A bittersweet win for mourning Angel Montano
LEXINGTON, Ky. – Angel Montano didn’t make the trip Thursday to Keeneland to saddle Dapper Sam, the latest winner in his remarkable training career. Montano recently turned 78 and has trouble getting around, owing to a bum hip and other maladies, so he watched on TV from his Louisville condominium.
The physical setbacks, however, are not what ails Montano. On Sept. 30, he lost his wife of 58 years, Patricia “Mom Pat” Montano, who died of cancer at age 75. The couple had seven grown children – most of them involved in racing in one facet or another – as well as 22 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. His victory with Dapper Sam was Montano’s first since her death.
“I’m still trying to get over it,” Montano said early Friday. “It’s very hard.”
Following the death of Forrest Kaelin in late July, Montano is now believed to be the longest-tenured trainer on the Kentucky circuit, or at least at his home track, Churchill Downs. D. Wayne Lukas, the 83-year-old Hall of Famer, is older, but no one has had a stable here longer than Montano, who came to the U.S. from his native Mexico in 1956 prior to taking out a trainer’s license in 1961.
In his glory years, Montano was the leading trainer at Churchill for three straight spring meets (1976-78), and has also been the leading trainer at meets at Ellis Park (1976, 1990) and Turfway Park (1990, 2000). Since 1976, which is as far back as available stats go, his horses have won 1,130 races.
But numbers don’t tell the whole story. Montano has reveled in the joys of family while becoming as well liked and respected as anyone on the circuit. Hundreds, if not thousands, of people on the racetrack and beyond have let the Montanos know they’re hurting for the family.
“Dad doesn’t burn any bridges,” said Joey Montano, a horse owner and one of Angel’s five sons. “From the hot walkers to the owners, everyone seems to appreciate what a nice guy he is. He’s really something.”
Dapper Sam, ridden by apprentice Edgar Morales, won Thursday by 4 3/4 lengths as the 17-10 favorite. The 4-year-old gelding was one of five horses (out of just seven starters) claimed for $16,000 out of the race, and Montano will seek to replace him some time soon with a claim of his own.
But there’s someone he can’t replace, and his life will never be the same.
“They don’t make ’em like her anymore,” he said. “She was a good person, a good mom. She’s in heaven now, so she’s better off.”
‘Biscuits’ decision on BC near
Mind Your Biscuits had his first breeze since a 4 3/4-length victory in the Sept. 29 Lukas Classic at Churchill before dawn Friday, going five furlongs in 1:00.40 over a fast Churchill track with Tyler Gaffalione up.
Trainer Chad Summers said afterward a decision could be imminent on which Nov. 3 Breeders’ Cup race – the Classic, Dirt Mile, or Sprint – will be chosen for Mind Your Biscuits, whose $4.28 million bankroll is the highest alltime for a New York-bred.
Also, Seeking the Soul, heading to the Classic, breezed an easy half-mile in 51 seconds Friday in his first work since winning the Sept. 29 Ack Ack.
A few firsts for Casse
Surely there will be more firsts as his training career unfolds, but Norman Casse experienced a few Thursday when he sent out Angel of Mischief to win the seventh race, a $68,589 allowance. It was his first win at Keeneland, his first in a non-maiden and/ or claiming race, and the first time a horse trained by his father, trainer Mark Casse, completed the exacta behind him (Bridaled Temper).
Norman Casse, 35, went out on his own in March after a lengthy stint as his father’s assistant and now has about 30 horses in training. Angel of Mischief won a Kentucky Downs maiden race on Sept. 8, the day Casse was married to racing television personality Gabby Gaudet.
Four stakes next week
A graded stakes will be run on four straight days next week at Keeneland, starting Thursday with the Grade 3 Sycamore for 3-year-olds and up at 1 1/2 miles on turf. Arklow, winner of the Kentucky Turf Cup last month at Kentucky Downs for trainer Brad Cox, is expected to face the Mike Maker duo of Bigger Picture and Oscar Nominated in the Sycamore.
The ensuing stakes are the Grade 3 Valley View on Friday, the Grade 2 Raven Run on Saturday, and the Grade 3 Dowager on Sunday. The only stakes remaining will then be the Grade 2 Fayette on closing day, Oct. 27.
The Raven Run card will precede a Bluegrass doubleheader ending with the Vanderbilt-Kentucky football game that evening at nearby Kroger Field.
Trio of Sunday allowances
A nine-race program featuring three allowances (races 2, 6, 8) will bring the five-day race week to an end Sunday. First post is 1:05 p.m. Eastern. A two-hour meet-and-greet featuring personalities from the annual Secretariat Festival in Paris, Ky., will be available to fans starting at 11 a.m.
After Sunday, Keeneland goes dark for two days before another five-day week starts with an eight-race Wednesday card.
Angel Montano lost his wife of 58 years, Patricia “Mom Pat” Montano, on Sept. 30.