By Don Landry for woodbine.com
CAMPBELLVILLE, JUNE 20 – Music is a big part of Carmen Auciello’s life. It might be even bigger if his schedule allowed him to get back on stage with his old band every now and then.
That’s not in the cards right now for the frenzied Standardbred trainer, whose life is filled with jam-packed racing days and nights, chasing more wins and the chance to have his career sharply defined by one great find, one great horse. He’s working hard at that these days as well as keeping up with a busy family life. So, another great love of his – writing and performing music – is nudged to the side, even if it is never far from his thoughts.
“If I ever couldn’t make a career in horse racing, I’d love to be able to do something with music," Auciello says. "But it’s a very tough business.
“People tell me I can sing pretty good," he says matter-of-factly. "But, I’m an average guitar player.”
Instead of picking up a guitar or grabbing a microphone under some bright lights, Auciello has to instead be content with winning the odd war against his father, Rocco, for the radio station being played in his truck, and singing his way through the paddock or around the track as he exercises his charges.
The life of a busy horseman – Auciello estimates he has 30-35 horses racing every week during the season – supersedes so many other interests.
“You get out of the truck and it’s always the last song that was playing before you leave," he says when asked what he likes to warble these days. "And it gets stuck in your head.”
A lot of the time, that song might be "Big Poppa" by Notorious B.I.G.
“Oh, I love that,” says an enthused Auciello, who scrolls through his IPod, pausing each time he comes across something that strikes a chord. Kanye, Dr. Dre, The Tragically Hip. “Really, anything ‘Hip,” he says.
Carmen Auciello can talk your ear off when it comes to his horses and he can apparently hold your attention quite nicely if he decides to sing a tune. He’s known in racing circles for both of those things and not likely to be stopped if there is a karaoke machine around, provided he’s got a moment and provided his phone doesn’t go off.
With dozens of Ontario horses to oversee – as well as some fifteen more in New York State – Auciello is accepting calls almost continually.
"That’s because I have a lot of clients that have a lot of money invested and they should be able to get a hold of me whenever they want," he says.
Taking calls, tackling early morning spreadsheets so as to ensure he doesn’t miss a trick, getting in the bike to exercise some of his operation’s horses, Auciello’s schedule is a daunting one, as it is for so many in the game. However, he will not give the rope any slack, not even to accommodate his musical yearnings. To do so would be, he believes, shirking responsibility.
“The minute you stop being hands-on, you’re having to rely on other people too much and it’s tough," Auciello says, noting that he does have good people on his team, including his father, a veteran trainer himself, and his father-in-law, Bill. "Your reputation and your business is built on your hands and eyes not somebody else’s.”
So there’s precious little time to get the band back together and spend a few nights recapturing their youth on the bar circuit.
Back in the day, Auciello was a keen performer, hitting the stage with his buddies often, singing up a storm and covering favourites in order to satisfy the audience. He took the time to write some of his own material, too, and figures he has "fifteen or sixteen" songs he can call his own, even if some of them are a little dated and dusty, with him tweaking the lyrics now and then as the mid-thirties version of himself bridges artistic differences with the teenaged version.
A couple of those songs, Auciello says, have made it on to his IPod, self-produced years ago. He seems modest when he talks about them, but in doing so offers up some insight on where he was as a younger man and where he is right now.
One of the songs, called "A Month From Now," was written just after he finished high school. “Falling in love, having your heart broken,”
Auciello says in a tone that suggests not much more needs to be said about a fairly universal theme in modern music.
He couldn’t write that song now, he says, because his happy and contented home life, featuring wife Ashley, as well as children Leah and Hudson, has him in a place of great comfort. “I’m never gonna have my heart broken again and I’m never gonna be looking for love again,” he says.
The other original song that has found a place in Auciello’s IPod files is called "Bring You Down," a song he co-wrote with a friend. It’s an exploratory look at sometimes feeling unworthy of another person. "It IS good," Auciello says with pride. "I play some harmonica in it.”
“I do have a lot of material," he adds. "I just haven’t done anything with it yet.”
"Yet," he says.
Once in a while, Auciello thinks about getting into a studio and crafting those fifteen or sixteen songs of his into one complete album. He’d like people to hear his music.
“In time, that’s kinda my goal," he muses, illustrating that the musical pilot light is still there, still burning. "Just to have something that
I can say ‘this was mine. I recorded it and I wrote everything and… take it or leave it.’ You know what I mean?”
Until then, Auciello chases another dream, one that’s equally as important if not more so.
"I’m just waiting, hopefully, to have that champion horse come along one day," he says. But for the most part I’m just workin’ hard and making a decent living for me and my family. I wouldn’t do it if I didn’t enjoy it."
And adding his own soundtrack as he makes that decent living. “I’m always singing,” he says.
For Carmen Auciello, injecting a little music into the daily routine makes chasing one dream more enjoyable, while keeping the other one alive.