Meet Trainer Jerry Gryczewski!
Meet Trainer Jerry Gryczewski!
By M. Scott McMannis
For trainer Jerry Gryczewski his career path could have gone either way: become an electrician or a racetracker. In fact, it went both ways.
Gryczewski was born in Chicago Heights and grew up in Frankfort, Illinois. He is a product of Lincoln Way High School (The Knights), Class of ’80.
Thanks to his parents, Gryczewski grew up around the racetrack. His father, Leo, was an electrician at Balmoral Race Track for 25 years. Overlapping Leo’s employment, Gryczewski’s mother, Grace, was the Visumatic Timer operator at that far-south suburban, yet rural, racetrack.
“Naturally, that meant that my brother, Donald, and I spent a lot of time at the racetrack as we were growing up,” Jerry Gryczewski began. “We were all over the grounds, frontside and backside. On race days, Donald and I would scurry around, picking up tickets.” That’s when pari-mutuel tickets were like pieces of art to youngsters, brightly colored with all kinds of unusual, coded lettering printed on them.
“When our dad had electrical jobs to do on the backside, we were right along with him,” continued Gryczewski. “Being in the barn area instituted my interest in working with horses.
“I started out helping around the barn of trainer Bob Heiss, a Thoroughbred trainer who campaigned at Balmoral,” Gryczewski continued. “I took out my hotwalker license as early as I could, age 16.”
Newer fans may not know that Balmoral ran Thoroughbreds up until 1991.
“I also became friends with trainer Joe Radosevich and his family, especially his sons, Jake and Joe, Jr., who were in my age range,” related Gryczewski. “I remember riding my bike to Joliet just to spend time at the Radosevich farm there.”
After graduating in 1980, Gryczewski pursued a career in horseracing. “I had met Tony Granitz at Balmoral,” he explained, “and I went to work for him. In 1982 I earned my exercise rider license.
“As time went on, I became Tony’s assistant trainer. In those days Balmoral and Arlington ran Thoroughbred meets at the same time, and Tony would split his stable between the two. I would oversee Tony’s string at Balmoral while he concentrated on his horses at Arlington.”
In 1990 Gryczewski made the big decision to go out on his own. He took out his trainer license and assembled a public stable.
In 1994 Gryczewski suffered a ruptured disc in his back which necessitated a serious operation. “With a long and tenuous recovery to undergo, I left training and the racetrack,” related Gryczewski. “By that time my father had gone out on his own as an electrical contractor, so I went to work for him.”
The arrangement continued longer than expected, to 2000. But the attraction of the racetrack proved too much to resist. Gryczewski again launched a public stable.
Fans will remember several of Gryczewski’s useful horses, such as Whyte Dayse, Sue’s April Fool, and Dancing Taylor, all at least 10-race winners. Incidentally, Dancing Taylor was named after one of Tony Granitz’s daughters.
Gryczewski now trains for the Blink On Bye Stable of brothers Tony and Lou Ferruza. “We’re primarily a claiming operation,” Gryczewski explained. “Right now we have 10 horses, but we’re always on the lookout for promising purchases.
“I’m managing my operation with the able assistance of my two grooms/hotwalkers, brothers Andreas and Humberto Bustamante. I still gallop my horses, which is an advantage since I can really get to know my horses for myself.”
Gryczewski resides on his farm in Cedar Lake, Indiana, with wife Raquel and six-year-old daughter Isabelle and three-year-old son Ronald.