HALLANDALE BEACH, FL – Philip Antonacci grew up in one of the most prominent harness racing families, but he has always been fascinated by the world of Thoroughbreds.
His father, Frank Antonacci, whose Lindy Farms has won five Hambletonians, has been inducted into the Harness Hall of Fame’s Hall of Immortals. Yet, the 26-year-old Connecticut native has opted for a change of pace and embarked on a quest to succeed as a thoroughbred trainer.
Antonacci, who has worked for several of the world’s most respected Thoroughbred trainers to achieve that goal, notched his first major milestone as a Thoroughbred trainer Saturday at Gulfstream Park, where he saddled his first winner, Advanced Strategy, in the mile optional claiming allowance feature on turf. Owned by Lindy Farms, Advanced Strategy was Antonacci’s fifth starter.
“He’ll definitely have a home forever, being my first winner,” said Antonacci, who has 15 horses stabled at Payson Park.
Although he has become focused on his Thoroughbred career, Antonacci has hardly left the Standardbred world behind. In fact, he is teaming with Jimmy Takter, the retired Harness Hall of Fame legend who has ventured into Thoroughbred racing to assist Antonacci.
“He’s like the D. Wayne Lukas of Standardbred racing. He retired three years ago. He always had an interest in Thoroughbreds, so when I decided to go on my own, he said, ‘I’d like to come along and help and assist. We can put our minds together and come up with our own training plan,’” said Antonacci. “He’s at the barn quite a bit. It’s been a great team effort.”
Unfortunately, Takter was unable to attend the races Saturday.
“I was on the phone with him. He’s won a lot of Hambletonians, but he said he was relieved to get this one across the line,” Antonacci said.
Antonacci, a graduate of Godolphin’s Flying Start program, became interested in Thoroughbred while attending the races at Saratoga and went on to work for trainers Wesley Ward, Australia’s Gai Waterhouse and Todd Pletcher.
“I grew up summers in Saratoga, so that’s when I started to get into it,” said the University of Pennsylvania graduate. “I actually started off working for Wesley at Saratoga. He helped me a lot getting started, and he’s the one who introduced me to Gai Waterhouse, who put me in touch with the Flying Start program. If it wasn’t for them, I never would have gotten started in the Thoroughbred game.”
Gulfstream Park Press Release
Photo: Antonacci, (Ryan Thompson)