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Lou Cavalaris Jr., Canadian Hall of Fame trainer, dead at 89
By Bill Tallon
ETOBICOKE, Ontario – Lou Cavalaris Jr., the prominent Canadian trainer who was inducted into the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame in 1995, died Thursday at age 89.
Cavalaris died at his home, apparently of a heart attack.
Though perhaps best known as the trainer of Dancer’s Image, who was stripped of a first-place finish in the 1968 Kentucky Derby after testing for phenylbutazone, banned at the time, Cavalaris was Canada’s leading trainer in races won six times and in 1966 led all trainers in North America with 175 winners.
Born in Hamilton, Ohio, Cavalaris served with the U.S. Merchant Marine during World War II and later became a short-order cook. He then began working on the backstretch in Detroit and in 1946 took out his trainer’s license and went to work there for his father, who owned a couple of horses in Detroit.
After making his way to the Ontario circuit the following year, Cavalaris became a Canadian citizen in 1960 and ran the most powerful public stable in Canada in the mid-1960s, with clients including Allen Case, George Gardiner, and Margaret Seitz and Joan Reid.
In 1969 he became the exclusive trainer for Gardiner.
Cavalaris led Canadian trainers in victories in 1966 (tied with Jerry Meyer), 1969, 1970, 1972, 1973 (tied with Frank Merrill), and 1976. In that year, Cavalaris directed Gardiner Farm to Ontario-record purse earnings of $639,816, one of his eight money-winning titles in an 11-year span, and was the winner of the Sovereign Award as outstanding trainer.
Champions trained by Cavalaris included Victorian Era, Cool Reception, Ice Water, and Henry Tudor.
His numerous other stakes winners included 1968 Canadian International upsetter Frenetico, plus Arctic Blizzard, Carney’s Point, Chatty Cavalier, Dancer’s Image, Double Quill, Haymaker’s Jig, James Bay, Mary of Scotland, Monte Christo II, Orbiter, Plegada, Prompt Hero, The Knack II, Two Violins, Vindent de Paul, and Yukon Eric.
In addition to the Dancer’s Image incident, another misfortune to befall Cavalaris was the fatal breakdown of Cool Reception after finishing second to Damascus in the 1967 Belmont.
In 1978, Cavalaris turned in his trainer’s license and became the racing secretary for the Ontario Jockey Club (now Woodbine Entertainment Group).
After 10 years in that position, he returned to training before retiring for good in 1996. His last winner was Major Pots, in June 1996. Major Pots, owned by Gardiner, also was the last starter for Cavalaris when he finished second two weeks later in Woodbine’s Grade 3 Dominion Day Handicap.
Cavalaris also served on the Breeders’ Cup Selection Committee, the Ontario Racing Commission’s Board of Appeals, and the Avelino Gomez Memorial Award committee.
A funeral service will be at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday at Transfiguration of Our Lord Church at 45 Ludstone Drive in Etobicoke.
Visitation will be from 2 to 5 p.m. and 7 to 9 p.m. Monday at Ridley Funeral Home, 3080 Lakeshore Blvd. West in Toronto.
Cavalaris is survived by his wife, Helen, sons Michael and Louis, and a granddaughter, Julia.
Racing has lost an icon. I worked for Big Lou when he returned to training. The best trainer I ever worked for. RIP Papa Lou
A real good guy. RIP Lou, there aren't many like you left anymore.
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