03/08/2003 12:00AM

Antonucci back at his best game


OLDSMAR Fla. - The Killer Cuban stable is back.

When Libby's Dreams led from flagfall to finish to capture Friday's third race, it marked the fifth straight winner sent out by trainer Pete Antonucci. The streak was snapped later in the day when Dinner Withawinner broke slowly and failed to hit the board in a turf allowance race.

Antonucci's stable, which runs in distinctive orange silks, is nicknamed the "Killer Cuban" stable after the signature sandwich on the menu at the sandwich shop owned by Antonucci and Susan Hammer, who owns the stable's horses.

The stable's recent success is an example what can occur when a person goes back to doing what he does best.

Several years back, Antonucci, a former jock's agent, was taking care of business at his newly purchased sandwich shop when he decided to get back into racing on a modest scale. He looked for lower-priced claiming horses and had a preference for fillies or mares. He went over his new acquisitions with a fine-tooth comb and often made minor changes to diet, shoeing, vitamin supplement programs, and medication.

He studied state programs and found several years back that the Illinois-bred allowance ranks were thin and there for the picking.

The results were profitable. He bought one Illinois-bred and made over $75,000 by moving her up into allowance company in Chicago, and claimed three horses for a total of about $17,000. He knocked out earnings of almost $200,000 with them.

Later ventures into breeding and the high-priced claiming ranks proved less than successful, but Antonucci is back at his best game this season.

He claimed one of his former runners, Urgent Matter, for $3,500 at Charles Town, knowing the old campaigner liked the Tampa surface. Urgent Matter raced well in his first outing off a layoff, then came back and won two straight five-furlong sprints. Antonucci purchased Rich Tone privately and Rich Tone promptly went out and won two in a row against 3-year-old claiming sprinters. On Friday, Libby's Dreams, another Antonucci claim, won her second race here for the trainer.

Judice continues to roll

Jockey Joe Judice is trying his best to run away and hide from Jesus Castanon in the rider's race. Judice posted riding triples on Thursday and Friday and upped his lead over Castanon to 10 wins coming into Saturday's program.

One of Judice's strengths is his ability to get horses to carry their speed to the finish, and this past week speed horses have had a distinct advantage.