01/02/2014 4:31PM

Aqueduct: Classic Giacnroll can bring Guerrero back into racing's spotlight

Barbara D. Livingston
Juan Carlos Guerrero, shown with Golden Mystery in 2011 when he was the leading trainer at Parx, now serves in a low-profile role as an assistant to his wife, Lisa.

OZONE PARK, N.Y. – For two years, Juan Carlos Guerrero was front and center, winning races in bushels at Parx Racing, where he was the leading trainer in 2011 after missing that distinction by one victory in 2010.

But things have changed drastically for Guerrero, who after being banned for 10 years from Parx now takes on a behind-the-scenes role in a stable that has dropped out of the limelight.

Guerrero, who officially is the assistant to his wife Lisa, will attempt to get back in the spotlight Saturday at Aqueduct when he and his wife send out Classic Giacnroll in the Grade 2, $200,000 Jerome Stakes for 3-year-olds. The Jerome offers 17 qualifying points (10-4-2-1) to the top four finishers toward the May 3 Kentucky Derby.

[ROAD TO THE KENTUCKY DERBY: Prep races, point standings, replays]

“For all the stuff that happened to me, I think this would be like a reward,” Guerrero said of having a stakes-caliber 3-year-old.

Late in 2011, a year in which Guerrero led all Parx trainers with 131 wins, Guerrero was charged with “indecent assault” by a Parx racing office employee. Those charges were later dropped due to insufficient evidence, but Parx officials were successful in getting Guerrero banned from the grounds for a decade by the Pennsylvania Racing Commission for what track officials labeled “inappropriate touching.” The commission did not ban Guerrero from any other state facility nor did it suspend his license.

Eventually, Guerrero took stalls in New York – where he won a handful of races – for two years before giving up his license last July. Guerrero cited the strain of commuting several days a week from south Jersey and being away from his family – he and Lisa have two daughters, Isabella, 10, and Julianna, 7 – as why he opted to leave new York.

“Right now my family is my life,” Guerrero said Thursday at Aqueduct following a traffic-filled 2 1/2-hour ride from his Williamston, N.J. home.

Guerrero decided to work as an assistant to his wife Lisa, who was credited with 37 wins from 143 starters in 2013. Lisa Guerrero, who is listed as trainer and part-owner of Giacnroll, has 18 stalls at Parx and the Guerreros have 10 horses at Westhampton Farm.

Juan Carlos Guerrero said the stable is down from 60 head just a few years ago. Several owners, some who actually testified on his behalf during a January 2012 hearing regarding his ejection from Parx, left Guerrero.

“We went down big time,” Guerrero said. “They did stick with me, then they slowly got away from me.”

Last year, Joe Besecker, a hedge-fund manager, contacted Guerrero about going to the sales. At last spring’s Timonium sale, they picked out a 2-year-old by 2005 Kentucky Derby winner Giacomo out of the Storm Bird mare Classic Woman. Guerrero thought the colt was worth $30,000. Besecker bought him for $27,000 and named him Classic Giacnroll.

After Classic Giacnroll ran fourth in his debut at Parx in July, the Guerreros added blinkers to the colt’s equipment and he finished second in his next start. He followed that up with two off-the-pace victories in six-furlong races at Parx before finishing third in the $100,000 Marylander Stakes at Laurel on Dec. 7.

In his allowance win on Sept. 16, it appeared as though Mr. Paladin was on his way to victory before Classic Giacnroll ran him down with a strong stretch rally.

“That’s what impressed me about this horse. You think he’ll be a good second then all of a sudden he just turns the jets on,” Guerrero said. “I got a feeling when he goes long he’ll be more relaxed. He can settle. He can run all day.”

Guerrero said he and Besecker have had interest in the colt, but to this point have turned down offers.

“I told the owner this is the race that will tell us what he’s really worth,” Guerrero said.

Though Guerrero said he misses the constant action of years past when he was a fixture in the entry box, he hopes that Classic Giacnroll is the start of getting better quality horses with which to work.

“I love the claiming game. I loved all of that but I think I’d really like to get nice horses,” Guerrero said.

Pete Slaughter More than 1 year ago
With the skill set that Mr. Guerrero and his wife possess hopefully a few "Sharp" owners will come paying them a call. They sure know what they're doing.
Matthew Linda Jr. More than 1 year ago
Carlos has all the SKILLS necessary to become a GREAT Thoroughbred trainer. Life throws .. fastball's and curve's and my friend 'CARLOS' made a mistake and struck-out. In the end, his deeply committed 'LOVE' of the Sport, and his good character, will spark a firestorm. Mr. Guerrero, Sr., raised his boys to be respectful, honest and super horsemen. God bless the 'GUERRERO' Family. Matt (Skip) Linda
Joseph R Monaco More than 1 year ago
Carlos I know you when you were 13-14 at the Meadowlands when we worked for Mike Sedlacek and Dennis Heard, the with Steve Klesaris so I can only see jealously in the comments. Working with you every day at a very young age I saw the desire you have to learn, the pride in your work as a groom and the willingness to go the extra mile to learn the game. You came here for the dream and you succeeded in a very tough industry. How many people can say that they were the leading trainer at a major thoroughbred meet. I will see you at Aqueduct on Saturday February 1 to get into the picture. Joe
iknownothing114 More than 1 year ago
A lot of haters and racists post they didn't find the guy guilty of using drugs so they had to pin something on him because he was kicking every body butt in Philadelphia. Lol
Ray Sousa More than 1 year ago
nyra will let anybody in hence al the miscreants.
legjbred More than 1 year ago
Great Article Mr. Grening but as always it brings out the worst And the article becomes about Carlos and not about the horse Who should be the center of the article - but as usual the individuals comments Become slanderous, negative and racist. Which hurts the industry Our hard work - and my family. I thank NYRA and their professionalism with my husband and I New York is a true pinnacle to Thoroughbred Racing. The utmost professional Racing office, Stewards and best I have met In my 20 years in racing. All the Best- Lisa Guerrero
iknownothing114 More than 1 year ago
I met your husband and he's pure class must be nice to have a husband like that
Joe Rockhold More than 1 year ago
Just went over the PP's and I believe you have the winner. Best of luck to you.
Pete Slaughter More than 1 year ago
Some of the comments below are disgraceful, posted by ignorant people. Their ignorance is not only limited to their lack of knowledge of the situation of which they speak but likely rather in general. It's wonderful to see you sticking up for yourself and your family Lisa. Great racing people and a terrific family!
Donna Heffner Vespe More than 1 year ago
Happy for both of you Lisa and Carlos... The hell with Parx.
[removed] More than 1 year ago
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legjbred More than 1 year ago
Interesting how NYRA can see the railroad job this man was handed And welcome him as often as he would like - stand strong And honestly NYRA is the most straightforward and serious of all districts of Racing. I applaud them for not wavering to the false allegations that were sent out across the racing world.
Edward Nelson More than 1 year ago
He is a snake
iknownothing114 More than 1 year ago
Good luck carlos they can't keep a good man down
John T Breen More than 1 year ago
A good sexual predator you mean.
legjbred More than 1 year ago
If he were guilty they would have prosecuted him -- try jealous Parx individuals targeting him and lying to destroy a good person and a great trainer - but the truth will come out eventiually I have faith .... and the slander keeps on going from uninvolved individuals
Lawrence Vaccarelli More than 1 year ago
should be gelded then there wouldn't be a problem.