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Harnessing Their Passion

Belleville Natives Making a Name for Themselves in Harness Racing

You might not expect two brothers in the construction supply business to become successful racehorse owners, but that’s exactly what Tom and John Cancelliere did.  Born and raised in Belleville, the Cancelliere brothers have caused quite a stir in the harness racing business, in the four short years they’ve been involved with the sport.

When asked how he first got involved in horse racing, Tom wryly answers that he married into it.  His late father-in-law, Armando Vocturo, also from Belleville, was a successful owner and breeder of harness horses.  When Tom married his wife, Susan, 30 years ago, he became involved with the racing world.  But it wasn’t until his brother John, put the pressure on him that they finally purchased Philos Hannover, their very first horse.

John had wanted to own a horse for a long time.  When asked why he got involved in the sport, John states matter-of-factly, “I just liked horse racing, that was all.  I’m not a gambler, but I just liked horse racing.  That’s how it started.”  John, who is CEO and President of Von Rohr Equipment, says what he enjoys most about the sport is the competition.  He mostly handles the business side of the horse racing venture, such as acquiring new horses.

The brothers recently made a big purchase when they bought Showherthemoney, a pacing mare, for the handsome sum of $700,000 last November.  John says, “A lot of planning and thought goes into it before acquiring one”.  They will travel far and wide, consult with veterinarians and study X-rays making sure that the horse meets their standards of excellence.  

“We’re only interested in what would be considered to be the best ones that are around.”

Tom is involved with the day-to-day training of the horses down at the farm in Chesterfield, which comes complete with a training facility, paddocks, spa, and hyperbaric chamber.  “The horses are given the ultimate care,” John explains.  Tom enjoys spending his days overseeing the physical training of the horses.  He says, “The nicest part of the job is actually going out and being with the horse – the time you get to spend with the animals is probably the best part of the day.”


When talking about their horses, both brothers agree that Philos Hannover is the ultimate favorite, because he was their first horse, the one that started it all for them.  “He’s not the biggest money earner but he’s the favorite”, clarifies Tom.  Their top earners include Western Shore and Bettor Sweet, and the brothers recently welcomed a baby to their farm – a little black colt they affectionately call Touchdown, because he was born on Super Bowl Sunday.

“I don’t know if you go in with the expectation to win, but we always make sure that the horses are ready to go to the races.  One - I don’t think it’s fair to the horses.  Two – I don’t feel it’s fair to the betting public if you send a product to the racetrack that’s not ready to race and three it’s a terrible waste of diesel,”  Tom says. “Your expectation should always be of getting a check.”

Despite their diligence, the brothers attribute their success, at least partly, surprisingly, to luck.  

Tom says, “You get them ready and you make sure you’ve done everything you could…give them a kiss on the forehead and send them to the track and after that it’s all on luck.  When the gate swings open you never know where you’re going to wind up.”   

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