HALLANDALE BEACH, FL – By anyone’s standards, Jerry Bozzo has led an incredibly full and most remarkable life during his 94 years on earth.
The World War II veteran fondly recounts the events of his life with unblinking recall and uncanny detail, but the Pembroke Pines, FL resident is hardly content to live in the past – no matter how astonishingly accomplished and rewarding it may be.
Bozzo is too busy in his ongoing quest to make new memories, which will continue at Gulfstream Park Sunday when he sends out Flutterby for a run in the $250,000 Princess Rooney (G2), a Breeders’ Cup Win & You’re In stakes on the $1.175 million Summit of Speed program.
The 4-year-old filly prepped for the Princess Rooney with a sensational triumph in the Sea Lily Handicap, in which she handily dismissed a solid field of fillies and mares by 9 ¼ lengths on May 30. Bozzo, who bred, owns and trains Flutterby, became the oldest trainer in the country to win a stakes that day. Thus, he would become the oldest trainer to win a graded stakes if the daughter of Congrats should be victorious in the six-furlong Princess Rooney.
“She came out of the race very well. It’s as if she hadn’t run. The way she exploded in the stretch, the way she kept widening and widening, it even had the hackles on my neck go up,” Bozzo said. “It was indescribably rewarding – for her sake, not mine. I want to train her and prepare her so she can live up to her great potential. It’s immensely satisfying for her sake.”
A graded-stakes win for Flutterby would hardly seem beyond the reach of a man whose life has been defined by success while defying odds far greater than those assigned to his homebred filly, who is rated third in the Princess Rooney morning line at 4-1 behind Merry Meadow (2-1) and R Free Roll (7-2).
Raised in North Attleboro, Mass., Bozzo earned a civil engineering degree at Carnegie Tech, now known as Carnegie Mellon University, founded in Pittsburgh in 1900 by industrialist/philanthropist Andrew Carnegie.
Inspired by a presentation made in 1940 to junior and senior engineering students by Admiral Harry Yarnell, who was vocal about the vulnerability of Pearl Harbor, Bozzo joined the Navy upon graduation and was enrolled in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he earned an advanced degree in aeronautical engineering during the time when the technology for Radar was being developed under tight security.
Stationed at Naval Air Station Jacksonville, Bozzo helped design and build the Naval Air Station Deland (FL), where naval flight crews received advanced training.
“The first military plane I saw was a fabric-covered biplane that had a 30-millimeter cannon gun that fired through the propeller like you’d see in the World War I movies,” he said. “That’s how ill-prepared we were for the war. I had to build up the airplanes and training.”
After serving five years during World War II with the Navy, Bozzo returned to the Pittsburgh area with the dream of building the world’s biggest bridge. He reluctantly agreed to work at his father-in-law’s glass bottle company for one year but opted to stay a while longer to finish the automation of the manufacturing process. He ended up buying into the company, which serviced such high-profile companies as Proctor & Gamble and Bristol-Myers, and settled in the small town of Port Allegany.
“It’s spelled A-l-l-e-g-a-n-y, not like the river (Alleghany), although the river flows through the town,” Bozzo said.
With no contractors in the area, Bozzo went to work on designing and building a house (“War Emergency Bungalow, Mach III”) for his wife, Carole, his young daughter, and future children.
“Hammer and nails, I built my own house – the cabinet work, the electrical work, the heating system. I built it. It took me a long time. It took me about a year,” the father of five said. “I never moved out of the War Emergency Bungalow. It was such a livable house.”
When his daughter showed a strong interest in riding horses, Bozzo bought a farm in the area, where he also rode as a diversion from work and eventually became involved in breeding and breaking Thoroughbreds that would be sent to trainers to race, primarily in Canada.
Bozzo took it upon himself to research the art of breaking and training horses.
“I read a lot about the Great Plains Indians and how they broke their horses, so I broke my horses the same way,” he said.
Bozzo sold his bottle business in 1969 and subsequently moved so Boynton Beach, FL, where he bought and developed a 120-acre farm with five barns, two permanent residences, two trailers for workers and a training track. He continued to breed, break and race thoroughbreds and eventually took out his trainer’s license in 1984 and subsequently sold his farm.
His wife, who had a passion for researching bloodlines, passed away in 1993 after 50 years and one month of marriage to Bozzo, whose love for horses has helped him cope with the loss.
He has saddled 211 winners, including multiple-stakes winner Stormy Do, who earned more than $500,000 and who was out of the grand dam of Zoobie, the dam of Flutterby.
“A horse has to have a good bottom. You cannot rush a horse,” said Bozzo, discussing his training philosophy. “You have to listen to your horses. I actually talk to the horses. Even before the Horse Whisperer, I was talking to my horses and still do.”
Bozzo also has a passion for writing and is currently working on a racing-related novel, “Uncle John’s Dream.”
“I have completed six episodes. I don’t call them chapters, because they really aren’t chapters,” said Bozzo, who had no need for eyeglasses for either distance or reading. “It seems like there will be eight episodes There are separate major events, not really chapters. To my mind, they have a little more meaning than chapters. I’ve had a lot of fun writing them.”
Bozzo would like to devote more time to his writing, but he’s not nearly ready to retire from training.
“I can’t wait to get here,” he said during training hours at Gulfstream. “Andrew Carnegie said, ‘My heart is in the work.’ I feel that way – I love what I’m doing. I loved every job I ever had, from the Navy on up.”