PASADENA, Calif. — Julio Canani, who trained three Breeders’ Cup winners and thoroughbred racing’s 2-year-old Eclipse champion filly in 2004, died Friday after a long illness.
He died at a hospital in Pasadena, his daughter Lisa told officials at Santa Anita in nearby Arcadia, where Canani was based. She gave his age as 83, although Canani’s birthdate is listed as Nov. 13, 1938, which would have made him 82.
He had 1,137 winners and purse earnings of over $49 million during his career.
Canani was best known for three Breeders’ Cup victories, two in the Mile with Silic in 1999 and Val Royal in 2001, and in the Juvenile Fillies with Sweet Catomine in 2004. She earned the Eclipse Award as the nation’s top 2-year-old filly that year.
In Southern California, Canani won several major races, including the 1989 Santa Anita Handicap with long shot Martial Law, who paid $130.60 to win. He also had major stakes wins at Del Mar and now-closed Hollywood Park.
He never had a starter in the Kentucky Derby, Preakness or Belmont stakes.
Canani came to the U.S. from Peru as a teenager. He eventually made his way to the racetrack, and worked his way up as a trainer with a mix of guile and wits. He loved to gamble, whether it was on his own horses or those he had seen train in the mornings.
He was known for his sense of humor and fractured English. The character of trainer Turo Escalante in the 2012 HBO series “Luck” was based on Canani and played by actor John Ortiz.
Canani saddled his last horse to a second-place finish on Oct. 23, 2015, at Santa Anita.
That fall, Canani was suspended for 13 months by the California Horse Racing Board after allegations of financial impropriety involving the sale of horses. He applied for reinstatement in 2017, but was denied a trainer’s license, which effectively ended his career.
Besides daughter Lisa and son Nick from his first marriage, Canani is survived by wife Svetlana and their children Isabella and Alexander.