Kosta & Pete Horonis
Completing the Circle
When Accelerate and Joel Rosario won the 2018 Breeders’ Cup Classic, they did more than give trainer John Sadler and the Hronis brothers, Kosta and Pete, their first victory in a Breeders’ Cup race. They took Sadler and Hronis Racing, and Rosario, too, full circle.
Growing up on a ranch in Bakersfield, California, the Hronis brothers loved going to visit their grandparents a two-hour drive away. They lived five blocks from Santa Anita. “We were always the first ones in the car to visit Grandma and Grandpa because we knew we’d end up going to the racetrack,” Kosta Hronis told Scott Jagow in a March 4, 2015, story in the Paulick Report. “Me and my brothers were little railbirds. We had our noses glued to the track.”
Fast forward several decades. The Hronis brothers never lost their love of racing, eventually buying a box at Santa Anita. On a fateful day at Santa Anita in 2010, 50-year-old Kosta turned to his brother and told him he was going to buy a horse. Peter told him, “Dude, you’re crazy. You have no idea what you’re getting into.”
Fortunately, someone next to them did. A long-time usher named Tony overheard their conversation and told them he’d set up an appointment with a trainer if they would wait a week. They waited. Tony had set them up for a meeting with John Sadler. Kosta laughed and said, “There’s no way John Sadler’s going to mess with a little valley kid like me that’s never been in the racing business.”
Sadler couldn’t have cared less and welcomed Hronis Racing into his stable, where they had considerable success with Lady of Shamrock, Iotapa, the incredible mare Stellar Wind and Hard Aces. The brothers, whose parents began Hronis, Inc., specialize in growing, packing and shipping premium citrus in Delano, California where they were born and raised. They were the leading owners at Santa Anita in 2012 and 2014 and at Del Mar in 2012, remarkable early success for new owners.
But they’d never won a Breeders’ Cup race before the 2018 Classic, losing their first 13 races, including Catalina Cruiser’s disappointing sixth as the 4-5 favorite in the 2018 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile. Sadler topped that oh-fer, going zero-for-44, including three losses in races before the Classic—one of them when Catapult finished second by a half-length to Expert Eye in the 2018 Breeders’ Cup Mile. That didn’t prevent the owners and trainer from feeling confident with Accelerate and Rosario, who went off a deserving favorite in the Classic.
“Joel Rosario rode our very first horse in our very first race in February of 2010 on Sleep Ride, a little horse that John claimed for us; and to turn all the way around and have Joel win the Breeders’ Cup Classic today, it’s a special day and we’re very happy for Joel,” Kosta said after the race.
So was Sadler. “It was great,” Sadler said in late December. “I think Joel rode one of his first winners on one of my horses at Golden Gate. We have a long history—a good history. When Victor (Espinoza) got injured (before the Pacific Classic), I sat down and thought to myself, and it came to me right away to use Joel in the Pacific Classic.”
Sadler also remembers the first time he met the Hronis brothers: “They came down to my box and we introduced each other. Their uncle had a business in San Marino, and I’m a local guy. So we hit it off. We liked each other right away.”
Asked if “like” has grown into “love” after the Breeders’ Cup Classic, Sadler had a long laugh, and said, “Yes it has.”