You know who’s hot: Linda Toscano
Hot. Nope, we’re not talking about the weather.
How about Brooklyn’s Linda Toscano?
The first woman trainer, or driver, as a member of harness racing’s Hall of Fame showed the world her election was no fluke.
It’s My Show capped a big two days for driver Scott Zeron and trainer Toscano, who teamed up to win the $850,000 Little Jug Final for 3-year-old pacers in 1:49 at the Delaware (Ohio) County Fairgrounds last week.
Toscano proved lightning does strike twice.
She captured the Jugette for three-year-old female pacers — with Zeron — a day earlier.
Zeron became the first driver since David Miller in 2011 to win the Jug and Jugette in the same year. Toscano joined Ron Burke and Berett Pelling as the only trainers to accomplish the feat in the past 25 years.
It was Toscano’s first victory in the Little Brown Jug.
But firsts are nothing new for the woman who grew up on Linden Boulevard and East 35th Street.
She was the first female trainer to win the Hambletonian, capturing the race with Market Share in 2012. Since then, Paula Wellwood won with Marion Marauder in 2016 and Nancy Taker won with Tactical Approach this year.
Takter finished second in 2021 and 2020. Julie Miller had second-place finishes in 2017 and 2018 and was third in 2016.
Oh, did we mention Toscano has won eight Breeders Crowns and was Trainer of the Year in 2012. In 2019, she was inducted into the Hall of Fame.
And if harness racing is the first love for this 66-year-old Brooklynite, then Angelo’s was a close second.
“For a buck and a quarter, we’d get a meatball hero and a Coke,” she told the Eagle, like it was yesterday.
That was Brooklyn, for Linda Toscano.
“I’m Brooklyn all the way,” she said. “We went to Shea Stadium by subway, and Angelo’s was on Church Avenue.”
She went P.S. 235 to St. Catherine’s of Genoa, and then to harness racing.
“When we moved to Long Island,” she said, “I was devastated. I missed Brooklyn and was miserable.”
Riding lessons were suggested by her mother.
“I fell in love with horses and thought of becoming a veterinarian,” she said.
And lucky for harness racing, she took a pass on the vet career. She had a friend who worked with one of the leading trainers at Roosevelt Raceway — Buddy Regan. “It was during the summers of 1975 and ’76,” she recalled. “I was a student at Stony Brook.”
Toscano broke away and went on her own in 1984.
The rest, as they say, is history — history made by Linda Toscano.
She’s won 2,538 races and her horses have earned $68 million in purses. Her earnings are ninth-best in history since the inception of official trainer stats in 1991 — and first among female trainers.
Others in the Top 15 are Cassie Coleman (12th with $59 million) and Julie Miller (15th with nearly $53 million).
She ranks eighth in purses among all trainers in North America this year — $3.57 million – even though she has among the fewest starts of any trainer in the Top 50. This will be her 17th consecutive year in the Top 50 for purses.
“I first met Linda many years ago, when I was public relations director at Roosevelt Raceway,” said Barry Lefkowitz, a New Utrecht High grad and now president of the U, S. Harness Writers’ Association.
“She is without question the prototype of the great success story. From humble beginnings, she demonstrated her trade with great skill, moving from those modest beginnings to Hambletonian winner to Horse of the Year conditioner and many terrific horses in-between.
“She is a serious trainer of young horses and personifies the true meaning of a Hall of Famer,” he said.
Eighteen times Toscano has stopped in the winner’s circle on the Grand Circuit – led by It’s My Show winning that $850,000 Little Brown Jug final and $1 million North America’s Cup.
What’s even more amazing, It’s My Show didn’t win a race in 2022. The horse was 0 for 8.
When she won this year’s North America Cup, she became only the fourth trainer to win trotting’s $1 million Hambletonian as well as the Meadowlands Pace and North America Cup in their careers.
Now, that’s hot — real hot.
Andy Furman is a Fox Sports Radio national talk show host. Previously, he was a scholastic sports columnist for the Brooklyn Eagle. He may be reached at: [email protected] Twitter: @AndyFurmanFSR
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