Horsepeople talk 2022, and hopes for 2023

Horsepeople talk 2022, and hopes for 2023

December 29, 2022

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by Debbie Little

To celebrate the New Year, I’ve asked some Meadowlands horsepeople the same three questions. There used to be four questions, but thankfully, I was finally able to drop the COVID-19 related question.

1. What is your best memory of the year: a) on the track, and b) off the track?

2. Have you ever made New Year’s resolutions and did you keep them?

3. Do you have something you’d like to accomplish in 2023?

JIM CAMPBELL

1a. “On the track was obviously Hambletonian Day, winning the Hambletonian and the Oaks.”

1b. “Off the track, the best thing was jet skiing with my son down in Belmar. My son got a jet ski in the early spring and he kept telling me how much fun it is, so we got another one and we spent several Sundays jet skiing in Shark River and in the ocean and it was just great to have something for father and son to do that was away from business.”

2. “I haven’t in a long time and I don’t intend to. I try to wake up each day trying to think to do the right thing in more ways than one. Sometimes your day doesn’t always go that way but that’s what I strive for every day. But there’s trials and tribulations in each new day that you start, so you just try to do the best and be the best person you can be.”

3. “Hit the lottery! I don’t set goals as far as racing or anything like that because it’s such an unpredictable business. If you’d been having this conversation with me a year ago, I would have no idea that I was going to have the day I had on Hambletonian Day or the year that I had. I don’t make predictions because you either get let down or extremely surprised and I don’t do it.”

STACY CHIODO

1. “My best memory would probably be b) having my neck surgery be successful, and a) getting my first win back driving.

“It was a very, very good feeling [getting back on the track]. It’s just something that I love to do, so not being able to do it for the last year and a bit, I missed it, but the horses were doing well. I had a very big smile on my face after the [first race back].”

2. “No because no. I don’t even remember the last one I made because they never stick.”

3. “[Rock To Glory, turning 15 years old in 2023] still has the possibility of hitting a million dollars and we just thought that as long as he’s happy and he’s healthy and enjoying what he’s doing, that would be really cool for Bruno [Chiodo, her husband] to be able to do that with him. That’s just kind of one thing that we’re kind of joking to ourselves that would be kind of cool since we’ve never actually had a millionaire in the barn.

“We’ve got our homebred filly [I Am The Fire] by Stay Hungry turning two and everybody dreams of having a good one.”

JENNIFER BONGIORNO

1a. “Obviously, winning the Three Diamonds, being my biggest win so far was amazing, but without my brother being a part of it, it wasn’t as special, so my best on-track moment would be winning the Pennsylvania Sire Stake final with Beach Cowgirl just because Joe was the driver and she set a world record. And I just think that’s so special having a 2-year-old do something like that. But winning the Three Diamonds was also amazing and something I’ll never forget.”

1b. “Off track, I would have to say this year [my boyfriend] Brian [Sears] and I got a puppy named Marty Byrde and he’s just the light of our lives. He definitely has stolen our hearts and is my favorite part of this year.”

2. “I really try not to make New Year’s resolutions. I try not to say I’m going to go to the gym because I’m probably not going to do that and I don’t like to disappoint myself.

“I think every year I just try and become a better person in some way, just maturing and realizing things that I could be better and do better at. Being a better all-around human. Helping people more. I sponsor a family every year for Christmas. Every year I try to give back more to others. I think that’s really important. We’re very blessed and I like to give back to those that need.”

3. “Professionally, I do set goals. So, every year I try to have a better year than the last, so I would say my goal for 2023 would definitely be to surpass last year, which was the best year for our stable. This barn has really become my everything. My other thing is I’d really love to win a Breeders Crown. The saying ‘It all comes down to the Breeders Crown’ is true. Joe and I thought with Beach Cowgirl this year really could have been our year, but she ended up getting hurt. My goals are definitely professionally based. Personally, I think I have a really great life and I’m very happy with that.”

JESSICA OTTEN

1a. “I was able to have a total of eight shows on Fox Sports and I thought that it was a great experience for myself and great exposure for harness racing overall. We had six shows at The Meadowlands and then I had two shows at Woodbine Mohawk Park covering the Breeders Crown and I got so much great feedback. It was great not only for myself but for everybody involved because we’re bringing harness racing to new eyes.”

1b. “The [Dan Patch] banquet and getting the [Breakthrough] award, I guess. Even though I was missing my grandma I had a huge support system there. And anytime you can go to Florida in the middle of winter, it’s great. And to have people that I’ve known just by seeing their name, then to meet them in person was also great.

“I kind of felt like I was just a little small-town girl until I had all these big-name people coming up to me and telling me they liked my work, so that was pretty cool.”

2. “I have made New Year’s resolutions and I probably didn’t keep them. I know this is going to sound strange maybe to some people, but I usually set my goals when my birthday comes around in the beginning of February.

“I feel like everybody tries to reset or set goals at the first of the year and I try to do it each birthday. Every year, I just strive to continue to better myself and the people around me.”

3. “I just hope that it’s a better year than 2022 was. As much as I am dedicated to my job and everything I do, I really do need to start focusing on maybe a day to myself once in a while.

“Maybe just try and continue to help promote the sport we all love so much and try and come up with some new ideas and try and make the sport as enjoyable as possible for the horsemen and the fans.”

TONY VERRUSO

1a. “The best memory this year would be representing the U.S. in the Amateur World Cup. I just always kind of wanted to represent the country, so I’m proud of that.”

1b. “The fact that [my wife and daughter] are involved in the racing and like it and they come and support and watch.”

2. “No, I’m not that kind of guy. I don’t need the holiday or the whole way of doing that to try to accomplish things I want to accomplish. I try to do that just in general in life, set goals and attain them.”

3. “Just to stay consistent. Just to be thought of as competent by people in the industry. We’re amateurs and stuff, but you like to know that people still think you can do this.

“What I said in my [2021 Amateur Driver of the Year] speech is that Simon [Spicer] lets me drive any horse in the barn. So, to me, that means he trusts me and thinks I’m good as opposed to I’m just the amateur driver he uses.”

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