John Brunetti, 87, owner of the historic Hialeah Park casino and racetrack, died Friday, March 2 at his home in Boca Raton. He owned a successful construction company in New Jersey, then bought Hialeah in 1977. He had first seen the racetrack in 1957, when he was a student at the University of Miami.
“We went to Gulfstream, Tropical Park and Hialeah. I loved Hialeah right away. It was breathtaking,” Brunetti said. Opened in 1925, Hialeah featured Mediterranean architecture, pink flamingos and rich history, as well as Miami’s first elevator. The venue attracted celebrities and world leaders, and some of racing’s greatest horses. A statue of Citation still stands there.
Brunetti also developed and owned King’s Court, a fronton and casino in Florida City. In addition, he was a philanthropist, supporting medical research and higher education. In 2017, he donated $2.5 million to St. Thomas University’s Human Trafficking Academy. He also supported the Wounded Warrior Project and helped those born with a cleft palate.