Florida Farm Manager, Trainer Caruso Dies at 66

Renowned Florida farm manager and trainer Tom Caruso, whose career included stints at Tartan Farms and Sam-Son Farms, died April 1 in Mountain City, Tenn. He was 66.

Caruso was born Oct. 29, 1955, in Norwich, NY, the son of Louis and Zana. After high school, he worked for racetrack trainer Joe Bolero and traveled along the East Coast from Arlington International Racecourse to winters at Hialeah Park. The temperate Florida winters led him to pursue a job at William McKnight’s Tartan Farms near Ocala, where he worked with high-profile stakes winners including Fappiano, Codex, Ogygian, Island Whirl, and many others.

When Tartan Farms closed in 1987, Caruso went to work for Sam-Son Farms and later Roselyn Farm. His career took a side path into hotel management but he didn’t stay away from the horse business too long, according to Bonnie Heath III, who hired Caruso as a farm trainer.

“Tom was a treasure and a dear friend. We rescued him from the hotel business, thanks to great insight from our manager Ken Breitenbecker,” said Heath.

While at Bonnie Heath Farm, he worked with many stakes winners, including Honor Glide, Mad Flatter, Kalu, Gondwanan, His Honor, Up Front, and Outstander.

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Caruso worked as a racetrack trainer from 2001-07 when he raced at Tampa Bay Downs, Gulfstream Park, and the now-closed Calder Race Course. He spent the last 10 years of his career at Mandy Pope’s Whisper Hill Farm, where he was manager and trainer. During his tenure at Whisper Hill, he was honored as the Florida Thoroughbred Farm Manager of the Year.

Bonnie and Kim Heath said they heard nothing but positive comments about Caruso from throughout the horse community as they notified people of his passing.

“Always happy and friendly, he brightened the room, and has left us with many wonderful memories to cherish,” said Kim Heath.

Caruso is survived by his niece, Lisa Shope of Osteen, Fla., great-nephews Zachary Shope of Sarasota, Fla., and Brett Shope of Melbourne, Fla.; half-siblings, Charlene Barrows of Norwich, Martin (Bonnie) Caruso of Troy, Ohio, Julie (Rick) Jenne of Glens Falls, NY, Dano Caruso of Columbus, Ohio, Andy (Tami) Caruso of Phoenix, NY, and Deb ( Anthony) Turiano of Andover, Mass.

A remembrance service will be held April 29 in the restaurant in the Ocala Breeders’ Sales pavilion, at 1701 Southwest 60th Ave., Ocala. In lieu of flowers, the family has suggested memorial donations may be made to Pangea Equine Thoroughbred Retirement at 4447 Northwest 76th Court, Ocala.


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