03/21/2013 4:44PM

Aqueduct: Sunny Jim Fitzsimmons a winner again

Sunny Jim Fitzsimmons trained two Triple Crown winners in his Hall of Fame career.

OZONE PARK, N.Y. – There was a familiar name in the Aqueduct winner’s circle here following the second race last Sunday.

The Sunny Jim Fitzsimmons Racing Stable, named in honor of the legendary trainer, had its first winner when Al’s Lark captured Sunday’s second race, a $12,500 claiming heat. The stable is a partnership of friends and family members formed last summer by Jack Fitzsimmons, a grandson of Sunny Jim’s.

“We got a whole bunch of Fitzsimmonses in our family, and a lot of the younger generation really didn’t know what Sunny Jim Fitzsimmons was all about,” Jack Fitzsimmons, 79, said Thursday by phone from Jupiter, Fla., where he spends his winters. “He was more or less one of the Babe Ruths of horse racing. We decided we’re not going to make a million dollars, but we’re going to have some fun.”

Jack Fitzsimmons noted that 2013 marked the 50th anniversary of his grandfather’s retirement from training. Sunny Jim had a remarkable career that included two Triple Crown winners – Gallant Fox and Omaha – 13 classic victories, 12 champions, and a plaque in the Hall of Fame.

Jack Fitzsimmons, who trained horses on his own for 25 years in the Mid-Atlantic region, said one of the reasons to start the partnership was to expose his family’s younger generation to the sport to see if they’d be interested in carrying on the family tradition.

“A lot of what’s fun about it is a lot of the younger Fitzsimmons family members not involved in it earlier are now involved in it and enjoying it and hopefully they stay involved and keep it going,” Fitzsimmons said.

Jack Fitzsimmons was not at Aqueduct last Sunday, but several family members and friends were, including Eddie Carr, a cousin, and his three children. Carr, a retired New York police officer, lives in the Breezy Point neighborhood of New York City, and had his house severely damaged last fall by Hurricane Sandy.

“A whole contingent of our family lives in Breezy Point. They got creamed by Sandy, thrown out of their houses,” Fitzsimmons said. “Most of them were at [Aqueduct] for the race Sunday and really enjoyed the win and getting into the winner’s circle and getting their picture taken. It’s a big change from what they’ve been going through.”

The only negative about last Sunday’s win was that Al’s Lark, a 9-year-old, got claimed out of the race. The stable’s two previous horses, Wishful Tomcat and Superstitious Love, also have been claimed, leaving the operation without any horses right now.

David Jacobson trains for the Sunny Jim stable and said he is looking to claim some more horses for the outfit.

“It’s an honor for someone like that to come to me and ask me to train for them,” said Jacobson, who is the son of longtime successful New York trainer Buddy Jacobson. “We plan on expanding the stable. It’s a little tough getting off the ground when you’re starting from scratch.”