Belmont Win Would be Special for Albertrani

Belmont Win Would be Special for Albertrani
Photo: Rick Samuels
Tom Albertrani

Tom Albertrani has done just about everything around a racetrack—walk hots, groom, exercise horses, and ride them in the afternoons. He has found his real calling, however, as a trainer. And June 11, he hopes to fill in a gap in his local New York resume when he sends Brilliant Speed   out to contest the Belmont Stakes (gr. I).

Albertrani gets a wistful look when he recalls not being able to win the Belmont Stakes with the best horse he’s trainedBernardini  . The 2006 Preakness (gr. I) winner was kept out of the Belmont by his owner, Darley. And although Albertrani firmly believes he had the best horse at Belmont Park that day, Bernardini stayed in his stall, then went on to win the Jim Dandy (gr. II) and Travers Stakes (gr. I) at Saratoga that summer and the Jockey Club Gold Cup (gr. I) back at Belmont before a second-place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (gr. I) at Churchill Downs.

The Belmont Stakes would be an extra-special victory to score for the 53-year-old conditioner. Albertrani was born and raised in the Bensonhurst section of Brooklyn and at age 10 moved to Valley Stream, a Long Island town close to Belmont. His uncle, Jack Abatemarco, showed him the ropes around the barn.

“My uncle brought me up from the bottom up,” noted Albertrani. “The horses have been my life ever since. I can’t imagine doing anything else.”

Albertrani moved on to receive more knowledge as an assistant trainer to Hall of Famer Bill Mott for nine years. He then accepted an opportunity to move to Dubai to become an assistant to Saeed bin Suroor in Sheikh Mohammed’s operation for eight years. He has his hands on horses such as Dubai Millennium and Fantastic Light during that time, and returned stateside in 2003, when he opened a public stable in addition to training for Sheikh Mohammed’s Darley outfit.

His first big horse during that time was Balletto, by Timber Country out of a Nijinsky II mare, who won the 2004 Frizette Stakes (gr. I) and finished second in that season’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (gr. I) for Darley. Balletto would finish third in the 2006 Breeders’ Cup Ladies Classic (gr. I).

“Darley has been a great help to me in my career,” Albertrani.

Another key owner for the trainer is Charlotte Weber’s Live Oak Plantation, which bred and owns Brilliant Speed, the Toyota Blue Grass (gr. I) winner who rallied late to finish seventh in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) in his first dirt race since early in his 2-year-old season.

“He answered the question about whether he can handle dirt,” said the trainer, who has overseen Brilliant Speed’s return to his home base at Belmont, where he has continued to train forwardly over the Belmont oval. “He is usually better with time between his races, so skipping the Preakness made sense. He broke his maiden off a two-month layoff and won the Blue Grass the same way. He is a light, lean horse that puts back muscle in between his races.”

Earlier on the Belmont Stakes card, Albertrani will have another Live Oak starter, the 3-year-old Gallant Dreams, who goes in a one mile allowance contest. Gallant Dreams ran third behind Uncle Mo in the Timely Writer Stakes at Gulfstream in early March, and is a colt by, who else, Bernardini.

Although Albertrani presents a quiet and understated personality, he does let on that the  Belmont would be a big race to win with his local ties to the New York area. His only other Belmont starter, Deputy Glitters, ran unplaced in 2006.

Albertrani and his wife, Fonda, and their two daughters reside in nearby Garden City.

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