Long shots are at home in Lostritto family

May 18, 2006|By DAVID STEELE

If somehow, some way, Platinum Couple wins the Preakness on Saturday after opening as the 50-1 long shot, the tale of how he got into the field will be legend.

Saturday night, the Lostritto family - headed by the trainer, Joe, who started the Long Island stable now operated by his children - noticed how the field for the second jewel of the Triple Crown was thinning out. Just three horses from the Kentucky Derby were going to make the trip, and how quickly they'd bounce back from a grueling race was a question.

Platinum Couple, the Lostrittos figured, was fairly well-rested, didn't do too badly in its last race in late April. ... It might be worth a try.

At age 69 and after 20 years as an owner and trainer, why not get a horse ready for a Triple Crown race?

The deal, the legend will say, was sealed by Lostritto's grandson, Glenn, whose remark for the ages was: "If George Mason did it, why can't we?"

Glenn's father, also named Glenn, told that story on ESPN after Platinum Couple drew the No. 2 post position at ESPN Zone at the harbor yesterday. After the draw, Connecticut and North Carolina ... er, Nick Zito and Michael Matz, received their due attention, which they handled with practiced cool. Then the Lostrittos - seven were in attendance, covering three generations - got their turn and basked in the glow of instant, unexpected celebrity.

Who doesn't love a long shot, especially a colorful one, literally, like this? The kids - Glenn and his sister Angela (named for their mother) were at the Zone, along with Glenn's son and daughter and Angela's son - named this horse, gray in color, after their silver-maned parents, who have known each other since junior high.

It's as if Platinum Couple and the Preakness "met cute." It might not be so cute when he goes up against Barbaro, Brother Derek and Co., but then again, the family figures, who knows? They didn't know last weekend that they were going to take this plunge, and it's not as if strange things haven't happened here before. A freaky near-collision between the front-runners at the top of the stretch, for very recent instance.

"Fifty-to-one doesn't bother me," the elder Lostritto said. "We're a long-shot family, based on what we have accomplished in life."

Joe Lostritto began his thoroughbred career when he retired from his hauling and recycling business and needed a hobby. He bought a horse, thought about how to train him and, as his daughter put it, "said to himself, why should I pay a trainer? So he learned how to train them himself. Then he said, why should I spend all this money renting space? So he bought 50 acres out on Long Island." It's where Tri Star Stable, where the Lostrittos own, breed and train horses, stands today.

The entire family, the seven kids and many of the 16 grandchildren (two more are on the way), got involved. It pulled everybody together and kept them close. Then, about 15 years ago, Joe suffered an aneurysm, and for about two years, he lost his memory. "There were times," his daughter said, "that he'd look around and see all the horses and the acres of land and say, `What have I done?' because he didn't know. As he recovered, it came back, and he remembered what it all was for."

He regained most of his memory and all of his faculties, but, the younger Angela Lostritto said, "Sometimes now if you ask him something quick, he'll say, `Oh, wait, give me a minute to think about it.' But we're happy for that."

"We're thankful for everything we have," Glenn said. "We thought we'd lost him."

Thus, there was never a drive at all costs to find a Triple Crown horse. They ended up with one anyway, and it didn't dawn on anyone until last week.

As much as the Lostrittos talk about being happy to be in the race, don't be fooled into thinking they don't believe Platinum Couple can win. They go back to his last race, a fifth-place finish at the Wood Memorial, a month before the Derby. "It was a bad trip, a muddy track, he got stuck on the rail and by the time he got off it, the race was over," Joe recalled. "He likes a loose track; he just doesn't like a muddy track."

Yes, there is rain in the forecast the rest of this week and Saturday.

"Platinum" has performed well as a long shot - his signature win (he has two in nine starts, but still) the Damon Runyon in December, at 1 1/16 miles, paid $16.50.

"There is some speed to this race, which is to our advantage," Lostritto said. "I hope they burn each other out. ... Plus, I think he's [good at] distance - a mile and a quarter, mile and a half, that might be his forte."

Makes you wonder, doesn't it?

Nah, probably not. "Platinum" might be 50-1 on merit. Yet if he does, in fact, bring up the rear Saturday, the Lostrittos won't be crushed.

"People wait a lifetime to just make a race like this," Glenn Lostritto said. "We're just thrilled to be here."

Just like George Mason.

david.steele@baltsun.com

Read David Steele's blog at baltimoresun.com/steeleblog

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