10/07/2014 11:32AM

Jerardi: Penn National’s Salvaggio brothers continue racking up wins


The Salvaggio brothers first went to the tracks around Cleveland with their father. The dad owned horses. One son became a trainer. The other two sons became jockeys.

“He would take us to the track, mainly on the weekends, and we just got hooked,” said Mike Salvaggio, the trainer.

The town where they grew up was between ThistleDown and Northfield Park. The brothers made their way over the Ohio border to Penn National in the 1980s and never left. If Penn National has a First Family these days, it is the Salvaggios.

Mike just won race No. 1,000 in a training career that started in 1980. In a typical year, he will win between 45 and 60 races. By the numbers, the last 10 years have been the best of his career.

Mark notched 2,956 wins from 1980 to 2003. He won 356 races in 1990. He started training a few years ago and has 29 wins in 2014.

Marty rode the winners of 342 races from 1984-89. He is now the agent for jockey Andrew Wolfsont, who is in a four-way battle for second in the Penn National standings.

“It was me who migrated here first,” Mike said. “I was going back and forth between here and ThistleDown. That actually worked pretty good.”

Eventually, the travel got to him, and the year-round circuit was too appealing. So, Mike stayed in central Pennsylvania. His brothers followed. And they started winning races, nearly 3,000 for Mark on horses and now 1,000 for Mike with horses.

“When I won it, I said, ‘Boy, this has been a long ride,’ ” Mike said of his 1,000th win. “A lot of ups and then a lot of downs. I sort of got to reflecting. Until now, I’ve never really had a lot of horses. And even now, I don’t have that many. I have about 30 in training right now.”

You win 1,000 races, and a few of the horses stand out. For Mike, it’s Akela, who ran 55 times from 1983-89, and more recently, Bohemia Slew and Lenape Rim.

“They didn’t have Beyers then, and I guarantee you he probably ran a couple 100 Beyers,” Mike said of Akela. “He had a really funny way of traveling, and Tony Black goes to my brother Marty, who rode him, ‘I don’t know how you ever let that horse run.’ ”

Akela ran well enough to win 16 times for Mike between 1984 and 1989. The horse was running in mostly lower-level claiming races with small purses, so he won less than $100,000 in his career. But he was the trainer’s first big winner, and those you never forget.

Mike claimed Bohemia Slew for $12,500 in September 2000 at Penn National and lost him for $20,000 two years later. In between, the Pennsylvania-bred won nine times, including the 2001 Lyman Sprint Championship at what was then known as Philadelphia Park. Bohemia Slew got five 90-plus Beyers for Mike.

Lenape Rim, a Pennsylvania-bred 6-year-old mare, began her career in a $15,000 maiden-claiming race at Penn National on Oct. 14, 2010. She has raced 34 times, with 10 wins, including four Pennsylvania-bred stakes, and earnings of $505,606. Most recently, she was second in the Sept. 6 Mrs. Penny Stakes at Parx.

Mike grew up a Cleveland Indians fan, but they “always stunk,” so he adopted a National League team, the St. Louis Cardinals. He is rarely seen at the track without a Cardinals jersey and definitely not without a Cardinals cap. And, yes, he was watching last Friday night, when his team trailed the Dodgers and Clayton Kershaw 6-1.

“That was quite the game,” Mike said. “I thought they were done when they got down 6-1 with Kershaw pitching.”

As it turned out, they weren’t done. Neither are the Salvaggio brothers, who have been winning races at Penn National for decades and show no signs of slowing down.