Joe Sbrocco enjoyed his best year as a horse owner in 2022 and being able to revel in the experience with friends made it all the more memorable.
Sbrocco shared ownership in 60 horses that started races last year, with two from his stable — pacer Pebble Beach and trotter Volume Eight — named Dan Patch Award winners. Overall, his horses made 108 trips to the winner’s circle and earned $5.27 million USD in purses, a total that was among the best for any owner in North America.
Pebble Beach, a three-year-old who counted the North America Cup and Breeders Crown among his wins, was the second-highest earner in harness racing last year with $1.35 million USD. Volume Eight, a two-year-old who rose to prominence in the fall and captured the Kindergarten Classic Series championship and Valley Victory, banked $432,232 USD.
In addition to those two horses, Sbrocco had 10 others reach six figures in purses and two more come within $2,600 of that level. Among that group was three-year-old I Did It Myway, a male pacer bred by Sbrocco, who earned $729,745 USD. He was the Kentucky Sire Stakes champ, defeating Pebble Beach, and second to Pebble Beach in the Breeders Crown.
“It was my best year ever,” said Sbrocco, who in the past raced U.S. Pacer of the Year honourees Captaintreacherous and Downbytheseaside and remains involved in their respective stallion syndicates. “The last few years have been very good, but this was phenomenal between the studs and racehorses. What more could a guy want?
“But what is the most fun is the partners. My partners are great people and there is such friendship between everybody. We converse all the time, go back and forth with text messages. I wouldn’t want to own a horse by myself because it’s not as much fun. The trainers become friends too. That’s the best part of all this.”
Pebble Beach and Volume Eight — who will be honoured at the Dan Patch Awards banquet, presented by Caesars Entertainment, on Feb. 19 — both were trained by Noel Daley. Also an O'Brien Awards divisional finalist, Pebble Beach hit the board in 17 of 18 races last year and went a stretch of 11 consecutive starts finishing no worse than second, winning six. In addition to his victories in the North America Cup and Breeders Crown, he won the Tattersalls Pace and Matron. He was retired at the end of the season and is standing as a stallion in Kentucky.
Volume Eight won seven of nine starts, including the final five of his campaign. One of the victories during that streak came after making an early break in a preliminary round of the Kindergarten at The Meadowlands, where he rallied to win by a head.
“He surprised us all,” Sbrocco said about Volume Eight. “When he broke and was way back and won it, as a two-year-old trotter, how many can do that? That started us thinking, what kind of horse is this? The driver [Andy McCarthy] knows horses, and he said he’s special. He proved to be that.
“Noel did a fabulous job last year,” added Sbrocco. “I can’t wait to get to the awards banquet just to see him smile. He deserves it.”
I Did It Myway, who was trained by Tony Alagna, won seven of 20 races, including a division of the Bluegrass Stakes, and hit the board another eight times. He will return to race again this season at age four.
“He was a surprise to me too,” said Sbrocco. “We’re bringing him back and hoping he comes back strong this year. You never know; things change from one year to another. But he’s a pretty good horse.”
I Did It Myway, by Captaintreacherous, was the first foal out of the mare Flyme To The Moon. She also produced For Once Inmy Life, a three-year-old colt by Downbytheseaside with Daley, and Reachingforthemoon, a two-year-old filly by Captaintreacherous with Alagna. A Downbytheseaside-sired colt, Itwasaverygoodyear, was born last year.
With each, Sbrocco continued his penchant for naming horses after Frank Sinatra songs.
“I’m Italian,” Sbrocco said with a laugh. “I love his music.”
Sbrocco, a 2022 Special Recognition Award recipient from the Ohio Harness Horsemen’s Association earlier this month, no doubt would enjoy Sinatra’s “Winners” as a continual soundtrack to his racing endeavours. Regardless, his involvement in the sport keeps the soon-to-be 82-year-old young at heart.
“I’m retired and all I do is the horses,” said Sbrocco, who got started in racing in 1970. “If it wasn’t for that, I’d probably get old quick. This keeps me going. It’s just wonderful.”
(USTA; Photo of Joe Sbrocco, far right, in the Woodbine Mohawk Park winner's circle celebrating Pebble Beach's North America Cup victory)