Thoroughbred Daily News
Street Boss - Fight to Love, by Fit to Fight - Adena Springs
Adena Springs - Paris, KY | 2010 | Entered Stud 2015 | 2019 Fee $4,000 TBD

Love of Game Sparks Del Secco


Sparky Ville wins the San Vicente S. | Benoit

By Jessica Martini

“You’ll have to wait until he gets out of school for the day,” isn’t your typical response when requesting an interview with a racing manager whose stable just won a graded stakes race at Santa Anita, but then it quickly becomes apparent that John Del Secco isn’t your typical high school senior. Del Secco, who manages the racing stable of his father David, celebrated his biggest win to date when Sparky Ville (Candy Ride {Arg}) surged past a pair of highly touted runners from the Bob Baffert barn to win the GII San Vicente S. by the length of his nose Sunday in Arcadia.

Sparky Ville had acquited himself well in previous graded assignments–finishing second in the GII Best Pal S. and third in the GIII Bob Hope S. last year–but the San Vicente wasn’t the initial plan for the chestnut gelding.

“We wanted to go in the Baffle S., a $75,000 race, but it only got three horses and they weren’t going to write the race back,” Del Secco explained. “[Trainer Jeff] Bonde and everyone at the barn was talking about how we would basically be the fifth horse in the San Vicente. We thought, if we run third, it would be a $24,000 check. That’s still pretty good.”

With all eyes on Baffert ‘TDN Rising Stars’ Coliseum (Tapit) and Dessman (Union Rags), it was Sparky Ville closing fastest off all through the mud to earn the first graded victory for Del Secco DCS Racing (video).

“The horse blew our minds,” the younger Del Secco admitted. “It was a beautiful ride by [Joel] Rosario. We were elated, to say the least. I don’t even know how to explain it, because you’re so filled with adrenaline and I was jumping up and down and screaming.”

Despite the excitement, the race was one of the few that Del Secco has missed seeing in person.

“Ninety nine percent of the time I go to the track, but I had actually volunteered at this soup kitchen that day,” Del Secco said. “So I watched the race on the T.V. I was screaming at the T.V. and jumping up and down. My sisters came running down the stairs thinking something was wrong.”

Del Secco added with a chuckle, “I think I have to volunteer now in the soup kitchen every time one of my horses race.”

An 18-year-old senior at De La Salle High School in Concord, California, Del Secco has spent the better part of weekends and summers for the last four years at the Jeff Bonde barn at Golden Gate.

“My dad always took me to the fairs up in Northern California and we always bet on them,” Del Secco said. “Then in freshman year in high school, I got a job at the track with Bonde. And it took off from there. I work for him up at Golden Gate. I handle everything that needs to be handled with my dad’s stuff and then every day I don’t have school, I go out there and learn as much stuff as possible.”

Del Secco is committed to having his future based in the racing and breeding industry.

“Once I get out of high school, I’m going to go to University of Kentucky and major in equine science,” he said. “That’s the plan. To make a career out of it. Breeding seems nice, but I may also  want to train.”

Sparky Ville isn’t the only stakes-winning sophomore in the Del Secco racing stable. With 12 horses in training, the operation also includes King of Speed (Jimmy Creed), who won last year’s Del Mar Juvenile Turf S. and Zuma Beach S. and was 12th in the GI Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf. The colt goes postward in Saturday’s El Camino Real Derby at Golden Gate.

Asked what it would be like to have back-to-back weekends of success with the two sophomore standouts, Del Secco said, “In such a short amount of time, it would be a very fun experience.”

Del Secco gives his father, David, who is owner of the concrete core drilling company Del Secco Diamond Core & Saw, Inc., credit for helping him live out his dream.

“My dad supports me a lot,” Del Secco said. “He’s the most supportive person. It’s just me and him–partners in crime, we’re going to take over the world sort of thing. We bond over horse racing. We’ve done it for about four years and it’s been an absolutely thrilling ride. There is nothing like winning a race. In the short term, we’ve had quite an amount of success.”

Both King of Speed and Sparky Ville were purchased at the 2017 Keeneland September Yearling Sale, but the acquisition of Sparky Ville almost didn’t happen.

“We had already bought three and we thought we were done,” Del Secco recalled. “Taylor Made has the RNA barbecue sale and Bonde went to that. He called me back a couple hours later and said, ‘I know we’re done, but I’m looking at this horse and they want $90,000. I know you guys said you’re done, but I really like this horse.’ So we were able to get him $90,000.”

Del Secco continued, “We like to go to the Keeneland September sale. We usually buy one at the Pleasanton sale to support our local grassroots, but we spend all of our money at the Keeneland sale. We don’t have the millions or hundreds of thousands of dollars to buy pedigree and looks, so we look for the athlete, the conformation before anything.”

In addition to the 12 horses in training, the Del Secco racing operation currently includes four broodmares and foals. Del Secco said the plan is to expand the band in the coming years and race the foals.

As for where Sparky Ville will start next, Del Secco said pragmatically, “He’s a seven-eighths horse, a mile is pushing it. So it’s going to be hard [finding a spot for him]. Santa Anita doesn’t have a lot until May, so we may have to ship a little bit and see what’s out there. We’ll see how he’s training. King of Speed will race in the El Camino Real Derby and he’s the more Classic-distance horse for us.”

Del Secco acknowledged his age sometimes causes people to do a doubletake, but he’s found plenty of support to match his ambition.

“A lot of people have been really supportive of me, because you don’t see a lot of 18-year-olds in the game,” he said. “Especially since I wasn’t born into it. But the game and the adrenaline rush is like nothing else. It’s so hard to win a race, but when you do, it’s so rewarding.”

Not a subscriber? Click here to sign up for the daily PDF or alerts.