louis p. "lou" guida
Lou Guida, whose innovative approach to horse ownership and stallion syndication led to significant changes in the harness racing industry, was born in Jersey City, New Jersey on December 21, 1933. Choosing to drop out of high school, he worked during the day at the Joseph Dixon Crucible Co. while studying television repair at night. He opened his first small store at the age of nineteen with a bankroll of $800 and developed it into a successful multi-store business which sold and repaired televisions and employed more than twenty five people. A few years thereafter, he built a state-of-the-art car wash and operated both companies for several years. He later sold both businesses and started a finance company, Fidelity Finance, which ultimately employed over one hundred individuals. He sold Fidelity Finance in 1966 in order to join Merrill Lynch, and by 1970 he had become the firm’s leading producer worldwide. He was also the first stock broker in the history of the company to be promoted to vice president. Guida took over the management of the Trenton, New Jersey office, which at that time ranked three hundred fifty-fifth out of the three hundred sixty-five Merrill offices and employed only sixteen brokers. Under his leadership, the office rose to third position with numerous satellite offices under its umbrella and a professional staff of over one hundred fifty. During his career with Merrill, he negotiated the sale of Caesar’s Palace to Lum’s Restaurant for which he received a substantial fee. In need of a tax shelter, he turned to harness racing. A senior vice president, he eventually took early retirement from Merrill Lynch to pursue the sport on a full-time basis. From the 1970s until the early 21st century, he was one of the most successful individuals in the industry. He brought in rich partners, some of whom were new to the sport, formed numerous corporations and syndicates, and spent big money to acquire champion horses.
As a breeder and/or owner, individually or in partnership with wife Rose and others, Lou Guida was associated at some point in the careers of horses whose accomplishments are among the most significant in harness racing. Included in this group are Horse of the Year honorees Niatross (1979,1980), Nihilator (1985), Forrest Skipper (1986) and Mack Lobell (1987,1988). Two of these champions, Niatross p,3,T1:49.1 in 1980 and Mack Lobell 3, 1:52.1 in 1987, set world records that now have been broken but at that time were the fastest pacing and trotting miles ever recorded; and others held world records in various categories. Twenty one of them became millionaires, fourteen held divisional titles, and twenty were winners of Breeders Crown races. Included in the list are the winners of five Messenger Stakes, four Little Brown Jugs, four Meadowlands Paces, four Cane Paces, three Orsi Mangellis, three Tarport Haps, four Woodrow Wilsons, three Zweig Memorials, two Hambletonians, two Hambletonian Oaks, two Kentucky Futurities, two Sweetheart Paces, three Three Diamonds, two World Trotting Derbies, two Yonkers Trots, one Elitlopp and one Italian Derby. In 1980 Guida and his associates won the Pacing Triple Crown with Niatross and in 1985 won the three legs of the Pacing Triple Crown with three different horses – Chairmanoftheboard (Cane Pace), Nihilator (Little Brown Jug) and Pershing Square (Messenger Stakes). Other notable horses associated with Guida are American Freedom, B G’s Bunny, Baltic Striker, Barberry Spur, Bonnie & Clyde, Bullville Victory, Caressable, Cole Muffler, Conquered Quest, Crown’s Invitation, David Raymond, Delray Lobell, Diamond Exchange, Donerail, Dontgetinmyway, Dragon’s Lair, Electric Slide, Embassy Lobell, Follow My Star, Freedom’s Friend, Hazleton Kay, Hot Hitter, Immortality, In The Pocket, Jake & Elwood, Keystone Raider, Lady Niatrose, Masquerade, Miss Easy, OK Bye, Park Avenue Joe, Park Avenue Kathy, Peace Corps, Pine Chip, Sandman Hanover, Seahawk Hanover, Sonsam, Triple T Storm and Wesgate Crown.
Guida and his wife were successful breeders and owners of Standardbreds in Italy. He was the recipient of the 1987 USHWA Good Guy Award, the 1989 USHWA President’s Award and the 1991 Stanley F. Bergstein Messenger Award.
Guida was involved with various sports since his childhood. As a young baseball player, he was scouted by the New York Giants and asked to join their farm team in Jersey City, New Jersey. However, due to his mother’s disapproval he declined the offer. Guida claimed that the smartest move he ever made in sports was to purchase the Philadelphia Eagles football team, and his dumbest move was selling it.
Guida also bred Thoroughbreds in the U.S. in partnership with Dr. Philip McCarthy, a prominent veterinarian. A group formed by Guida, called the Laurel Guida Group, purchased 50% interest in Laurel Racetrack and a percentage of ownership in Pimlico Racetrack, where the Preakness, part of the Thoroughbred Triple Crown, is raced. The group later sold its interest to Magna Entertainment; however, it retained rights to future gambling outlets that may be approved at the tracks.
Lou Guida passed away on January 30, 2015.