Following Family Footsteps

Frank ‘The Elder’ Antonacci joins father, uncle in Hall

by Gordon Waterstone

The legacy of the Antonacci family once again has been brought to the forefront in 2023 with the induction of Frank G. Antonacci into harness racing’s Living Hall of Fame, in Goshen, N.Y. The 68-year-old Antonacci joins his father, Guy “Sonny,” and uncle Frank, who both were inducted into the Hall in 2000.
“I think it’s a great honor for the whole family because it’s really a family homage,” said Antonacci, who is known as “The Elder.” “We’ve been in harness racing our whole life. My wife, Rebecca; my kids, Frank, Chris and Philip; my brother, Jerry; and my mom and dad were, so it’s really a nice affirmation for the family that we’ve tried to help harness racing. And this is a little bit of acknowledgment of that.”

Naturally, the new Hall of Famer was in attendance in Goshen 23 years ago to see his father and uncle inducted into the Hall. With Antonacci’s induction, the Antonaccis join a select few other father-son pairs inducted into the Hall: John Simpson Sr. and John Simpson Jr.; Henry “Hank” Thomson and Tom Thomson; Elbridge “Ebby” Gerry Sr. and Elbridge “Ebby” Gerry Jr.; and Sanders Russell and Walter Russell Jr. Also in that group are Bill and Peter Haughton, the latter being the only Immortal inductee with a statuette at the Hall.
The inclusion of Antonacci in this year’s Hall of Fame class gives pride to his son, Frank M., who trained the family stable up until 2017, when he left to oversee operations of the Antonaccis’ waste management and recycling company, based in Enfield, Conn.

“My dad going into the Hall of Fame, it is so deserved,” said the younger Antonacci. “The horses are truly a passion of his life. He’s been involved and successful in every aspect and fashion of it. He’s promoted it within his family, within his friend group, and within his business community. It’s great to see his hard work, passion and successes repaid in this incredible honor.”

In partnership with the Lomangino family, the Antonaccis founded Lindy Farms in 1963. Just six years later, Lindy Farms campaigned 3-Year-Old Colt Trotter of the Year Lindy’s Pride.
“We had some nice pacers earlier . . . but when you have a horse like Lindy’s Pride, it was a little bit life changing as far as the business,” said Antonacci.

Lindy’s Pride was the first of four Hambletonian winners for Lindy Farms of Connecticut and its affiliates, followed by Probe (1989), Harmonious (1990) and Victory Dream (1994).
Another memorable moment that stands out for the new Hall of Famer was Moni Maker’s victory in the 1999 Prix d’Amérique.

“It’s the sort of thing that’s hard to do, and for an American horse to do it . . . it was a pretty special race with a pretty special horse,” said Antonacci of the two-time Horse of the Year (1998-99). “She was one of those horses that would go to the racetrack every time and you wouldn’t go home disappointed.”

Lindy Farms currently consists of about 700 acres in Connecticut, with another few hundred acres at its Massachusetts base. In addition to Standardbreds, Lindy Farms has also become involved in Thoroughbred racing, with a new track being built at the Connecticut farm for use by both breeds.

“The best part of Lindy Farms? It’s a family thing,” said Antonacci. “The horses train right here at home, so we get to see them a lot. The broodmares and foals are here, so we get to see them a lot. It’s a cool thing to go out there and see them whenever we want.”

In 2000, Antonacci joined a partnership which purchased the Red Mile and Tattersalls Sales Co. The collection, which also included George Segal, Joe Thomson, and the late Bill Perretti and Paul Nigito, arguably saved the historic racetrack from extinction. And now, with the recent addition of Historical Horse Racing machines and sports wagering soon to be introduced, the facility—and racing in Kentucky—is thriving.

“That was really Bill’s (Perretti) vision. Without Bill, the deal probably would not have gotten done and maybe the Red Mile would be a different place now,” said Antonacci. “I’m not sure any other group would have done what we did. We put a load of money into it. The place has been really above water only the last couple of years.”

Antonacci stressed that his brother, Jerry, has been at his side every step of the way, no matter the venture. The brothers have either bred or owned multiple millionaires and world champions over the years. The Antonaccis also introduced the European breeding market to the U.S. in the 1990s. Today, a product of that philosophy is their homebred stallion, International Moni, a son of the French sire Love You and the great Moni Maker.

“In my opinion, you don’t have to be a genius to be a visionary,” said Antonacci. “You just have to be able to step out of the box and say, ‘This is probably going to work.’ When we did it, it was at a time when we were getting into a little bit of a box. The box has opened up since then.”

The Antonaccis are also part of the ownership group put together by Jeff Gural at the Meadowlands. Frank is also a director of The Hambletonian Society and is a member of the executive committee, and for several years served as a director of the USTA. He has also been a Harness Racing Museum and Hall of Fame trustee since 2011.

In addition to the farm and the waste management company—which recently moved into a new, expanded building—the Antonaccis also own a local entertainment center and golf course, named GreatHorse, a name also used on the ownership of some horses. They also established a Family Foundation, which is active with charitable donations.

After seeing the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Antonacci Family Foundation created the Millions of Meals initiative for the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts. Antonacci said the foundation donated $1 million to kick-start Millions of Meals. Lindy Farms has also been honored with the U.S. Harness Writers Association’s Stanley F. Bergstein-Proximity Achievement Award and the Harness Horse Youth Foundation’s Service to Youth Award.

“We really believe in giving back,” said Antonacci. “We’ve been very lucky and want to try and help people as much as we can. If we have the ability to give some money away to help other people, we try to do that. And that’s not me, it’s the family. We have a lot of stuff going on, but it’s fun and keeps everybody busy and rolling pretty good.”
Asked for any final thoughts, Antonacci once again stressed family:

“It’s a family thing we have going on here, and we all appreciate it,” said Antonacci, whose mother, Mary Ann, died earlier this year. “We try to really do the best for harness racing whenever we do something. We try to present the farm in a positive way, we try to present the stable in a positive way, we try to treat the employees in a positive way. I think it’s important that all of us in harness racing try to do that, especially now that we are so changed in many places.” HB

 

Gordon Waterstone is a veteran harness racing journalist and publicist and member of the Communicators’ Hall of Fame. To comment on this story, email us at readerforum@ustrotting.com.

353 More posts in Hoof Beats Magazine category
Recommended for you
Sensational Sylvia

Two-time divisional winner kept her connections on their toes in 2023 By Kathy Parker If...