06/05/2017 12:36PM

Trainer Bozzo, at 96, still collecting milestones

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Lauren King/Coglianese Photos
Jerry Bozzo (left) at 96 says he plans to continue training racehorses “for as long as I am able.”

It was raining Monday morning in south Florida, so trainer Jerry Bozzo decided to give himself the day off. At 96, and after winning a race Saturday at Gulfstream Park, Bozzo certainly has earned the right to sleep in occasionally.

Bozzo became the oldest trainer in North America to saddle the winner of a Thoroughbred flat race when his Cotton Tooyah won Saturday’s second race at Gulfstream Park at 9-5 odds. In May 2015, he became the oldest trainer to saddle a stakes winner when his homebred Flutterby won the Sea Lily at Gulfstream Park.

Randy Rouse, at 99, currently has the distinction of being the oldest trainer to win a race in the United States; his High Soar won a point-to-point race in Virginia last spring.

Bozzo turned 96 in October. He is a former aeronautical engineer who began breeding and training horses shortly after selling his bottle-manufacturing company in 1969. He has called the track formerly known as Calder Race Course home for more than 35 years.

“I don’t have any special motivation to continue training horses,” Bozzo said Monday. “I just do it because I love it so much. I love the horses. It feels so natural to be around them. And I plan on continuing to do it for as long as I’m able.”

Bozzo, who owns and breeds the majority of his horses, bought Cotton Tooyah for $20,000 at the 2016 Ocala Breeders’ Sales Co. spring sale. Her victory Saturday came in her ninth start but was her first under a claiming tag.

“I’d been training her to go long; she’d finished second and third going a mile, but the two-turn races wouldn’t fill,” Bozzo said. “I think I entered her about eight times in longer races and finally had to drop her back to six furlongs and run her on Saturday since she’d been on her tip-toes so long. I put a little speed into her in the morning leading up to the race because of the shorter distance, and I guess it was a successful strategy. She ran a heck of a race. She’s a really nice filly.”

Bozzo was at Gulfstream for his milestone win, as the graduate of Carnegie Tech and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology is every time he starts one of his horses.

“It’s a little tough to get around at Gulfstream, but you couldn’t keep me away on race day,” he said. “I do take a morning or two off a week, but I still have my special spot at Calder near the 1 1/16 pole where I watch the horses train when I’m there. It’s just a shame what has happened to the place, with the grandstand gone and racing only two months a year. The racetrack was always so marvelous to train over.”

Bozzo said he didn’t make a big deal on Saturday after surpassing the record of the late Noble Threewitt, who was 95 when he saddled his final winner at Santa Anita in 2006.

“I don’t minimize this accomplishment, but I really don’t maximize it either,” Bozzo said. “It’s just something I enjoy doing.”

Seven slated for Liza Jane

A field of seven 3-year-old fillies will go 6 1/2 furlongs in the $50,000 Liza Jane Handicap when racing resumes at Gulfstream Park on Wednesday. R Angel Katelyn will go postward as the 123-pound highweight and heavy favorite for trainer Gerald Bennett while coming off a sixth-place finish in the Grade 3 Miss Preakness at Pimlico.

R Angel Katelyn, a four-time stakes winner, won both the Gasparilla and Sophomore Fillies stakes at Tampa Bay Downs earlier this year.

“I just put a line through her last race in Maryland,” Bennett said. “It had been raining, she was in the 1 hole, the track was deeper down there, and she just got trapped in there the entire race.”

If R Angel Katelyn runs well Wednesday, she could come back in the $100,000 Azalea on July 1.

The recent allowance winner Sweet Tooth Haven and the graded-stakes-placed Brahms Cat are among the other top contenders in a field that also includes the stakes-placed Rashette, My Sistersledge, Livin a Dream, and Faith N Hope.

The Liza Jane Handicap will be the fifth leg of a Rainbow 6 sequence that will begin with a carryover jackpot of $698,498.

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◗ The versatile Sweetontheladies benefited when Sunday’s Crystal River Stakes was moved from the turf to a sloppy main track less than an hour before post time, rallying to a 1 1/4-length victory over French Quarter and just two other rivals in the overnight stakes for 3-year-olds. The son of Twirling Candy, who was also a stakes winner at 2, was ridden by Marco Meneses for trainer Henry Collazo.

◗ Leonol Reyes was the riding star Sunday, winning three races aboard Morichal ($5.80), Bossyatta ($10.60), and Lonesome Palm ($13.60). Jockey Carlos Montalvo and Bennett also teamed to win two races on a card marred by a three-horse spill in the seventh race.