NYRA Remembers Trainer Thomas L. “Lou” Rondinello

December 8, 2023

Photo by Eric Kalet

NYRA Press Office

OZONE PARK, N.Y. – The New York Racing Association, Inc. (NYRA) mourns the loss of trainer Thomas L. “Lou” Rondinello, winner of the 1974 Belmont Stakes with Little Current of John W. Galbreath’s Darby Dan Farm, and a steady stream of other graded stakes races on the New York circuit in the 1970s and ’80s.

Mr. Rondinello, a resident of Melville, N.Y., passed away on November 27. He was 95.

With Miguel Rivera aboard, Little Current came from next‐to‐last in the field of nine to win the 106th running of the Belmont Stakes with a stretch run the New York Times described as “the force of a tidal wave.” In winning by seven lengths over Thomas Nichols’ Jolly Johu, Little Current matched the same margin in which he had won the Preakness several weeks earlier; he was fifth in the 1974 Kentucky Derby. 

Those two Triple Crown victories earned Little Current the Eclipse Award of 1974 as Champion 3-Year-Old Colt. Among Mr. Rondinello’s other top horses were Tempest Queen, the 1978 Eclipse Award winner as Champion 3-Year-Old Filly; Prince Art Thou, the 1975 Florida Derby winner; and Darby Creek Road, winner of the 1977 Saratoga Special. Mr. Rondinello also was a three-time winner of the Queens County Handicap, with True Knight (1973), Hail the Pirates (1975) and Cum Laude Laurie (1978).

“Training is like getting sand in your shoes,” Mr. Rondinello said many years ago. “Once it gets in your shoes, you never get it out.” 

Mr. Rondinello was a native of Harrison, N.Y., where he played basketball and was a pole vaulter in high school. After graduation, he served in the U.S. Army and then opened a public stable with some cousins. In 1959, Mr. Rondinello joined Darby Dan Farm, where he worked an assistant to Jim Conway, Bob Gentry and Dave Erb. Named as Mr. Darby Dan Farm’s head trainer in 1970, he saddled his first winner, Masterhand, at Hialeah Park that same year.

According to Equibase, Mr. Rondinello saddled 400 winners with earnings of $8,607,605 in a career from 1970 to his retirement in 1987. Little Current helped turn 1974 into Mr. Rondinello’s top year in earnings with $1,121,400.

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