Contact: Graham Ross
(847) 255-4300
Thursday, August 24, 2000
75th Day


Trainer Gene Cilio walks softly, but with his shock of white hair and perennial prominence in the Illinois trainer standings, he carries a big stick.

Less visible, at least to the eyes of the casual fan, is Gene's younger brother Ron, without the same familiar surname or the same white markings.

Ron DiCicilia, nine years younger than Gene, and his brother were both born and raised in Chicago. They were the sons of trainer Angelo Cilio, a prominent trainer on the Illinois circuit in earlier decades. The senior Cilio, of Italian heritage but born in Buenos Aires, began his equine career as a mounted policeman.

The formal family name was DiCicilia, but when Angelo came to the racetrack, he adopted the name Cilio because it made for simpler spelling and pronunciation.

"Gene went on the racetrack when he was 14," said Ron DiCicilia, "and when he did he changed his name like our father. My sister Angela and I never did."

Also unlike his older brother, DiCicilia did not immediately gravitate to the backstretch. He served four years in the United States Marine Corps, and after service separation, got into the grocery business, and eventually and more specifically the frozen pizza business.

"I probably got my first horse in about 1960 (as an owner)," DiCicilia said. "He was a St. Louis (Southern Illinois) horse but he was a winner. His name was Dry Charge.

"In those days, a lot of guys made their living that way," DiCicilia said. "They'd buy horses in Chicago and race them in St. Louis (Fairmount- Cahokia circuit)."

However, in the early 1980s, DiCicilia and his brother Gene established Crown's Way Farm in Hampshire, Illinois to strengthen their position in the Illinois-breeding program.

"We named the farm after a filly we had named Crown The Lady," DiCicilia said. "It just seemed to fit."

In 1995, the brothers bought an additional farm in Fairfield, Florida (between Ocala and Gainesville) from prominent thoroughbred owner and breeder Barry Shipp. They named the new farm Crown's Way South. Last year, DiCicilia and Cilio sold the Illinois farm.

"We really haven't changed the breeding operation all that much," said DiCicilia, "except now we board our Illinois mares at farms like Hill 'n' Dale and Emerald Ridge." While the brothers are based in Chicago, Crown's Way South is left in the capable hands of farm manager John Domingue and his wife Paula.

"We just want to continue the way we're going," said DiCicilia of Crown's Way, who won Wednesday's seventh event with Sandy's Way.

That four-year-old filly, owned in partnership with J. Marovich, Founders Group, et al., earned a winner's purse of $38,640 in that Wednesday race, and returned a win mutuel of $31.

DiCicilia enjoys looking at pedigrees and raising the babies. Crown's Way raises to race, but sometimes "We sell a small portion but always keep a percentage," he said.

"You always breed hoping for a good horse," DiCicilia said. "If you can't get a 'good' horse, you hope to get a 'useful' horse.

"We've been very fortunate, so far," DiCicilia concluded.

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