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updated: 8/12/2014 9:13 PM

Best home stretch ever for trainer Catalano

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  • Trainer Wayne Catalano

      Trainer Wayne Catalano

 
 

Late Tuesday morning, Wayne Catalano gingerly walked out of the rehabilitation center at St. Alexius Medical Center in Hoffman Estates and headed home.

Pretty amazing stuff considering that just three weeks earlier the 11-time training champion at Arlington Park had been admitted to the hospital suffering from H1N1 influenza and pneumonia.

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Simply put, it was a life-or-death situation for the 58-year-old.

"They told me I was knocking on heaven's door," Catalano told the Daily Racing Form last week.

But there he was Tuesday, feeling more like his old self as he discussed his ordeal.

"I feel great that I'm getting out of there," Catalano said. "I'm on the road to recovery."

And anyone who knows the always active Catalano knows that the road has to lead back to Arlington, especially for this weekend's Festival of Racing.

Catalano has horses entered in three of the four graded stakes on Million Day -- Highball in the Secretariat Stakes, Infinite Magic in the St. Leger, and I'm Already Sexy in the Beverly D.

"We're going to go out there for the three races," he said. "I'm hoping I can make it. I've been pretty strong. Today's been my best day."

"I just started walking (Monday). I'm using the walker sometimes, and sometimes I'm without it."

There's no doubt that when he returns to the Arlington grounds, perhaps as soon as Thursday, Catalano, who was deluged with well wishes during his stay in the hospital, is going to be one popular guy.

"It's unbelievable how supportive so many people have been -- one after another," he said. "They'd call, text, pray -- it's incredible.

"People reached out and people prayed. You could name all kinds of names -- there are just so many,"

But one stood out.

"My wife, Renee, never left my side," he said, choking up a bit. "She was there 24 hours a day."

While Catalano was out of action, his stable continued its winning ways, including a victory by Winter Dawn at Saratoga last week.

"My team was there when I really needed them," he said. "I was very fortunate to get the team together before I got sick. The stable went on and won races while I was sick.

"I've got the right people working with me."

And soon Catalano will be back running the show as he slowly rounds back into form.

Or perhaps not so slowly.

"We'll see," he said when asked if he would take things easy at first. "You know me; I'll be doing what I have to do. We'll be out there looking at the horses. We've just got to pace ourselves -- that's the main thing.

"I think we're good to go. We're walking, so that's a good thing. I couldn't walk two steps before."

But with the support of his family and friends, and especially Renee, Catalano's recovery is progressing at a steady gallop.

"Everything would've been twice as hard without Renee there," he said. "I kept telling her she should go home and she said, 'I'll go home when you go home.'

"And here we are … walking out of the hospital together."

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