James “J.J.” Crupi, a longtime trainer and consignor through his Florida-based New Castle Farm, died Thursday in Maryland at age 79 after a long-running battle with various health issues.
In the business until the end, Crupi was on the grounds at the Fasig-Tipton Midlantic 2-Year-Olds In Training Sale during the auction's opening session on Monday, interacting with buyers and clients from the passenger seat of his car parked by his shedrow before being admitted to the hospital.
It was an apt finale for a horseman whose presence at the sales was practically a landmark that others went out of their way to visit – whether it was his usual front-row seat at the Fasig-Tipton Saratoga yearling sales, or his “Crupi's New Castle Farm”-branded director's chair in the back ring of the Keeneland sales.
That level of respect from his peers was garnered over decades of working with Thoroughbreds. He spent 30 years as an on-track trainer, racking up four training titles at Monmouth Park and one at The Meadowlands.
A New Jersey native, Crupi was good with the state-breds, with his stable being led by Jersey-born runners including Grade 2-placed Why Be Normal and stakes winner Loyal Groom. Outside of the state-bred program, he had Grade 3-placed Abduct and stakes winner North Again.
Crupi founded New Castle Farm in Fellowship, Fla., in 1995 as a base of operations for his breaking, consigning, and pinhooking interests. Based on over 200 acres that formerly comprised Happy Valley Farm, the property became a training ground for many young horses who would go on to earn national prominence, and a regular layup destination for horses that had already earned that title.
Crupi broke yearlings with a five-point philosophy: Don't fight the horse in the beginning; create a calm atmosphere in the stall; work a yearling a little harder to tire him out, calm him down, and get his attention; the best-broke horse is often the winner; and talent is still king.
A short sampling of the graduates from Crupi's program in recent memory show just how effective that system was in producing runners. His alumni board just over the past few years includes Kentucky Derby winner Always Dreaming, champions Uncle Mo and Trinniberg, Breeders' Cup winners Liam's Map and Little Mike, and Grade 1 winners Macho Again, Overanalyze, Palace, Stay Thirsty, Awesome Gem, Vineyard Haven, Sweet Reason, and Zensational.
Barring a shocking turn events in one of the season's final sales, Crupi will leave a big mark in his final 2-year-old auction season, consigning what is so far the most expensive juvenile of the year at the Fasig-Tipton Gulfstream Select 2-Year-Olds In Training Sale.
The standout horse was a Curlin colt out of the Bernardini mare Achieving who sold to bloodstock agents Jamie McCalmont and Donato Lanni on behalf of the Coolmore group and an unnamed partner for $3.65 million. It was the most spent for a juvenile at North American public auction since The Green Monkey commanded a record $16 million in 2006.
It was the second time a Crupi-consigned juvenile has topped the boutique sale in South Florida since it moved to Gulfstream Park in 2015. The first came during the sale's debut at the new venue, when Coolmore bought a half-brother to Breeders' Cup Classic winner Bayern by Scat Daddy for $1.4 million.
Really sad to hear the news that Jimmy Crupi has passed away. He was a larger than life character who will leave an unfillable void. He was always quick with a joke and had an uncanny ability to identify talent. He was a trailblazer and legend who will be missed by all
— Conrad Bandoroff (@CBandoroff) May 24, 2019
Saddened to hear the news of the passing of an icon, Mr. JJ Crupi (New Castle Farm), a mountain of a man who touched so many lives in this industry and epitomized “horseman”. Condolences to Monique and to those closest to him. Rest In Peace. 🙏 🏰 🏇#NoHassleAtTheCastle pic.twitter.com/pLx2d2vxxF
— Nick J. Hines aka SARGE (@Hinesite) May 24, 2019
Very sad to hear J.J. Crupi passed away yesterday. He has been a driving force in the industry for what feels like forever. Crupi's New Castle will always be a stalwart in the game.
— Kaitlin Free (@kaitlinefree) May 24, 2019
RIP “J. J.” Crupi. A larger than life character and a kind soul. He will be greatly missed.
— Grant Williamson (@gawilliamson) May 24, 2019
@FasigTiptonCo At this year's Saratoga Yearling Sale you should not let anyone sit in JJ Crupi's traditional front row seat.
— joe easter worshiper (@b1joe) May 24, 2019
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