Jena Antonucci isn't afraid to take on what she calls "project horses." She readily admits that many of the 30-plus horses split between Barn 73 at the Oklahoma Training Track and at Florida's Gulfstream Park.
"We get lots of project horses," Antonucci said last week, a few minutes after she returned to her barn on her bicycle after training her last set on the main track. "We get to be very creative in trying to unravel them, figure out why they do certain things, don't do other things, what makes them tick, that sort of thing."
She trains for a variety of owners, and including Gary Drake, who campaigned 2002 Belmont Stakes winner Sarava in partnership in the name of his New Phoenix Stable, Tommy Vellia's Summerwind Farm, Gallostables, Dr. Steven Langsam, Dragon Squared, Drawing Away Stable and NY Final Furlong Stable.
Antonucci has 16 horses in her Saratoga barn and about the same number at Gulfstream, including her buckskin pony Dusty, "the most important horse in the barn."
Walking the shedrow, Antonnuci grabbed a couple handfuls of peppermints and talked with The Special's Tom Law and Annise Montplaisir.
Semblance Of Order: "He's been training and developing in Florida. We just brought him up. He's a grass horse, allowance horse and he's aiming for the Saranac hopefully. Cool dude. He's a Florida-bred and we gave him time to grow. We ran him in an overnight stakes before we came up here and it literally flogged rain, there was water on the turf course, so we ran fourth that day. Solid race. He got his miles to come on up so now he's here."
Potentially: "He's a Scat Daddy 2-year-old who probably won't run up here. He'll probably get started at Belmont. We're very excited about him actually. He's a homebred and I'm partners on him. We actually raced the mare (Loginova). She was very fast. She was by Sarava."
Jet Streak: "We just claimed him (Aug. 6). He should run back before the meet is over. He's new for us, a Tapit. We took him out of a maiden 30, that was the first time they went that low with him so we said, 'OK, we'll own him.' He'll be fine."
Cross That Bridget: "He's our under, overachiever. I'm not sure he's going to be long for New York, but we'll find a place for him to do well. He just had his first start at the end of Belmont and is in today (third race, $40,000 maiden claimer). He's a homebred of Dr. Steven Langsam by Andromeda's Hero, you don't see many of those. He's a little simple in the noodle, but we love him anyway."
Naughty Grace: "She's entered Wednesday (third race, $40,000 maiden claimer), 3-year-old New York-bred filly by Yes It's True. She's been knocking at the door, knocking at the door. We hope she opens the door while we're up here. We bought her at the yearling sale here two years ago. I love Yes It's Trues. I'm a big fan."
Howaboutwe: "He's a homebred who won up here two years ago. He'll be re-entered soon, ran a huge race (July 24, in $16,000 claiming race). He ran well, but two horses broke in on him. There goes your 5 lengths. And he got beat 5."
Storming Inti: "I bought him from Chad (Brown) privately. He's a grass stakes horse that we haven't committed to a spot with yet. He's a nice colt, we like him a lot. He's by Stormy Atlantic, graded-stakes placed already. We're just trying to find that little missing something to get him a stakes win. A graded win instead of the placings."
Luv Dakota Skye: "We're waiting for a race for him. He's ready to run actually. He's by Corinthian. Last three starts are tear-jerkers. His last three starts he just hasn't gotten the right trip. We're looking for starter stuff with him. He's a New York-bred."
Said No One Ever: "With his name people either get it or don't get it. It's worked with Justenuffhumor as the sire. He ran Aug. 5, second start, finished sixth (in $40,000 maiden claimer), got beat a couple lengths and I'm hoping to run him back. He probably wants a tick more ground than the 5 ½. He pressed the pace the other day going :21 and :44 and change. Rolling. Just got hit late. It was only his second start."
Forever For Always: "This is our red-head in the black dress. Those ears, they're ears only a mother could love. They're huge, we love them. This has been a fun filly for Dr. Langsam. We basically started over with her, broke her maiden for $12,500 down in Florida, and now she's won non-winners of two for $40,000 at Belmont and was third in a New York-bred allowance race. She's rebuilt herself and her career. We're aiming her for a New York-bred allowance going 1 3/16 miles on the grass. She's crazy, but we love her. She's not going to cuddle and snuggle, you can't put bandages on her, she'll rip them off and everything else. She's her."
Lilikoi: "She's a homebred of mine and is spoiled incredibly rotten. She's by Freud. Howaboutwe is her half. I've actually run all of her family. That's been fun, to see the family develop. She's been knocking at the door, too, and we'll run her back in maiden special weights for New York-breds. Manchurian High (who ran in the Lure Stakes Saturday) is her oldest brother."
Suzy'sprideofparis: "She ran Friday, she was third at 30-1 in the last race. Ran huge, (Angel) Arroyo swung her out and she ran awesome. Just came up from Gulfstream, too. She's a Lemon Drop Kid filly. Cool filly. We don't always get the most respect in New York but the horses don't know it, the kids ride hard for us and they run their best."