Cameron Capone on the thrill of competition

by Chris Lomon

The drive to thrive has always been part of Cameron Capone’s life.

Whether it was during past days on the gridiron, the mat, or the field, or current times on the racetrack, the young New Jersey horseman has always enjoyed a good challenge.

And that’s exactly what standardbred racing has provided him with.

“You’re going to lose more than you win. That’s just the way the sport is, but there is no better feeling than working with a horse to experience that thrill of winning,” Capone said.

The son of accomplished driver and trainer Mark Capone has had a longstanding association with horses and horse racing.

While he doesn’t remember all of the early experiences, and interactions, there are plenty of photos that depict an immediate fascination and enjoyment of the pacers and trotters that were under his father’s watchful eye.

“I’ve always been involved. My dad always had a barn of 25-30 horses when I was a young kid. Honestly, he had me on a jog cart when I was 2. By the time I was 10, I was training in the race bike. I feel like I always had a connection to racing and the horses. I enjoyed being around the horses and being on the track, just loving what my dad was doing.”

The younger Capone’s passion for equine athletes and the sport they competed in continued to grow over the years.

It was during his mid-teens when he began to realize a horse racing career was for him. A few years later, when he attended college, that feeling heightened.

“Probably when I was around 16, I knew that I wanted to do it. My dad really pushed me to go to college, and when I was there, that was when I realized I really wanted to do it.”

Working alongside his father, Cameron was an eager student, gathering up invaluable tips and pointers each day he was at the barn.

The more he worked with the horses, the more it sparked his interest to one day go out on his own.

“My dad always told me to treat the horses the best way possible. He gave the horses the best care, the best feed, the best hay. He was committed to keeping them as healthy, happy, and sound as possible. His horses always looked great. The main thing that I learned was not to cut any corners.”

On March 19, Cameron sat in the race bike for a qualifier at Freehold. He teamed with Miss B, a veteran pacing daughter of Art Major—Misbet, to finish third, albeit a far distance back from the winner.

Five months later, he partnered with Holy Grail N, in another qualifier at Freehold, with the end result a 4 ¾-length victory.

This May, he drove in his first pari-mutuel race, an out-of-the-money finish at The Meadowlands.

That very same month, he earned his first training win, the milestone coming at Freehold with 8-year-old pacing miss Madame Leza A.

“She came to me, and I was told, ‘You can’t do this, and you can’t do that with her.’ So, she didn’t race with a lot of equipment. She finished fifth the first time she raced for me, but the next time, she cut the whole mile and won by three lengths in 1:56.4. She was really strong that day. It was pretty cool. I remember the announcer saying that she had plenty in reserve. It was nice to be able to get that first win, to give you that confidence.”

A 7-year-old pacer named Davids Coming Home has also been a standout for father and son.

The son of A Rocknroll Dance—Arterra, who has racked over $208,000 in career earnings, first came to the barn of Mark Capone in 2020.

“We claimed him for $7,500 at Freehold and then he romped next time at the same level. We brought him to the Meadowlands and he won in 1:52. Then he came back and we bumped him up in class. He didn’t win, but he did really well for us, which was great.”

Two months ago, Davids Coming Home was claimed back by Cameron, who co-owns the gelding with George Tackley and Wendy Storrier.

He also co-owns Passa Grille Beach, a 7-year-old son of Somebeachsomewhere—KuteKatie who delivered him his first sub-1:50 mile.

“We have five horses right now, but I’d like to get that number up to between 10 and 15. Next year, I’d like to have a 50-win season, if that would be possible. Those would be my short-term goals. I feel like everybody’s long-term goal is to develop the babies and try to produce a world champion. I’d really like to be like the big barns and have 80-100 horses.”

When he’s not at the barn in the mornings or at the track in the evenings, Cameron, a standout multi-sport athlete in high school, jumps at the chance to relive his football days.

It’s also a chance to feed his competitive nature.

“I really like to do anything. We’re having a Turkey Bowl this week, with a bunch of football teams we put together. A bunch of my friends are coming, so that will be great. I played football, I wrestled, I played lacrosse… I’ve always been an athletic kid. I also like golf a lot. I’ve been playing a lot of golf the past few years. Anything that keeps me active puts a smile on my face.”

Those pursuits, even when the final score doesn’t count, are still a reminder of what’s needed to be successful in the racing world.

Win or lose on the racetrack, Cameron feels privileged to be part of an industry he’s admired for years.

“You can’t get too far ahead of yourself in racing. You can always think you’re the best, but there is always someone out there that is better than you…. unless you’re Ron Burke. But pushing yourself to be at the top of your game, making sure your horses are happy and healthy, and giving them the best chance to win, those are things that drive me every day.”

As for what the best part of his job is, it’s by no means a surprise.

“You get to work with these wonderful animals, and you get to create a bond with most of them. I think that’s the coolest part about this business. You bring people around the horses, and they usually always fall in love with them. That’s what it’s like for me.”