By Bill Finley
Stephen A. DiMauro, the Eclipse Award winning trainer of 1975, passed away at his home in Winter Park, Florida Wednesday. He was 87.
According to his son, Stephen L. DiMauro, currently a steward at Gulfstream, DiMauro succumbed after battling cancer for about three years.
“I just hope I can be half the man he was,” said the younger DiMauro. “He was a force, involved in everything. He was good for the game and well-respected.”
Born in Camden, N.J., DiMauro began his career in racing as a jockey. As a trainer, he had his first champion in 1966, winning the 3-year-old filly title with Lady Pitt, the winner of the Coaching Club American Oaks, the Mother Goose S. and the Delaware Oaks.
But his best year would be 1975. The star of the stable was Wajima, who was from the last crop of Bold Ruler and cost a then record $600,000 at the 1973 Keeneland July sale. Owned by James Scully and a syndicate that included prominent Japanese breeder Zenya Yoshida, Wajima flourished in the latter half of 1975. He won the GI Monmouth Invitational H. (now the Haskell), the GI Travers, the GI Governor's S., and the GI Marlboro Cup Invitational, where he beat Forego by a head.
“Of course, I think he's a bargain, DiMauro said after the Marlboro Cup. “I thought so all along.”
After finishing second in the GI Jockey Club Cup and being syndicated for $6.2 million, Wajima was retired and sent to stud at Spendthrift Farm.
That same year, DiMauro developed Dearly Precious, whose wins included the GI Sorority S., GI Spinaway S. and GIII Arlington-Washington Lassie S. She was named 2-year-old champion filly of 1975. With two Eclipse Award winners in his barn, DiMauro was named champion trainer of 1975. Other major wins during his training career include the Florida Derby, Acorn S., Malibu S., Delaware H., the Rothman's International and Matriarch S.
“Winning the Eclipse Award was a highlight for him and so were the Grade I races, but he would tell you he was just as proud of the early wins he had,” he son said. “When he first started training, the first horse he had was a horse he had to pull together and every start could have been his last. He always said how gratifying that was.”
DiMauro was also instrumental in the career of jockey Richard Migliore, taking him under his wing when he was just 14 years old. When Migliore was 16, he signed an apprentice contract with the DiMauro stable.
“He meant so much to me,” Migliore said. “He was like a second father to me and he made a profound difference in my life. I walked into his barn and I was 14 years old and he was coming off years where he had Wajima and Dearly Precious and horses like that and he was training for Meadow Stable and Robert Sangster and other very high profile owners. For him to take a chance on a 14-year-old kid and show the confidence he did in me made a world of difference for me.”
DiMauro served in many roles besides training. Over his many years on the racetrack, he was a member of the Board of the New York HBPA, the New York Backstretch Pension Fund and the Breeders' Cup and served two years as the president of the New York Thoroughbred Breeding Fund.
He retired after sending out 17 starters in 2002. The data available on DiMauro on equineline.com goes back only to 1976. During that time and until his retirement, he had 666 winners, 38 graded black-type winners and purse earnings of $17.8 million.
“He was a first-class gentleman and you can't say enough about him so far as what he meant to the industry,” Migliore said.