04/09/2012 11:39AM

Bergman: Antonacci family looking for its next Moni Maker

Lisa Photo
Moni Maker earned $5,589,256, making her the second-richest Standardbred of all time.

The list of eligibles to this year’s $1.5 million Hambletonian was released last week.

The sport’s most coveted prize has expanded its reach in recent years with audiences in Europe enjoying the festivities. Perhaps no family can appreciate the lure of the Hambletonian or that of true international racing as the Antonaccis. The family’s involvement in the sport goes back to 1965. Through the years they’ve owned some of the sport’s greatest trotters going back to Speedy Crown, Lindys Pride and more recently Moni Maker, the second richest Standardbred of all time with earnings of $5,589,256.

The family has gone through some of the greatest trotting trainers in the sport, but a few years ago the direction changed. Frank Antonacci, who’s father, Frank, and late-grandfather Guy (Sonny) made Lindy Farms a fixture on the owning and breeding side of the sport, elected to make training Standardbreds his career choice.

The young Antonacci brought with him the values his family had adopted over the years. Essentially when it comes to trotters you have to first recognize talent and then nurture it to fruition. Lindy Farms has amassed some great breeding stock over the years and has kept its passion for bringing young horses along slowly no matter what the cost.

It was back in 2008 when the young Antonacci first hit the spotlight with the standout three-year-old named Crazed. The son of Credit Winner had started but five times as a two-year-old and hardly distinguished himself. As a three-year-old he emerged to capture an elimination of the Hambletonian, only to wind up second to Deweycheatumnhowe in the final heat. Crazed earned just $5,266 as a two-year-old but went on to win eight of his 14 starts at three for earnings of $1,057,793.

Not a year goes by that the Antonaccis are not in the hunt for the Hambletonian. This year they have four colts eligible to the $1.7 million event to be held Aug. 4 at the New Meadowlands. While all four raced as juveniles, none gave outward indication of future stardom. “We don’t ask that much of the two-year-olds,” Frank Antonacci said.

While the colts didn’t stand out among their peers, no horse in the last 20 years more distinguished herself than Moni Maker, the 1998-99 Horse of the Year. She was an international star, and much was anticipated when she retired from racing.

“The plan was to keep her fillies and sell her colts,” said Antonacci.

That plan hasn’t worked very well since Moni Maker’s first six foals were all fillies and her first colt died.

Antonacci knows the Moni Maker clan and he has a pretty good feeling about this year’s three-year-old filly by Cantab Hall.

“I’d say of all her foals this one reminds me the most of Moni Maker,” he said. “She’s the same color. She has the same head as her mother. She wears the same equipment. She wears the same shoes her mother wore. Cant Have My Moni earned much of her $78,715 finishing second in the final of the Kindergarten at Vernon Downs last October.

Moni Maker will be bred to Donato Hanover this year, and Antonacci hasn’t given up hope just yet that a great horse will emerge from this female line. “I have to think one of her daughters will produce something special,” he said.

The 28-year-old Antonacci has a stable of 42 right now dominated by two- and three-year-old trotters. However, it’s from his pacers that he managed to create a great buzz for the sport when he came up with the “Bourbon Slush” concept. Frank asked interested parties to join the stable for a $500 fee that would be the only money paid for ownership and care and training of a yearling. The stable has two soph pacers in training.

“The gelding (Bettorwithbourbon) is going to be a little late this year but the filly (Lil Miss Bourbon) has trained down to 2:03 and should be qualifying soon,” said the conditioner. “I have to say if I had hand-picked 150 people I don’t think I could have found such a great group.”

Antonacci believes the goodwill gained from this partnership has to benefit the sport. “I didn’t sell this as a get-rich-quick scheme. Everyone who got involved understood that they wanted to be part of the experience without taking a major risk.”

Antonacci is quite excited about the prospects from the first crops of Deweycheatumnhowe and his 2008 prized pupil Crazed. Master Law, a colt by Dewy, is from the $1 million earner Possess The Magic. He’s trained exceptionally well thus far.
The Antonacci stable will be shipping to the family compound in Enfield, Conn., which is complete with a five-eighth-mile track and a straight track plus all the amenities a Standardbred could want.

Getting back to those four Hambletonian-eligible colts. With less than four months remaining before the big dance it might be wise to pay attention when these sophomore trotters hit the track this spring. Antonacci was high on Appomattox, a Yankee Glide colt that showed up in stakes last year without a win.

“We just didn’t have any luck with him. Especially in Canada,” he said. “Then he was entered in the Valley Victory and only five entered and he came up sick and we had to scratch.”

Those are difficult circumstances for any trainer to deal with.

Scary Good, a Cantab Hall colt, showed plenty of talent during his freshman campaign. He earned $82,415 while finishing on the board in all seven of his career starts. Scary Good was a Grand Circuit winner at the Red Mile in 1:56 4/5. Lindys Jersey Boy, who played mostly on the “B” circuit in Pennsylvania last year, is a son of Cantab Hall that has trained back well for his sophomore season. Blazed, a Muscles Yankee colt rounds out Antonacci’s Hambo class of 2012.

In a business that has changed over the last decade with slot money amping-up overnight purses and drawing many trainers in that direction, Antonacci is firmly sticking with his roots. “Top-level stakes horses, that’s what excites me and that’s what excites my partners,” he said.

With a keen eye and the ability to absorb from the knowledge of his family, Frank Antonacci may be about to achieve his goal - and maybe sooner than anyone might think.