by Desiree Seeloff
After starting his own public stable in 2009, Tony Alagna has established himself as one of the top trainers in harness racing. With more than 5,400 starts since 1998, Alagna has 998 wins and more than $29 million in earnings. He said his biggest mentor is his mother, Donna Lee Ozment, who always told him, “If you don’t take care of the horse, the horse won’t take care of you.”
How did you get into harness racing?
My parents owned and trained Standardbreds before I was born. I grew up on their farm in Champaign, Ill.
When did you first know you wanted to be a trainer?
I grew up in the industry and always knew I wanted to be a trainer.
Did you have a mentor that you looked up to?
My biggest mentor would have to be my mom. I was able to learn a lot from working alongside her after I graduated high school. My other two mentors are Brian Pinske and Erv Miller. They both have helped me a lot during my training career.
What is your favorite part about being a trainer?
Being able to see the start-to-finish transition of these young horses. We buy the horses as yearlings from the sales and then raise and train them ourselves. It is exciting to see how they progress in their training and how they perform on the track.
What is the hardest part about being a trainer?
I think the hardest part about being a trainer has to be dealing with disappointment. Sometimes you get a horse in and you are so excited about it then something either sidelines the horse or the potential just isn’t there.
How did you go about choosing your colors?
My race colors are navy blue and kelly green. I acquired those colors when I worked at Fox Valley Farm in Illinois as their private trainer.
Are there any other jobs in the industry that you think you might like to try?
I think racetrack management would be really interesting. I think I’d have a lot to offer since I have grown up in the industry and have been a trainer for so long.
What advice would you give to kids who want to get involved in harness racing?
My best advice for anyone–kids or young adults–who want to get involved in harness racing, is to reach out and contact the Harness Horse Youth Foundation (HHYF.org). The HHYF offers everything from scholarships to internships and everything between.
This Q & A originally appeared in the December 2016 issue of Youth Beats.