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Veteran Florida trainer Paul Bernardo dies

December 09, 2017

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Long time trainer Paul Bernardo, 65, passed away unexpectedly on Thursday, Dec. 7. The popular Bernardo had just completed installing flooring at his residence and was preparing refreshments when he was stricken. A Go Fund Me page has been set up for his surviving daughters, who are ages 15 and 12.

He had a very successful career in harness racing and was in the midst of a very fruitful year in 2017 with a .340 UTRS on the strength of a 31-38-24 scorecard in 177 starts with $215,819 in purses won for his owners. Career-wise, Bernardo made 453 trips to the winner's circle as a trainer, campaigning a relatively small stable throughout his career which stretched for more than a quarter century. He also piloted 51 winners as a driver to amass $153,054 in the sulky. He competed primarily at Pompano Park, Tioga Downs and Saratoga.

This semester at Pompano Park, Bernardo campaigned several winners including J Black, Dee's Golden Joy, Dee's Rocketman, Pedro's Dream and Sing For Me George, a current lifetime winner of $474,241 owned by Joseph Martinelli, Sr. of Staten Island, N.Y. Sing For Me George won the opening night feature at Pompano Park on Oct. 1 and has chased the vaunted Panocchio home on several occasions, as well.

Probably Bernardo's finest accomplishment as a trainer was with the Argentinian bred Chucaro Ahijuna, a double-gaited world champion who took a pacing mark of 1:51.4 at Pompano Park in 2003 followed by a 1:53.3 trotting mile at Woodbine in 2004, a mark equaled at Pompano Park in 2005 in the prestigious $80,000 Mack Lobell Trot final.

Bernardo trained the son of Noble Speedster for Martinelli's Berry Stables.

Trainer Jim McDonald said, "Paul was universally liked and respected here at Pompano Park and everywhere else he raced. He was an true animal lover and he cared for his horses like a devoted father cares for his children. They broke the mold with Paul, no doubt about that!"
Information on services for Mr. Bernardo are yet to be finalized, however, there will be a memorial event at Pompano Park along with a memorial Mass and celebration of his life in his hometown of Granville, NY. There will be a private service and burial in Ottawa, Canada, as well.

Mr. Bernardo is survived by his wife, Roxanne; daughters Joanna, 15, and Julia, 12; sisters Kathryn Grabowski of Fairport, NY., and Christine Pietryka of Bomoseen, VT; and numerous nieces, nephews, cousins and their children.

Family and friends are invited to make a donation to the Go Fund Me page benefitting Mr. Bernardo's daughters at https://www.gofundme.com/paul-bernardos-girls-memorial-fund.

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