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An Optimistic 'Spirit' In New England

Published: July 26, 2019 11:46 am ET

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As post time for the $250,000 Spirit of Massachusetts Trot at Plainridge Park on Sunday (July 28) draws near, the excitement of everyone involved in the race continues to grow. But for two Massachusetts owners who have horses entered and have seen the many ups and downs of the sport in New England, the race itself is proof there is a harness racing renaissance in the Commonwealth.

Frank M. Antonacci is the president of Lindy Farms of Connecticut and a member of the ownership group Greathorse of Massachusetts. Lindy Farms and the Antonacci’s have owned or bred five Hambletonian champions since 1965 and have been racing in Massachusetts just as long. They will be starting Mambo Lindy in the Spirit of Massachusetts Trot on Sunday.

Jim Winske has owned many race horses over the years and has partnered with his friends Paul Kelley and Steve Michaels on a lot of them. They all grew up in Massachusetts and started out competing at the old Foxboro Park and have since been at Plainridge Park for a total of over 40 years in the state. They’ve all experienced every level of the competition and their passion for the sport is unparalleled. Their entry in the stake is The Veteran.

Although Antonacci and Winske will be competing against each other on Sunday they’ve also been working together for years, along with countless other New England horsemen and horsewomen, trying to keep harness racing alive through some very tough times. Now that the sport has made a turnaround on the strength of the state’s gaming program and the Horse Racing Development Fund, their participation in this race Sunday holds special meaning.

“I grew up racing at Plainridge. I drove horses there when I went to school in Boston and I was even there the first day they opened in 1999; I was 15. At that point it was one of the lowest-statured racing in the country. And to see it go from that to having some of the best horses in the country competing now is really a testament to the horsemen and women in New England and their determination and resilience to stick around through all those hard times. I think it’s a real success story,” said Antonacci.

“Racing in Massachusetts has gotten so much better and it’s because there is cooperation going on between the track and the horsemen and obviously the casino helped a lot. But the breeding industry has picked up and people have been buying better horses and you’re seeing better drivers coming here too. The floor plan is set where people are excited, the track is putting on big races and we just have to keep getting the people here to keep it going strong,” Winske commented.

These two gentlemen both like what has been going on within the industry in this state, but they also like their chances in the Spirit of Massachusetts Trot and had a little bit to say about that as well.

Antonacci explained that despite seeing limited action last year, Mambo Lindy has turned a major corner and is finding his old form at the right time.

“Mambo Lindy ended 2017 very strong, winning an elimination of the Maple Leaf Trot, winning at Lexington in a lifetime best of 1:51.4 and racing in the Breeders Crown. In 2018 we brought him back and got a really brutal trip in the Cutler at the Meadowlands and he got injured. So it basically took the whole year to get him sound and bring him back and since he started racing this season, he’s been absolutely super. He’s really as good as he’s ever been right now,” said Antonacci.

“He’s coming into this race really solid. He’s won twice in a row and and came out of both starts with trot left. He has a definite home field advantage at Plainridge as he has won 22 out of 35 starts here and knows how to get around this track. So we’re really excited about it because there is no more local horse at Plainridge than Mambo.”

Winske points out there have been some adjustments for The Veteran to transition from the three-year-old division to facing older horses. But he points out he’s coming along just fine as the year progresses.

“He raced successfully at three and we wanted to bring him back as an aged horse because he’s just so nice. But when you start back it’s against bearcats. The aged division is really tough. But he took a lifetime mark of 1:51.1 at the Meadowlands in May and he just finished second at Saratoga last week in 1:53.4 parked out the entire mile. That was probably his best race of the year so far,” said Winske.

“All of us guys have been around the track all our lives. Paul (Kelley) trains him and calls the shots but we all decided, what the heck let’s take a chance and nominate him for this race because we’re all from Massachusetts and when you get a chance to put a horse in there you take it. Yeah, we might be a longshot but it’s called horse racing and you never know what can happen.”

Both of these horse have had stellar careers and a number of stake victories to their credit.

Mambo Lindy (Donato Hanover-Rum Boogie) has 49 lifetime starts with 26 wins, seven seconds and four thirds and has earned $252,660 in purses. He has drawn post four and will be driven by Drew Monti.

The Veteran (Muscle Mass-Tequila Slammer) has 29 starts with 10 wins, five seconds and five thirds and has banked $361,955 in the process. He will start in post five with Yannick Gingras aboard.

The $250,000 Spirit of Massachusetts Trot and the $100,000 Clara Barton Distaff Pace are part of the biggest card of the summer at Plainridge Park with a total of $465,500 in purses up for grabs on the 10-race program on Sunday (July 28). The race is scheduled to go off at 5:05 p.m. Post time for the first race is 2:00 p.m.

$250,000 Spirit of Massachusetts Trot
Race 9 (Post Time 5:05 p.m.)

Horse – Driver – Trainer
1 – Weslynn Dancer – David Miller – Richard Banca
2 – La Grange A – Andy Miller – Ake Svanstedt
3 – Trolley – Marcus Miller – Erv Miller
4 – Mambo Lindy – Drew Monti – Domenico Cecere
5 – The Veteran – Yannick Gingras – Paul Kelley
6 – Guardian Angel AS – Tim Tetrick – Anette Lorentzon
7 – Fiftydallarbill – Corey Callahan – Katricia Adams

(Plainridge Park / HHANE)

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