Tributes fitting for someone very special keep pouring in for the late Rolf Bartolo.
Bartolo, who turned 74 last Friday, died peacefully on Sunday morning at the Port of Spain General Hospital around 6.20 a.m.
Bartolo, a teacher, coach, insurance manager, cyclist, footballer, racehorse owner, trainer and breeder, got ill close to three weeks ago, and his death brought reaction from many quarters.
Arima Race Club (ARC) president Robert Bernard was among those responding to Bartolo’s passing. “Our condolences go out to his family. As you know, he was a member of our management committee. He was an extremely nice gentleman, impeccable integrity. It is not now that he is involved in racing. He will be missed. He always shared very good advice on the management committee. He always stood up for the smaller people in the paddock and they will miss him. We have lost a lot of people in recent months,”
Vishan Ali, president of the Racehorse Owners Association (ROA), recalled: “I knew him since the 70s working with CLICO. Always knew him to be of high quality and integrity. He was a member of my executive and contributed financially and personally to the industry. He was held in high regard by all in the racing industry.”
And Ramesh Ramroop, acting Racehorse Trainers Association (RTA) president, said: “As a trainer, he has been a gentleman. He has been steadfast to his task. When he got his trainer’s licence he eagerly sought the advice of other trainers, which others do not do. He has been an exemplar in the sense of how he carried himself in a professional manner... He will be sorely missed by the trainers and racing fraternity.”
Also commenting on Bartolo the man, Jody Arneaud, past president of the Racehorse Jockeys Association (RJA), who usually drove him to Santa Rosa Park on mornings, revealed: “I knew him since in the early 80s, and that is since in the days of the late Leonard Perry (jockey). It was Perry who brought him back in racing with Bequia, which was trained by the late Cyril Arneaud... The man Rolf was always close to the Lord. On mornings before we left for Santa Rosa Park, he will say let us have a word of prayer.”
Asked about Rolf’s training success, Jody said: “He learnt a lot from Arneaud (Cyril). He was way above (trainers) John O’Brien and Glenn Mendez because of his management experience. He gave the best to his horses, and his workers...I think Root Of Jesse is about the best horse for him. When Root of Jesse came from Jamaica, he had some problems, and then had gates issues. I worked on that horse and we got that horse to race...His biggest accomplishment was the triple on Independence Day. He won the Independence Cup with Root of Jesse. His passion was to see racing run.”
Brother Ronald related: “He is one of the most beautiful persons. He believed in his church. He only missed mass in the Covid period.” He added: “People took advantage of him. He is a most forgiving person and had his belief that I did not share. He forgave very quickly and that is the kind of person he was. He was very generous. He could not be a politician; he was a person of honesty and integrity and tremendous perseverance and ambition. He worked harder than us and it was the ethics about him. He planned his day and got to achieve his goals. The only thing he did not achieve is he did not get married and wished he had children.”
Regarding his horses, Ronald said Rolf was fond of talking about Rewarding and Little Miss Muffet, while it pained him to retire Root Of Jesse.
Bartolo was named Most Improved trainer a couple years ago at the Jetsam Awards ceremony. He got his trainer’s licence on October 1, 2013 and had a very high strike rate as a small owner/trainer. From nine starts this season, his horses recorded four wins one second one third and one fourth, earning $78,795.00. He had eight horses in his barn. And overall in his six-plus years of training, Bartolo won 48 races, had 30 seconds, 32 thirds 24 fourths and 252 unplaced finishers, earnings close to $1.3 million.
The seventh child of a family of nine, Bartolo leaves to mourn brother Ronald and sisters Lima (eldest), Marilyn, Carol and Jasmine.
Funeral arrangements for Bartolo have not yet been finalised.