As Bee A Magician prepares to start her fifth campaign, she’s closing in on Moni Maker’s earnings record for trotting mares just as Moni Maker’s last offspring are hitting the track.
by Dave Briggs
Bee A Magician’s part-owner David McDuffee was standing trackside at Sunshine Meadows training center in Florida a few weeks ago, a stopwatch in his hands, when the subject turned to money and Moni Maker just as a couple of Moni Maker’s sons were on the track training.
McDuffee turned to Moni Maker’s part-owner Frank Antonacci, Sr., parked nearby in a golf cart, and asked, “How much did Moni Maker have?”
“$5.5 million,” Antonacci, Sr. said.
“We’ll shoot for that, then,” McDuffee said, grinning.
“I hope you get it. I do. Why not?” Antonacci, Sr. said laughing.
Bee A Magician, now six and entering her fifth year on the track, has earned just over $3.7 million lifetime, which ranks her as the third richest trotting mare in North American history behind Peace Corps ($4.1 million) and Moni Maker.
Still the Queen Bee has a way to go to catch The Queen of Trotting.
Asked to compare the two, Frank Antonacci, Jr. who is training Moni Maker’s two young colts, said, “(Bee A Magician) is obviously a great mare and she’s strung together a tremendous amount of victories as Moni Maker did. She’s also a light bay,” he said, laughing.
“To really understand what Moni Maker was, is to understand how many times she went back and forth across the Atlantic and made international trips. All the different countries that she raced in. Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Italy, France. She raced in eight or nine different countries and made all those different international trips. I have all the respect in the world for Bee A Magician, but she just hasn’t done that, yet. I don’t take anything away from her book of work on the racetrack, but it’s been domestic. She’s raced against horses that have come here, but until you take the chance and go there and try to beat them there and do so, I wouldn’t make that comparison.”
Antonacci, Jr. was 14 when Moni Maker won the 1998 Elitlopp in Stockholm (click here to watch). He was 15 when she won the Prix d’Amerique in Paris (click here to watch) the following January. He was in Europe for both of those signature wins and countless others.
“She had a lot to do with me getting into the business the way I did,” said Antonacci, Jr. who has trained the winners of some $8.5 million in his 10 full years in the game. “I can’t say that it was the driving decision, but you have those kind of positive experiences around a sport or a business, it lasts with you.”
Moni Maker died in 2014 at age 21, but not before leaving behind three colts produced by embryo transfer — a Donato Hanover and Love You that foaled in 2013 and 2014, respectively, and a Muscle Hill colt that arrived on St. Patrick’s Day in 2015.
“The Muscle Hill is, by far, the best horse that she’s had and has been so since Day One. He’s just fantastic. He really is,” Antonacci, Jr. said of the yearling currently romping at his family’s Lindy Farms of Connecticut. “He’s very athletic. He has the right amount of bone. He’s put together great and he’s got a nice way about him. He’s stayed like that. He’s a beautiful foal. Usually, they go through these awkward phases as they’re growing up and he just never has had one.”
The trainer said the three-year-old Donato Hanover colt doesn’t have a name, yet.
“He’s going to be named here shortly because he’s only about two weeks from qualifying. I trained him today in 2:03, the last quarter in 29 seconds at Sunshine Meadows,” Antonacci, Jr. said Saturday (March 19). “I’ll probably train him another good mile in about 10 days and then look to qualify him. He didn’t do anything last year, really. We got him down to about :40 or :45 and we discovered that he had a cyst in one of his front ankles. We did surgery on him, gave him the whole year off, really, and brought him back this year. So, he’s obviously really green.
“He’s gotten much stronger just through his training and has progressed fairly well through his training. I wouldn’t say he wows me at this point, but every time we ask him to go more, he does. Horses like that — he’s big and he’s good-gaited and he’s good-looking — you never know if they’re just going to break loose, so that’s what we’re hoping for.”
Moni Maker’s two-year-old colt sired via frozen semen by the French stallion Love You, has been named International Moni.
“It was just an easy name to pick,” Antonacci, Jr. said. “We like him. He’s a little bit lighter boned than most of the Moni Makers have been. It’s interesting to see that. He was actually at little bit on the fine side, which was unusual. He’s really progressed well. He’s been about 2:30. We’re just taking our time with him. He’s great-gaited and he seems like he’s okay.”
The trainer said the mating was the result of a relationship his family has with famed French horseman Jean-Pierre Dubois and a desire to avoid narrow breeding.
“I think my dad and David (Reid) and myself all think the breed has become very narrow,” Antonacci, Jr. said. “When I try to breed mares like Highscore Kemp or Can’t Have My Moni, it’s almost impossible to find places to breed. We don’t breed 3 x 3 or 2 x 3 like some other breeders will. We don’t believe in that and we don’t believe that’s the best thing for the future of the breed or the horses we’re producing. So, we look for more outcrosses and they’re just not there.
“We’ve had some success with international breeding. We bred Delicious and she’s obviously been an international star. We just think that it’s compelling and interesting some of those crosses with French and Italian pedigrees. This is just continuing that process.”
Though Moni Maker has yet to produce a superstar, Antonacci, Jr. is convinced either she or one of her daughters will do it one day.
“She was too good and her family’s too good for it to be a one-time deal. One of these horses is going to jump up and be a real superstar, maybe more than one,” he said.
As for being the man who might be lucky enough to train a star out of Moni Maker, Antonacci, Jr. called the prospect, “a great honor. To have a horse that does even half of what Moni Maker did means you’ve had one of the greatest horses ever.”
Meanwhile, Bee A Magician might not yet be in Moni Maker’s league, but there’s no denying her tremendous talent.
The daughter of Kadabra out of Beehive is the richest Canadian Sired trotting mare in history and the second richest trotter ever produced in Canada behind Arch Madness, the gelded son of Balanced Image who earned $4.28 million in his career.
Unlike Moni Maker, Bee A Magician may never make it to Europe to race, said her connections.
“I would have said a couple of years ago that we definitely have to go to Europe, but to be honest with you, they’ve got so many good races now here,” McDuffee said. “You can make so much money here and the horses that have gone over there haven’t done that well when they’ve come back. It’s tough running them back and forth and getting them out of their routine. We can get 15 good races for her between here and Canada. My guess is we’ll probably stay right here.
“She’s pretty comfortable in her own routine. I’m not too sure how she would respond to (going overseas). That’s always an issue, especially with fillies. But she makes the game fun right now.”
Bee A Magician’s trainer, Richard “Nifty” Norman said the mare “had a good winter” and will likely make her 2016 debut in either in the $150,000 Elitlopp Playoff May 8 at the Meadowlands or a $100,000 race at Miami Valley the same day.
“The Armbro Flight ($275,000, June 18) is kind of the first big one that comes up. She’s always been good at Mohawk, so that’s the first major one,” the trainer said.
If all goes well, the plan is to follow last year’s schedule — and, to some degree, Moni Maker’s lead — and race against the boys in 2016.
The connections said it was fun to beat the boys in 2015, but, “it’s fun to beat the girls, too,” said part-owner Mel Hartman of Ottawa, grinning.
“The girls will be tough this year,” Norman said. “Mission Brief, Shake It Cerry. Tough bunch. The newcomers to that group I think are a lot stronger than the newcomers to the (older) colts.”
Whether Bee A Magician ever goes to Europe or can make up the $1.8 million separating her from Moni Maker is unknown, but Bee A Magician’s connections aren’t anxious for that mare’s racing career to end anytime soon.
“We’ll hope and keep our fingers crossed that she keeps going the way she has for the last five years,” McDuffee said.
“Love her,” Hartman said.
“Thank God, for her,” Norman said.