Carrying On

Carrying On

By: Joe Clancy The Saratoga Special 

You can’t pour concrete in the rain. And that, racing fans, is how Al Frassetto came to be a Thoroughbred owner and breeder.

“He was a concrete contractor and on days when it rained you couldn’t pour concrete or go to work, so he would go to the track with his crew and the men and have fun at the races,” Frassetto’s son John said Monday. “He used to tell us he tried to make payroll at the track. That’s how he got started. He really enjoyed it.”

That was the 1960s. Al Frassetto and company would go to Monmouth Park and Aqueduct, mostly. They’d watch races, gamble and probably wish for more rainy days. Soon enough, Frassetto – whose company grew into a major player in New Jersey highway construction and commercial real estate – owned horses. The stable started with claimers and diversified into sale purchases, European runners and homebreds.

Today, on Opening Day of the Belmont Stakes Racing Festival at Saratoga Race Course, the stable will be represented by The Grey Wizard in the $250,000 Belmont Gold Cup. The 5-year-old Irish-bred will have to do it without Al, who died May 20 at 87. He left behind his wife of 55 years, Diana, sons John, Dominic and Chris, eight grandchildren, brother Salvatore, a thriving family business and a diversified racing/breeding stable.

“He was a strong family man and always wanted to do things the fam – ily could do together; the horses were something we all loved,” said John. “He wanted it to continue and we were in the process of transitioning to an LLC when he died. Now it’s under the estate of Albert Frassetto, but we’re go – ing to keep it going. My two brothers are involved. I’ll manage the stable and keep it going for the next generation. He loved the horses and wanted it to continue because we could share it all together.”

Co-owned with Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners, The Grey Wizard finished second to Siskany in last year’s Bel – mont Gold Cup at Belmont Park and will try to go one better against the globe-trotting favorite.

Twice a winner last year, The Grey Wizard spent nearly nine months away from the races before returning with a ninth in the Grade 2 Elkhorn at Keeneland in April. The son of Caravaggio was much sharper when third in the Grade 3 Louisville at Churchill Downs May 18.

“My horse came back first time out at Keeneland and was really disappointing, he never picked up his feet,” said trainer Graham Motion. “I couldn’t really understand it so I kind of said that he probably needed racing and we ran him back at Churchill and he ran great. That was much more his old form. I felt like we had to do that to get him to another race. He needs racing, he’s a very laid back, 2-mile horse. I’m hoping we’ve kind of raced him back to racing fitness mentally and physically.”

John Velazquez, aboard for the two wins and the Belmont Gold Cup second last year, gets back aboard from post 11.

John Frassetto will be at Saratoga, thinking of his father. “He liked the two-turn, distance horses, liked to see horses relax and make runs at the end,” John said. “The Grey Wizard is like that, a grinder style. He was a little out of shape, I guess, the first time but he came back and ran really well the next time.”

Al Frassetto went racing at all the New Jersey tracks including the long-gone Atlantic City and Garden State Park, the Meadowlands and plenty of others on the East Coast and beyond.

“Racing was a night out,” said John. “I have old videos of them going to Atlantic City for a night at the races – all dressed up in suits and ties and dresses. It was date night. My father saw Seattle Slew, Storm Cat and Spend A Buck run in New Jersey. There was great racing in the area then.”

In the 1980s, Al Frassetto helped English trainer Michael Dickinson get started in the U.S. and owned the trainer’s first American winner Bold Magestrate. In addition, Frassetto won graded stakes with Can’thelpbelieving in 2016 and 2017, and was a partner with Team Valor when Vision – aire won the 2008 King’s Bishop at Saratoga. With partners John D’Amato and Mike Pietrangelo, Frassetto won the Group 1 Prix Jean Romanet at Deauville in France with Grand Glory in 2021. The British-bred captured two Group 3 races and placed in two other Group 1 stakes before selling for $2.8 million.

“I don’t know if he had a favorite horse,” said John. “He enjoyed the competition and was very good at handicapping and figuring out races and the strategies of races, but he liked the horse part of it too. It wasn’t just a business. He liked to give them peppermints and carrots. He liked the horses that were a little bit naughty and tried to bite his shirt or his jacket. He got a kick out of that. “He loved everything about it. It wasn’t just a business.”

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