The last time we heard anything of Paulie Walnuts Gualtieri, he was clinging to life after being whacked in the bloody turf war between his Sopranos gang of New Jersey and their New York rivals. That was in 2007.
Yet, Paulie Walnuts will race at The Meadows in Saturday’s (Aug. 17) Florida Pro, a $186,016 Pennsylvania Sire Stakes for freshman trotting colts and geldings. Of course, it won’t be Tony Sirico, the actor who portrayed Paulie Walnuts in the long-running HBO series The Sopranos. Rather, it’s his equine namesake, a promising youngster who’s seeking his first stakes win for owner Howard Taylor and trainer Bill Mullin.
The Florida Pro goes as races one, two and 10, with Paulie Walnuts and Mike Wilder leaving from post three in race two. First post is 1:05 p.m.
Paulie Walnuts (Andover Hall-D Liteful Hanover) was bred by Steve Jones of Cameo Hills Farm. Jones, who likes to have fun with foal names, is a Sopranos devotee.
“I watched that show religiously from start to finish, and Paulie Walnuts is my favourite character,” Jones says. “He has so many quirks — his mannerisms, his rings, the way he holds his hands, the way he tilts his head. He’s certainly a favourite of mine. I wanted to use his name somewhere along the way.”
It wasn’t the first time Jones dipped into Sopranos lore for a foal name. In 2001, he named a baby Mr Bada Bing.
“He was a full brother to Deweycheatumnhowe, but he wasn’t as successful,” Jones recalls.
Mullin, meanwhile, is a fan of the Paulie Walnuts character as well.
“I didn’t miss too many episodes,” he says. “What I remember about Paulie Walnuts is that skunk hair-do.”
Mullin picked up Paulie Walnuts when Taylor shifted him from the Gareth Dowse stable and made only a few rigging changes, including a switch to aluminum shoes behind. Has Mullin seen anything of the casual violence of Paulie Walnuts in his equine namesake?
“Not at all,” Mullin says. “He’s a gentleman, a pro. He picks up on everything you want him to. In his first couple starts, he showed that he has speed, and I think he wants to be a racehorse.
“He’s not staked to much this year, but if he performs well in the four or five shots he has remaining, he’ll have more next year.”
Can he win Saturday? You bet, or as Paulie Walnuts might say, “Fuhgeddaboutit.”
Saturday’s program also features an $80,000 Pennsylvania Stallion Series event for two-year-old trotting colts and geldings and a $1,319.68 carryover in the final-race Super Hi-5.
(Meadows Standardbred Owners Association)