Joseph M. Cornacchia, co-owner of Kentucky Derby (gr. I) winners Strike the Gold and Go for Gin, and a former member of The New York Racing Association’s board of directors, passed away June 26. He was 78.
Born and raised in Queens, New York, Cornacchia made his mark in the board game industry as the manufacturer of Trivial Pursuit and was president and founder of The Games Gang, which brought the world Pictionary and Balderdash.
He partnered with B. Giles Brophy and William Condren to buy Strike the Gold as a 2-year-old in 1990, and found himself in the Churchill Downs winner’s circle with trainer Nick Zito a year later. Strike the Gold later ran second in the Belmont Stakes (gr. I). Cornacchia and Condren repeated the Derby feat with Zito in 1994 with Go for Gin, and also teamed up to win the 1996 Preakness Stakes (gr. I) with Louis Quatorze, who went on to win the Jim Dandy Stakes (gr. II) later that year at Saratoga.
Cornacchia, a second generation printer for 30 years in the East Village of Manhattan, was appointed to the NYRA board in September 1998 by New York Gov. George Pataki and served through September 2008.
“Joe Cornacchia was a thoughtful and caring man who had a deep love for horse racing,” said NYRA chairman C. Steven Duncker. “He had incredible business acumen, which he displayed in both the board game industry and in winning three prestigious Triple Crown races. His presence at the racetrack will be sorely missed.”
Cornacchia was also a board member of Good Shepard Services, which provides housing and education for young people in New York.
He is best remembered around the race track for his dapper fashion sense and his unfailingly kind disposition. His passions beyond racing included boating, golf (he had two holes-in-one to his credit) and family.
Cornacchia is survived by his wife, Eileen; sons, Jim and Brian; stepson Ryan; daughter-in-law, Amanda; and grandchildren, Colin and Caitlin.
A wake will be held June 29 from 7-9 p.m., and June 30 from 2-4 p.m. and 7-9 p.m. at Follet & Werner Funeral Home, 60 Mill Road, Westhampton Beach, NY, 11978, (631) 288-1231.
Services will be held July 1 at 10:30 a.m. at Immaculate Conception Church, 580 Main St., Westhampton, NY, 11978.