Longtime owner Nicholas J. Saponara, 80, passed away peacefully on Saturday, December 7, 2019, after a long battle with cancer. Nick was weeks away from completing his second term on the Pennsylvania Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association’s Board of Directors, and most recently held the title of Treasurer. Nick was elected to his first term on the PTHA Board of Directors in 2014 due to his extensive resume: writer, handicapper, odds maker, horse owner, teacher, and much more.
In addition to his duties on the PTHA Board, Nick was also a major supporter of the PTHA’s Turning for Home, Inc., the program for Parx Racing’s retiring equine athletes.
This past summer, Nick was inducted into the Parx Racing Hall of Fame for his contributions to Parx Racing as a member of the PTHA Board of Directors.
He has also been widely recognized in the harness world, including serving as the U.S. Harness Writer’s Association President from 1980-83, and sat on their Board of Directors for 29 years. In 2004, he was inducted by his peers into the Communicator’s Hall of Fame, which was established to honor outstanding USHWA members. Nick was co-founder of the Delaware Valley Chapter of the Harness Writers in 1962, and served many years as the chapter’s secretary.
Nick graduated from North Catholic High School and attended night school at St. Joseph’s University before landing a job with The Philadelphia Bulletin’s Sports Department in 1957. In 1963 he became the paper’s handicapper, rating the horses on the Liberty Bell-Brandywine circuit, Keystone Racetrack and Atlantic City Race Course. He served in that position until The Bulletin’s demise in 1982. Nick also prepared the morning line odds at Brandywine, Liberty Bell Park and Atlantic City Harness, as well as for Keystone Racetrack Thoroughbreds.
Nick also was a contributor to Tom Ainslie’s “Complete Guide to Harness Racing” and taught a course on handicapping at the University of Pennsylvania.
His first racehorse was a Standardbred named Mission Hop. He owned many Standardbreds over the decades, along with longtime friend Marv Bachrad. Many of their horses were given to an up-and-coming French Canadian trainer named Herve Filion, who quickly became a star in his own right.
In the 2000s, Saponara made the transition to Thoroughbreds, forming Club Risque Stable. His first Thoroughbred win came in February 2002 at Charles Town with a hard-knocking colt named Sky Tern. He has since entrusted his horses with Parx Racing trainer and close friend Randy Allen. The duo teamed up for many talented horses, including Isabella Swift ($459,629), stakes-placed Risque’s Diamond ($418,618), and multiple stakes-placed Running Bull ($186,370).
When two-year-old filly Pink Caddy (co-owned with Gregory K. Quick) demolished the field by nearly seven lengths in the $100,000 Small Wonder Stakes on September 28th, it gave Nick his first career Thoroughbred stakes victory. On the way home from Delaware Park, Nick told trainer Randy Allen, “This was the best day of my life!”
A visitation will be held on Wednesday, December 11th from 9:30-11:15 AM at Saint Ephrem Church, 5400 Hulmeville Road, Bensalem, PA 19020, followed by a funeral mass at 11:30 AM. Interment will be at Holy Sepulchre Cemetery in Cheltenham Township, PA.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be sent to Turning for Home at P.O. Box 300, Bensalem, PA 19020.
Nick was preceded in death by his parents, Joseph & Mary Saponara, and his sister, Mary Ann Pinto. He is survived by a brother-in-law, Peter Pinto; friend and business partner, Theodore Pagano; as well as friends and acquaintances from the PTHA, Parx Racing and Club Risque.