Orseno’s 2000th Win Was Worth the Wait at Gulfstream

August 16, 2023

Joe Orseno (Ryan Thompson)

‘You Can’t Make That Up, the Way it Happened’

David Joseph/Gulfstream Park

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla.— Trainer Joe Orseno entered last Sunday’s racing action with 1998 career victories before moving one win away from the 2000-win mark when Eamonn captured the Select Stakes at Monmouth Park. He reached the milestone less than four hours later at Gulfstream Park in dramatic fashion when Lord Eddard Stark rallied from last in a field of nine to eke out a dead-heat victory at 21-1 odds in the Sunday finale.

The veteran trainer, who wasn’t present for either of his wins Sunday, watched win No. 2000 on his iPad on his way to South Florida from Lexington, Ky., where his 14-year-old daughter, Aly, competed in the two-week Pony Finals at the Lexington Horse Park.

“We were starting our route back to Florida, so I watched it in the car on my iPad,” Orseno said Wednesday morning. “I thought we got up, I really did. But it took so long, I said, ‘OK, I guess he was second.’ Then they put up the dead-heat.”

By the time the stewards had posted a dead-heat several minutes after the finish, Lord Eddard Stark had been unsaddled and jockey Edgar Perez had returned to the jockey’s room after Shankar, the 4-5 favorite, posed for a traditional win photo.

“I have 2000-win pictures – I might be missing some – and I’ve never had a horse in the winner’s circle without the jockey or a saddle,” Orseno said. “You can’t make that up, the way it happened.”         

The circumstances surrounding win No. 2000 hardly spoiled the moment for Orseno.

“It’s a big accomplishment. There’s a feeling of self-satisfaction,” Orseno said. “I’ve been pretty steady. I didn’t do it with 150 horses in my barn – the most I’ve really had was 50. I’ve just been steady my whole career. I’m pretty proud of the way I did it.”

Orseno’s most memorable training achievements came in 2000 while serving as Frank Stronach’s private trainer. He saddled Red Bullet for an upset victory over Kentucky Derby (G1) winner Fusaichi Pegasus in the Preakness (G1). He went on to saddle Macho Uno for a victory in the 2000 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) and Perfect Sting for a win in the 2000 Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (G1). Macho Uno and Perfect Sting received Eclipse Awards as champions of their respective divisions.

“I was the leading trainer at five different meets. We won a Classic race – we won the Preakness. We won two Breeders’ Cup races, 11 Grade 1s. I won five races in one day at Gulfstream. I think there’s only two other trainers that have done that – Todd Pletcher and Ralph Nicks,” said Orseno, who visited the Gulfstream winner’s circle five times on April 7, 2008. “This game is filled with highs and lows, more lows unfortunately. The wins you have to appreciate. If I run a horse for $10,000, I’m cheering coming down the stretch like it’s a Breeders’ Cup.”

A member of the Florida Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association’s board of directors for the past five years, Orseno is currently serving as President, as well as Chairman of the Backstretch Committee of the FTHA.

A Philadelphia native, Orseno parked cars at a restaurant across the street from Garden State Park during his high school years before venturing into the backstretch. He took out his trainer’s license in 1976 and trained primarily in the Mid-Atlantic region before becoming the private trainer for Stronach in 1997.

“I’ve had a great career, but it’s not over yet,” Orseno said. “I’m not at all tired. I don’t plan on going anywhere. I wake up in the morning and bounce out of bed. I’m happy in the morning because I’m doing what I love

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