Trainer Profile: Wayne Catalano

Trainer Wayne Catalano

Wayne Catalano was born July 24, 1956 in New Orleans, Louisiana. Known casually as ‘Cat’, Wayne began riding horses competitively at age 17 with the urging of his uncle and became a regular at the Fair Grounds. Wayne met and learned the business from Hall of Fame trainer Jack Van Berg, who he rode for as an exercise rider. In 1977 Catalano won 349 races, finishing second to Steve Cauthen in the national standings. He accumulated a streak of 41 straight riding days with at least one win. Chronic knee injuries ended his riding career in April 1983 after having won 1,792 races.

Catalano immediately turned to training after his riding career ended. Working from a base in Chicago, he won his first training title in 1987 at Hawthorne Race Course and earned another in 1989 and again in 2004. He won back-to-back training titles in 1988-1989 at Sportsman’s Park Racetrack and between 2000 and 2010 Catalano won nine training titles at Arlington Park. His older brother Joe worked as a stable employee for Wayne until Joe passed away from a heart attack in May 2017. Wayne nearly lost his life in 2014 after suffering severe pneumonia and acute respiratory distress syndrome which put him in intensive care for 22 days.

Yet despite going through many ups and downs in racing and personal setbacks, the bold, self-effacing winner of six Grade I races has remained unpretentious and centered while maintaining his infectious and effervescent character. A highlight of Catalano’s training career came in 1997 when he won his first major stakes race with Crypto Star, capturing the Louisiana Derby. His star horse then won the Arkansas Derby before finishing 5th in the Kentucky Derby.

Catalano has won more than 2,700 races including three Breeders’ Cup World Championship races in 2006, 2008 and 2011, and trained two Eclipse Award Champions. His son-in-law is jockey Channing Hill, who rode Wayne’s star filly Farrell to four-straight wins prior to the 2017 Kentucky Oaks.