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SERVICES WEDNESDAY FOR TRAINER LEWIS CENICOLA, CANCER CLAIMS EXERCISE RIDER FOR JOHN HENRY AT 66
ARCADIA, Calif. (Jan. 10, 2012)—Trainer Lewis Cenicola, who was a former jockey and who served as the legendary John Henry’s regular exercise rider while he was trained by Hall of Famer Ron McAnally, succumbed after a long bout with cancer on Jan. 8, at the age of 66. One of the most well-liked figures in California racing, Cenicola is survived by his wife Donna.
A rosary is scheduled on Wednesday night at 7 p.m. at Douglas Zook Chapel of Remembrance Funeral Home, 600 E. Foothill Blvd., in Monrovia.
A funeral mass for Cenicola will be held on Thursday at 1 p.m., at Saint Rita of Cascia, 318 N. Baldwin Ave., in Sierra Madre.
A reception will follow the mass on Thursday, beginning at 2:30 p.m. in the banquet room at Santa Anita Golf Course, 405 S. Santa Anita Ave., in Arcadia.
A self-effacing and colorful character, Cenicola won 279 races as a trainer, including two Grade III stakes—the 1988 San Simeon Handicap with Caballo de Oro and the 1992 Silver Screen Handicap with Natural Nine.
Prior to that he’d been a jockey for more than a decade, but he made his mark in the racing world as the regular exercise rider for the legendary Hall of Fame gelding, John Henry. Cenicola was a key component to “John’s” incredible run of success with McAnally, that included unprecedented back-to-back wins in the Grade I Santa Anita Handicap in 1981 and ’82 and Horse of the Year titles in 1981 and ’84 (at the age of nine.)
“He was a very good horseman and I really liked him,” said McAnally recently. “He did some things with John Henry that I don’t think anyone else would have had the patience to do. He’d let him stand and look when he was on the track and when John got ready to move, he would let him go.
“…He liked to party at night, but he was always there at 4:30 in the morning. He got on a lot of good horses for us, all the good Elmendorf horses. He was the best.” Cenicola and his wife were also successful breeders. Their Cookin Vickie was their most accomplished runner, earning $232,627.
In lieu of flowers, Donna Cenicola has requested that donations be made in her husband’s name to Winner’s Circle Ranch, 150 Sawpit Lane, Bradbury, Calif., 91008. Winner’s Circle Ranch provides care and rehabilitation to injured racehorses.