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Teresa Genaro is a high school English teacher and freelance turf writer whose work has appeared in a variety of turf publications. A former and erstwhile resident of Saratoga Springs, she lives in Brooklyn and writes about New York racing at Brooklyn Backstretch.

Stately Victor's Local Connection

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Louisville native and Brooklyn dweller Bud Perrone will attend the Belmont Stakes for the first time this Saturday. Growing up in Kentucky, he went to Churchill Downs regularly as a kid, and he’s been to Belmont before, most recently for the 2005 Breeders’ Cup. “It was cold that day,” he remembered. “And we didn’t make any money.” But he’s never made it out here for the Stakes.

Perrone grew up in Louisville, one of 10 children, five of them boys, and in high school, he and his friends were infield regulars on Derby Day. His brother Tom still goes to the Derby every year.

One of the Perrone boys, Victor, was best friends with Jack Conway, currently a candidate for attorney general of Kentucky. Younger than Bud, Victor was killed in a car crash in Louisville in 1992. The Conway family has long owned racehorses, and Jack and his father Tom have, according to Bud, always wanted to name a horse after Victor, but they wanted to wait until they found the right one. 

The Conways bought a Ghostzapper colt last year for $250,000, and finally, they had found the one. They named him Stately Victor, and he made his first start at Saratoga last summer, finishing second to Winslow Homer in an off-the-turf race. On closing weekend at the Spa, Stately Victor won a mile-and-a-sixteenth turf race by four and a half lengths.

At that point, Bud had no idea that the horse existed. “I heard about him right before the Breeder’s Futurity,” he recalled. Stately Victor finished seventh over Keeneland’s Polytrack. Bud admitted that he then sort of lost track of the horse. Stately Victor lost five races in a row, and life in Brooklyn with children interfered with following the colt’s career.

“I didn’t even know that he was running in the Blue Grass,” Bud said shortly before the Kentucky Derby. “My mother called me that night after he won.” So Bud did not cash an $82.20 winning ticket when Stately Victor crossed the wire first.

He watched the race on YouTube, and while moved by the victory of his brother’s equine namesake, it took a while to sink in. “You get so distracted by everyday life—it was great when my mother told me, but now it brings up all these reminders of when we were little kids, little moments. They’re never too far away, but they can get lost in the hustle and bustle of daily life.”

Though naturally Bud wanted Stately Victor to win the Derby - “It would be great for the Conways,” he said. “This is Tom Conway’s first Derby starter” - he was also philosophical: “If he finishes 19th, it’ll be OK.”

Stately Victor didn’t finish 19th; he finished eighth after getting slammed coming out of the starting gate. Shortly after that race, trainer Michael Maker targeted the Belmont as the colt’s next start.

Before the Derby, Perrone said, emotions had run so high that by the time of the race, the emotion had been “wrung out.” He threw his first Derby party at his Brooklyn home, and he says, “We were just able to enjoy the day and the race itself. We’re still in that sort of pattern, which is actually good. It’s just about having fun and enjoying the moment.”

Stately Victor arrived at Belmont a week ago, settling into historic Barn 1. He lives a few doors down from Dale Romans’s First Dude, and he’s been one of the first horses out each morning, generally hitting the track between 5:30 and 6:00 am. Last weekend, Maker declared himself “very happy” with how the horse had been training. Bud’s brothers are coming in from Louisville, as are the Conways; the Perrone family will be well represented at Belmont on Saturday. Stately Victor’s morning line odds are 15-1. Word from the Louisville camp is that the colt’s connections are positive about the colt’s workouts, and thinking that he’s got a shot. “We’re not going past that,” said Perrone.

The weeks since the Blue Grass have offered Perrone a chance to remember and celebrate his younger brother’s life, and to share memories with new friends that didn’t know Victor. On Saturday, he’ll see Stately Victor in person for the first time, sharing that experience with his wife, two of his brothers, and his brother-in-law. Unlike his last trip out to Belmont, it won’t be cold on Saturday, and maybe this time, Perrone will go home a winner.

Comments :

  • Teresa | June 04 2010 06:06 AM

    Thanks, Brian and Matthew. I appreciate being given the chance to share Victor's story and meet some of the Perrones. I'll be rooting for them tomorrow.

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  • BRIAN | June 03 2010 09:18 PM

    Don,t know who will read this or if Victor has a chance to win.But i love the story behind this horse.I hope for the family he wins or does really good.There should be more people in this world.Who always keep the people they love in there hearts.

    report this comment
  • Matthew Perrone | June 03 2010 03:49 PM

    Thank you Teresa for this wonderful post.

    report this comment
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