Joseph Piarulli, who trained Vertex to 17 wins and a reputation as the best handicap horse in the East in the late 1950s, died on April 4 at age 90.

He passed away in his sleep, the Courier-Post reported (here).

Vertex was retired due to a leg injury in 1959, and Piarulli later became a steward for the New Jersey Racing Commission.  He served in that capacity for three decades, retiring in 1999.

Piarulli is survived by his wife, Deborah, sons Joe Jr. and Thomas, two brothers, and nieces and nephews.


As a trainer, Piarulli gained his greatest fame guiding Vertex to 17 wins from 25 starts.  On successive weekends in 1959, the big chestnut won two $100,000 races — the Gulfstream Park Handicap and the John B. Campbell at Bowie.

Vertex was bred and owned by Piarulli’s father, Frank.  And though the horse battled injury in his career, Piarulli recounted in 2013, “There was no horse that could even come close to him.  He would win as he pleased.”

Vertex was inducted into the inaugural class of the Maryland Thoroughbred Hall of Fame, and Piarulli traveled down from New Jersey for the Pimlico ceremony.

“I don’t travel too much,” he told The Racing Biz that day.  “But for that horse, I would do anything.”

For more, including wake and funeral arrangements, click here.