Fifty-five horses occupy stalls in David Cannizzo's barns at Saratoga and Belmont Park and he could probably talk about all of them, but . . . let's stick to a reasonable sampling. (Editor's note: Originally published in Aug. 9 issue of The Saratoga Special.)
The number represents a continuing climb for the 34-year-old trainer, who started training on his own in 2007 after working for his father Ron at Finger Lakes, Dale Romans, Scott Lake and Bruce Levine. Cannizzo's horses made 33 starts in 2012, jumped to 123 the next year, 220 in 2014 and 195 last year. The 2016 number is 187 and he's already set career highs with 25 wins and just shy of $1.5 million in earnings.
"It's come a long way," Cannizzo said while sitting in his office in Barn 45 inside the old Horse Haven pony track on the Oklahoma side not too far from the outriders' barn. "I'm very happy with the way we're growing and with the quality of our stable. My thing that I could say to people is just 'Don't give up.' I remember the first two years we just kept turning the wheels and thinking 'Is it ever going to get better, is it ever going to get better, is it ever going to get better?' You have to put your head down and move forward. Keep doing the right thing and eventually it will turn for you."
Cannizzo pointed to a strong core of owners, and help from bloodstock agent Nick Sallusto for helping upgrade the quality - evidenced by three wins at this meet through Monday's racing.
Late Monday morning, Cannizzo flipped open his training chart and starting looking at the list with The Special's Joe Clancy.
Dannie's Deceiver: Z R J Stable's Quality Road 4-year-old has been first or second in his last four starts (including an allowance score at Belmont in June and a second July 14) and aims for the Grade 1 Forego on Travers Day. The bay colt, in the first stall by the tack room, is a barn favorite for any number of reasons - including his recovery from an eye injury suffered as a 2-year-old. "He got hung up on a gate and sliced his eye wide open. He spent three months in the Ruffian Clinic. We babied it, gave him the whole winter off and he's come back as a 4-year-old and really come on. Dannie is my pride and joy because we've been through so much, he's who I talk to all day. A big dude. He's a beast. Beautiful horse."
Sam Sparkle: Cannizzo claimed the now 8-year-old Too Much Bling gelding for Two Tone Farm in October 2013. The $35,000 investment has won four times and earned more than $200,000 since, even though he's lost all eight starts this year. The Florida-bred was third here July 30 for a $50,000 tag. Like Dannie's Deceiver, "Sam" is a barn fixture. "It was just how we thought it would work out," Cannizzo joked of the claim. "He's 8 and he's still going the right way."
River Dancer: The Pioneerof The Nile 5-year-old won his debut at Belmont Park in 2013, then finished second to Bashart in the With Anticipation Stakes here but didn't run again for more than two years. "He bowed a tendon real bad, real bad (in that race). We stem-celled it twice, PRP'd it, we've done everything, but he's coming back now. He went to WinStar (Farm in Kentucky) for a while, we spent a lot of time with him here trying to get him right. He missed two years, but he's coming back and he just got beat at Belmont (July 14 for a $40,000 tag)."
Art Boss: Newtown Anner Stud's 3-year-old Street Boss colt is winless in four starts, including a third at 17-1 in maiden company here Monday. Cannizzo hopes for continued improvement from the Kentucky-bred. "He's very quick, very handy, very fast. Hopefully he gets it done soon."
Lady Lucky: Poindexter Thoroughbreds' 3-year-old Girolamo filly broke her maiden last fall at Belmont Park and is in Thursday's New York Stallion Series Stakes here. "I bought her cheap ($2,000), but she's solid and has never disappointed."
Euros To Dollars: One of 11 Newtown Anner horses in the barn, the 4-year-old Exchange Rate gelding won a state-bred turf allowance here Aug. 6 and could get another chance before the end of the meet. "Off a nine-month layoff, we put him on the grass and put blinkers on and he ran huge in two starts (the win and a second at Belmont July 13). Nick Sallusto (a bloodstock agent) has really helped me out with some nice horses and some good clients."
Even Bette: Jacqueline Bander's 5-year-old Stephen Got Even mare won her debut in 2014 for trainer Bruce Levine, but missed the next 10 months. She made three more starts for Levine last year and emerged in June after a nearly seven-month break with Cannizzo. Third here July 24 to extend the streak of third to four, she aims for a run-back Aug. 19 going 7 furlongs. "She's a nice filly, a New York-bred a-other-than. She should have a good shot next time."
China Rider: A 2-year-old Ontario-bred for Ivery Sisters Racing, the daughter of Majestic Warrior finished second at Belmont June 12 (her second start) and points for a race here. "She's sitting on a big race."
Little Bear Cat: Owned by Cannizzo, the New York-bred 3-year-old filly has won three times in a career that started in April 2015. The daughter of Bluegrass Cat finished third sprinting on the turf here July 25, after placing second in a New York Stallion Stakes June 26. She's in Thursday's 1-mile New York Stallion Series Stakes.
Mind: A $375,000 2-year-old purchase this spring, the unraced Flatter filly is working toward a debut - perhaps by the end of the meet. "She's from the same family as (Grade 1 winner) Jack Milton. I expect good things out of her."
Horoscope: A well-named 2-year-old colt by Astrology out of the Successful Appeal mare Roxie Dancer sold with Fasig-Tipton as a yearling and was purchased by agents Sallusto and Albina this spring. Cannizzo can't wait to run the bay colt. "We're very, very high on him, we're very hopeful. He'll run here. Expect big things on the 21st."
Miss Freeze: The 2-year-old daughter of Frost Giant also sold here with Fasig-Tipton as a yearling before selling again to Sallusto and Albina this spring. Owned by Joe Bulger, Mike Imperio and DJC Racing Stable, she broke her maiden in Belmont Park's Lynbrook Stakes July 17. "She's a phenomenal New York-bred. She win by 6 and she's pointing to the Seeking The Ante Stakes on the 26th. There are so many outs for horses like that - stallion series stakes, state-bred races - if they can run a little bit."
Momameamaria: Two Tone Farm's 4-year-old daughter of Quality Road has won four times and earned a shot at stakes company here Aug. 3. She finished second to heavy favorite Wavell Avenue in the Shine Again. "You never, ever expect to have to take on Wavell Avenue in a race like that. We thought it was a good spot - non-winners of a graded stakes in 2016. No, we get Wavell Avenue, a Breeders' Cup winner. She came out of it fine, she's very good. It is what it is. She might run back here in a stake near the end of the meet."
Couzier: A 2-year-old Malibu Moon colt purchased at Fasig-Tipton Midlantic in May, he's working toward a debut. "He's a very nice animal. We expect big things out of him, too. We have 29 two-year-olds, which is a great thing."
Royal Squeeze: The Wildcat Heir 4-year-old colt, a stakes winner at Gulfstream Park last year, was entered in a race Monday, but scratched because of a slight fever. "He won the two-other-than at Belmont last time (July 16) and he'll probably shoot for a three-other-than at the end of the meet."
Bellamy Way: Two Tone Farm's 4-year-old Bellamy Road ridgling, a Fasig-Tipton Saratoga purchase, hasn't run since May, when he was fourth in the Commentator Stakes. "We gave him the summer off, but he'll be here in a couple days. He'll probably end up running back at Belmont."
Maddy's Way: The 2-year-old full-sister to Bellamy Way (they're by Bellamy Road out of the Sea Hero mare Goomada Byda Sea) has yet to start, but could make a start by the end of the meet.
Spanker: The Cape Blanco filly, a Pennsylvania-bred, has worked five times here (twice on the turf) and is two or three weeks away from her debut.