A native of Staten Island, N.Y. and a United States Marine Corps veteran who served during the Korean conflict, Gilardi sold insurance before starting out as an agent for his brother-in-law, jockey Tony Russo.
“The best thing that ever happened to me was meeting Victor Gilardi and having him as my agent,” said Velasquez, who retired in 1997 with 6,795 wins. “I was 19 in 1965 and I came to this country under contract to (owner) Fred Hooper. I was riding the last two weeks in Atlantic City without an agent when we hooked up.
“Because of Vic, I am in the Hall of Fame and I won just about every major race in this country. Vic was a workaholic and knew everything about the game. His dedication was amazing, and everybody respected him. He was one of a kind and we always remained close. I learned a lot from him.”
Velasquez is currently an agent for jockey Orlando Bocachica.
Gilardi and Velasquez worked together until 1987, when Velasquez went to France. Gilardi always had success with his jockeys, but his next big score came with Chavez. With Gilardi finding the horses, Chavez was New York’s leading rider from 1994-‘99.
Seldom without a jacket and tie, the husky-voiced Gilardi was a true racetrack character whose contacts and knowledge of the game were unparalleled. Wise investments in the stock market and real estate made him independently wealthy; he kept working because he loved it.
His beloved wife of 55 years, Jean, passed away on March 12, 2008. They are survived by three children – Victor, Russ and Debbie -- as well as several grandchildren.
Viewing will be held Tuesday and Wednesday, March 24-25, from 2 p.m. – 4 p.m. and from 7 p.m. – 9 p.m. at Bordentown Home for Funerals, 40 Crosswicks St., Bordentown, N.J. 08505; telephone: (609) 298-0128.
A funeral Mass will be offered Thursday morning, March 26, at Saint Mary’s Roman Catholic Church, 45 Crosswicks St., Bordentown, N.J.; telephone: (609) 298-0261, followed by internment at Brigadier General William C. Doyle Veterans Memorial Cemetery, 350 Provinceline Rd., Wrightstown, N.J.; telephone: (609) 758-7250.
In lieu of flowers, donations are encouraged to be made to the USO at http://www.uso.org/donate