Target Sighted, Fran Campitelli

Trainer Fran Campitelli stands with Target Sighted at Laurel Park last month. (Kim Hairston / The Baltimore Sun / September 26, 2012)

What do you call a horse who stops and sights his target — the racetrack — before a workout?

Target Sighted, of course. And to exercise rider Molly Moran, who arrives early to wait with the horse for the Laurel Park track to open for training at 5:30 a.m. each day, the moniker couldn't be more fitting.

"It's his trademark," said Moran, who has been working the 6-year-old for trainer Fran Campitelli for the past four years. "He likes to be the first one out, and he likes to stand and look around. He watches the lights, he stares across the track. If we're late getting out, he still likes to stand for a while when he gets there, taking in the scene."

The big, dark bay colt is a wonderful sight for Campitelli, who took him as a project last fall and entered him in Saturday's Maryland Million Turf, a race he won in 2009.




Target Sighted, who has been injured several times in his career, missed 14 months of racing prior to competing in last year's Maryland Million Turf. When he emerged from that race with a tendon injury, breeder and co-owner Cynthia McGinnes was ready to find him a home outside of racing.

That's when Campitelli stepped up.

The horse returned to the track last month, and though he didn't win, he ran well enough to persuade his trainer to enter him in Saturday's turf race. He will be one of two entries on the card for the 27th annual Jim McKay Maryland Million Day for Campitelli, who also will send Mystic Love to post in the Lassie.

Campitelli grew up down the street from Pimlico Race Course. Although his father worked in construction, not with horses, he was friends with trainer Julius Tuminelli.

"They lived on Belvedere Avenue, right outside the track," Campitelli, 69, said. "And the Tuminellis had a son, Joseph, who I became friends with. That whole family was in racing, and we all got to be good friends. I started going to the track and it became all I wanted to do."

He went to the University of Maryland for three years, but he didn't graduate. Then, he spent some time in Michigan and two years in the Army before returning to Baltimore.

Campitelli recalled when, shortly after he came back to the area, his father sent him to Timonium for a business dinner to pick up an award.

Campitelli doesn't remember the specifics about his father's award, but he does remember sneaking out the back door after he arrived at the dinner, crossing the street and buying a horse at the Timonium Fairgrounds.

"I came home with the horse instead of the plaque," Campitelli said. "Dad was actually excited about the horse, too. At that time, we'd moved to Reisterstown Road, where Dad had bought a 100-acre farm. I have no idea why he'd done that, but it meant we had a place to put the horse."

It was risky to go into horse training, but Campitelli was lucky with that first horse he bought, a yearling named Proper Interval, and he has made a life in the business.

His son, Chris, 28, a graduate of Gilman and Cornell, is a horseman, too, helping his father with the horses and working for the Maryland Jockey Club as an assistant starter on race days.

"What Dad did with Target Sighted was risky," Chris Campitelli said. "He had to foot the bill for almost a year without any guarantee that the horse was going to recover. But I wasn't surprised. I know they've loved the horse ever since they've had him."

After Target Sighted was injured in last year's Maryland Million Turf, McGinnes was going to just give him away to a good home. She is known for giving her horses to trainers who she knows will care of them.

"They're breeders," Campitelli said of McGinnes and her husband, Charles, who own Thornmar Farm in Chestertown. "They try to sell all they breed. But once in a while they're not able to, and if a horse has a problem, they prefer to retire it and find it a home. They're very thoughtful about their horses."

McGinnes gave Glib to trainer Gina Rosenthal a couple years ago, and the horse won last year's $100,000 Maryland Nursery and was declared the winner of the $75,000 Maryland Juvenile championship, too, when the Rick Dutrow Jr.-trained King and Crusader was disqualified.

But in Target Sighted's case, as soon as Campitelli heard McGinnes might be getting rid of him, he made his interest known. Campitelli had trained the horse since he was a 2-year-old, and in 11 races the horse always earned his trainer a check.