It was Oct. 10, 1974 when Ron Glorioso arrived with a few horses at Keystone Race Track. It was just him and the horses, the opening of the track still 25 days away, the stable area otherwise unoccupied, the future uncertain.
Glorioso, who turned 76 on June 18, remains in the same stable area today, a walking, talking history lesson on the track that became Philadelphia Park and is now called Parx.
A Pennsylvania State Trooper for five years, Glorioso who grew up at Broad and Erie in Philadelphia always had an affinity for horses. His father first took him to the race track when he was a freshman at North Catholic High School. He was in the state police mounted unit. He owned pieces of a few race horses.
Eventually, he worked his way to the track full time and became a trainer. He ran a stable with then-wife Pat, who was the listed trainer on the program back in the 1970s. She won 338 races. Glorioso has won 685 more in his own name so the stable has won more than 1,000 races.
At his peak, Glorioso had 27 horses in his barn. After being badly injured in a March 22, 2011 car accident not far from the track, he is down to two. His enthusiasm for the game and his home track, however, has never waned.
“The horsemen can really thank the legislature for improving everything,” said Glorioso, a born storyteller who is never satisfied with a few words when a few hundred will make him feel more alive. “We have pensions, health benefits, life insurance policies. People don’t know what’s going on. I never envisioned the purses we have now. It’s unbelievable what has happened.”
Glorioso remembers names and dates from decades ago like they happened yesterday. He knew that Parx Hall of Famer Gallant Bob made his first start at Liberty Bell Park in a maiden $12,500 claimer on July 15, 1974 and won at 46-1. At one stage of his amazing career, Gallant Bob won nine consecutive stakes in five different states, four of them at Keystone, his home track.
Glorioso will never forget when his mentor Pete Durfey, who was in Kentucky looking at young horses, told him “on my mother’s grave, there’s a colt down here who you can buy privately for $20,000. He’s a little crooked on the right side, but he’s the best looking yearling I’ve seen in 50 years.”
So Glorioso went to his partner who told him “there ain’t no horse worth $20,000”.
That horse was Seattle Slew.
“You’re right,” Glorioso told his partner a few years later, “he wasn’t worth $20,000. They just syndicated him for $12 million.”
In the summer of 2015, Glorioso finally got his first big horse. Cait the Great nearly ran out of the TV set in winning her first start. The trainer had visions of the 2016 Kentucky Oaks.
Soon after that first start, Glorioso came to the barn one day and noticed that the filly had several cuts on her head. Another horse had jumped over the webbing of her stall, causing her to hit her head. He was hoping the cuts were just superficial, but when he ran Cait the Great again, she wasn’t the same. Turned out she had a fractured skull. She eventually won again, but was never the star she might have become.
He remembered that his first good horse, You Can’t Tell, cost $4,200 and won the last race at Keystone on June 11, 1977 – the day Seattle Slew won the Belmont Stakes and the Triple Crown.
“That’s the horse that got us rolling,” said Glorioso, the man who has been at Parx longer than anybody.
Back in 1974 before the opening, Glorioso taped commercials with Don Meredith, the former Cowboys quarterback who was then a star commentator on “Monday Night Football”. So, he was talking about his home track even then. Nothing much has changed in that respect over the last 44 years.
-By Dick Jerardi