Father Francis Ciani, a Roman Catholic priest who was one of the biggest fans of New York racing, died March 7 at Our Lady of Mercy Life Center in Guilderland, N.Y. He was 95.
A regular on the backstretch and on the front side at Aqueduct, Belmont Park, and Saratoga, “Father Quinella” was a beloved man who listed God, family, and country as his priorities. Racing was a close fourth.
From 1943-45, he served as a U.S. Army chaplain in the Pacific Theater. Upon his return to the United States, he was chaplain at the Veterans Hospital in Northport, Long Island, until his retirement in 1976.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be sent to either the Backstretch Employee, Service Team (B.E.S.T), c/o Belmont Park, 2150 Hempstead Turnpike, Gate 6, Cottage 28B, Elmont, N.Y., 11003, or to St. John the Evangelist Church, 816 Union St., Schenectady, N.Y., 12308.