He was a racetrack lifer who saddled 1,047 winners, and he may have made almost as many friends. Dominic Galluscio was a colorful character, a fixture for 34 years as a thoroughbred trainer at Aqueduct, Belmont Park and Saratoga. He chomped on cigars and wore brightly colored sports jackets to the winner's circle. He was without pretensions and told it like it is.
"He was a good guy, a lot of fun," said fellow trainer Gary Gullo, Galluscio's pal since 1977. "We met at my father's [Tommy Gullo's] barn, and we've been best friends ever since. We lived together for a few years in the '80s, and he stayed with us at my house after he got sick."
Galluscio, 55, of Garden City, died of pancreatic cancer Monday night, which happened to be Gullo's 55th birthday. "I guess he wanted to make sure I'd always remember him on my birthday," Gullo said. "He was diagnosed only two weeks before, and it's amazing how quickly things happened. Last month he was in the Dominican, having fun with [trainers] Bobby Barbara and Sal Russo. But he was brave and really took it like a man."
Born in the Bronx, Galluscio grew up in upstate Germantown, where he broke into racing at Clermont Farm under trainer Ramon "Mike" Hernandez. In a 2013 interview with The Saratogian, Galluscio said: "I came with him to Belmont Park and I've been at the track ever since."
He sent out his first winner, Cher Cheval, on Dec. 17, 1981, over Aqueduct's inner track, a haven for blue-collar, not blue-blooded, horses and people. Galluscio did his best work with modestly bred animals, many of them New York-breds, like himself. "It's so hard in this business," Gullo said, "and he did it from the ground up. He didn't have the top, top horses, but he did a great job with all different kinds of horses."
Galluscio rewarded his horses' owners with more than $31.3 million in earnings. His best runner was the Virginia-bred Lord of the Night, who in 1989 swept the Aqueduct Handicap, the Toboggan and the Westchester Handicap. He defeated the regally bred Dancing Spree, who would take the $1 million Breeders' Cup Sprint that fall. Galluscio won the $250,000 Empire Classic for New York-breds with full brothers Organizer (2006) and Dr. V's Magic (2007).
"He was a great friend and a great horseman," Barbara said. "He was a real gentleman, and I know everyone will miss him."
Trainer Richard Schosberg recalled "a highly intelligent man who always wanted to improve the backstretch and the sport."
Galluscio showed up at his barn every morning at 4:30, but his devotion to duty couldn't compare to his affection for his daughter, 17-year-old Dominique. "She was the number one thing in his life," Gullo said. "He loved her so much. She meant the world to him."
Other survivors include four brothers, Robert, Raymond, Joseph and Gerard; two sisters, Marie Britt and Denise Cole, and nieces and nephews. Visiting will be from 5 to 9 p.m. Friday at Park Funeral Chapels, Garden City Park, with a service at 11 a.m. Saturday. Burial will be Sunday at the First Reformed Church in Germantown. In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made in Galluscio's name to the Backstretch Employees Service Team at Belmont Park.