04/09/2014 7:43PM

Joe Aquilino, longtime New York trainer, dead at 76

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Barbara D. Livingston
Joe Aquilino, shown in 2012, worked as a fireman in Brooklyn and Queens before he began training horses.

Joe Aquilino, a former New York City fireman who trained horses for more than three decades on the New York Racing Association circuit, died Wednesday after a long battle with congestive heart failure. He was 76.

According to Equibase, Aquilino trained 477 winners from 5,577 starters and his horses earned $15,245,214 from 1978 through Wednesday, when the last horse that ran under his name, Charming Eyes, finished fourth in the third race at Aqueduct. According to the NYRA media guide, Aquilino saddled his first winner, Amberdias, at Atlantic City Racecourse in 1977.

Aquilino, was a native of New York City who worked approximately 20 years as a firefighter, serving in Crown Heights, Brooklyn and later in Flushing, Queens.

While serving as a New York City fireman in 1973, Aquilino would work part-time as a hot-walker and fill-in groom for trainer Frank LaBoccetta. Aquilino also worked for trainers Howie Tesher and John Tammaro.

Aquilino suffered ligament and cartilage damage to a knee as a firefighter and he ultimately went into training full-time.

During his career, Aquilino trained at least 10 stakes winners including Badge, who in 1999 won the Best Turn and Grade 3 Gotham Stakes at Aqueduct and finished third behind Charismatic in the Preakness.

Aquilino won graded stakes with Haunting (1992 Rare Treat) and Vesta (2002 Miss Preakness). Other stakes winners trained by Aquilino included Dr. J, Liveitupnow, No Parole, One Never Nose, Pirate Performer, Risky Buy, Sabellina, and Stormy Krissy.

Aquilino, who resided in Bayside, N.Y., is survived by his wife Victoria and adult children Joanne, Theresa, Laura, and Nicholas, the latter a creative services supervisor for NYRA.

A visitation will be held Friday from 2-5 p.m. and 7-10 p.m. at Frederick Funeral Home, 192-15 Northern Blvd., Flushing, N.Y. A funeral will be held Saturday at 9:45 a.m. at St. Robert Bellarmine Roman Catholic Church, Bayside.

In lieu of flowers, donations can made in Aquilino’s name to Backstretch Employee Service Team [B.E.S.T.], Gate 6, 2150 Hempstead Turnpike, Cottage 2B, Elmont, N.Y. 11003, or the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation, P.O. Box 834, Saratoga Springs, N.Y. 12866.