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Veteran trainer Lou Carno passed away at 5 a.m. Friday at the age of 90, according to his wife of 23 years, Kathy. Known on the backstretches of Chicago and California as “The Silver Fox,” Carno was seldom without his trademark cigar and biting wit.
Carno was best known as the trainer of Victory Beauty, a hard hitting gelding who won 30 races, including eight stakes for Carno. Purchased for just $3,500, Victory Beauty won races at Bay Meadows, Golden Gate Fields, Tanforan and every major racetrack in Southern California.
At age 8, in 1964, Victory Beauty won the Escondido Handicap at Del Mar and a minor stakes south of the border, the Agua Caliente Gold Cup, which prompted Carno to note, “He’s now won at every racetrack he’s ever run at.”
Victory Beauty would make history in 1969, when at 13, he became the oldest horse to ever win at Santa Anita. He retired that year with earnings of $203,491.
Carno also garnered considerable acclaim as the trainer of stakes winning Caterman, who was disqualified from victory in the 1981 Hollywood Gold Cup.
Regarded as a consummate horseman, Carno was held in the highest regard by those who rode for him.
“He was a great guy to ride for,” said retired Hall of Fame jockey Eddie Delahoussaye. “He was a lot of fun to be around and he was one of the real characters back in the day. He came from the old school. If a horse needed time off to heal, he got it. Lou enjoyed racing and he didn’t want to quit. He’ll be missed.”
Carno, who turned 90 on March 29, retired from training four years ago.
“He never stopped loving his horses,” said Kathy Carno. “They were a very important part of his life and when he left the track it was the hardest thing he ever did. The reason he retired was that he was having so much trouble with his legs and the medication he was taking was affecting him mentally. When we got him off of the medication, he was 100 percent mentally again and was perfectly normal.
“He was in an assisted living facility in Monrovia the past two years because he was immobile and had to be in a wheelchair. He was at peace with everything and he died with a smile on his face.”
Carno is survived by three children, Robert, Sharon and Richard, as well as two step children, Jason and Jeremy.
Funeral arrangements are pending.