04/07/2005 11:00PM

Still training, but not at the track

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Jim Crupi is an ebullient man whose face seldom wears a frown. He is also a consummate pinhooker. You won't find a broodmare or a stallion at Crupi's New Castle Farm, the 138-acre facility in Ocala, Fla., that he owns with his son Robert.

"We're not in the breeding game - let someone else do that," Jim Crupi said.

What Crupi does is buy young potential racehorses and sell them, mostly at the sales. For a select clientele, he breaks and trains yearlings as they become 2-year-olds.

Crupi does not have an equine lineage. Other than his brother, who owned a couple of harness horses early on, and a father who bet a buck or two, Crupi is a self-made horseman.

"Originally I wanted to be a sulky driver," he said, grinning. "I got pretty good at it, too, but it turned out that I was a morning glory. When I got into a race, I would forget everything but trying to get out of the race alive. That doesn't work."

What did work for Crupi were Thoroughbreds. Crupi credits trainer Ron Gibson with teaching him the ropes; he apprenticed with Gibson for several years before taking out his trainer's license at age 27. Crupi was a good student, for he won the Monmouth Park trainer title four times, and added a title as leading trainer at The Meadowlands.

In 1990, Crupi decided it was time to make a change. He wanted some stability to his life, so he moved his tack to Florida to take a whirl at the sales end of the business. He started a pinhooking business at Classic Mile, and when Happy Valley Farm came on the market in 1995, he purchased it and asked Robert to join him in the operation.

Happy Valley Farm was owned by Steve and Gary Wolfson, sons of Harbor View Farm's Louis E. Wolfson. It had state-of-the-art facilities and was an all-purpose farm accommodating boarders, broodmares, and stallions. Crupi did not want to go that route, so he made physical adjustments to the property and opened for business as Crupi's New Castle Farm and training center.

As one might expect, Crupi's days as a public trainer introduced him to a variety of potential clients.

"Once a bunch of my trainer friends found out I was going into the pinhooking and yearling-breaking business, I had all the business I needed," he said.

He estimates that he broke 150 yearlings this past year, and among the best of his recent graduates is the champion New York-bred 2-year-old of last year, Galloping Grocer.

Crupi and his son scout the markets and always have their antennae up for private opportunities to pinhook. Those yearlings who are already at New Castle Farm begin their schooling in August. The September yearling sales purchases join the classes immediately upon arrival. The Crupis then begin a selection process, tagging some horses to go early into the selected sales and others for the later sales.

"Some come around quickly, some don't," Jim Crupi said. "They'll tell you when it's time."

So far this year, Crupi's New Castle Farm has taken five 2-year-olds to the Ocala Breeders' Sales Co.'s Calder sale and nine to the Fasig-Tipton sale.

"Had a good year so far," said Crupi. "Hit some long balls and hit a few that didn't go as far as I wanted them to, but that's the game."

One of Crupi's long balls, a home run, was the sale of a Langfuhr filly at the recent March OBS sale of 2-year-olds in training. Crupi paid $42,000 for her as a yearling and sold her for $290,000.

Crupi has 15 horses scheduled to sell in the coming OBS spring sale, which begins April 25. He calls this consignment his variety package: "Got Jersey-breds, New York-breds, sprint pedigrees, route pedigrees, you name it."

Crupi also credits the invaluable assistance of Hall of Fame jockey Jacinto Vasquez.

"He's the best," said Crupi. "When Jacinto gets off a horse, he can tell you what kind of a horse it is. He gets on all our 2-year-old sales horses, and no one has a better opinion."