehouse, I was at the track. I worked for Frank for six years, then I got my trainer's license."
Aquilino won his first race in 1977 at Atlantic City Race Course with Amberdias. In 1982, Aquilino won his first stakes, the Charles Hatton at Belmont Park, with One Never Nose, a $12,500 claim. In addition to Badge and One Never Nose, stakes winners trained by Aquilino include Dr. J, Haunting, Liveitupnow, No Parole, Pirate Performer, Sabellina, and Stormy Krissy.

Aquilino, who resided in Bayside, N.Y., is survived by his wife Victoria and adult children Joanne, Theresa, Laura, and Nicholas, who is a creative services supervisor for NYRA. Aquilino's final starter was Charming Eyes, who finished fourth in an optional claiming race today at Aqueduct.

Visitation will be held Friday, April 11 from 2-5 p.m. and 7-10 p.m. at Frederick Funeral Home, 192-15 Northern Blvd., Flushing, N.Y.; (718) 357-6100. A funeral service will be held on Saturday, April 12, 9:45 a.m. at St. Robert Bellarmine Roman Catholic Church, Bayside, N.Y.; (718) 229-6465.

In lieu of flowers, donations can made in Aquilino's name to the Backstretch Employee Service Team (BEST), Belmont Park, Gate 6, 2150 Hempstead Turnpike, Cottage 2B, Elmont, NY 11003 or the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation (TRF), P.O. Box 834, Saratoga Springs, NY 12866.