Italian-born trainer Domenico Cecere has been promoted to head trainer of the Somers, CT operation. Frank M. Antonacci will still be involved with horses, but is stepping back a bit to focus on other family businesses.
by Dave Briggs
Domenico Cecere said he couldn’t be happier to be promoted to head trainer for Lindy Racing of Somers, CT. The Italian-born horseman will take over from Frank M. Antonacci early in 2018. Antonacci said he was stepping back a bit from horses to focus more on his family’s other businesses that includes USA Hauling and Recycling.
Reached in Lexington, KY after a busy morning of training horses, Cecere said the news that his name would be down in the program soon for Lindy was “fantastic.”
“I feel great. It’s great,” Cecere said. “I’m very, very excited to get this promotion, but it’s always been a team, working together.”
Antonacci said he will still be very much a part of the Lindy operation, but Cecere, 36, earned a bigger role with the racing stable.
“Domenico has done a great job. I always felt that when I did step down in title and hand it over, I wanted to give it to somebody that I thought would be able to go on and be exponentially more successful than I was – that’s how I would gauge my greatest success is how your successor does and I think Domenico is the right guy,” Antonacci said. “We’ve put a great team together around him and we’ve invested heavily on all of our facilities to give him the best, latest and greatest tools to succeed.
“This year, I would argue, is one of our best years in recent history and hopefully will continue to be. I think you’re starting to see it all come together. This is the right time to do it, to let him spread his wings, and take more of the accolades that he rightfully deserves.”
This year, Cecere and Antonacci campaigned such horses as Goodtimes and Hambletonian heat winner International Moni (t, 3, 1:52m, $446,392), Old Oaken Bucket winner Shake It Off Lindy (t, 3, 1:54h, $204,104), Zweig consolation winner Lindy The Great (t, 3, 1:52.2s, $90,983), Maple Leaf Trot elimination winner Mambo Lindy (t, 6, 1:52.2s, $164,123), Champlain winner Night Rhythm (t 2, 1:57.2s, $44,152), Massachusetts Sires Stakes winner Kindalucky Lindy (2, t, 1:58.1f, $41,358), Massachusetts Sires Stakes winner Lindy The Kid (p, 1:54f, $80,298), Kentucky Sires Stakes champion Hat Trick Habit (t, 1:55.1, $151,100) and Zweig consolation winner Ostrich Blue Chip (t, 3, 1:55.1s, $79,265).
Cecere began working at Lindy Farms in 2007 after coming to the United States to first work for Jan Johnson. Born in Locorotondo, Italy — which is, coincidentally, the town where Antonacci’s grandfather’s family is from — Cecere worked as a second trainer and driver for the powerful Mario Baroncini Stable in Milan for seven years before coming to America knowing just two words of English
“I just knew ‘Good morning,’” Cecere said, laughing. “I was really lucky to find great people like Lindy Farms and the Antonacci family. They supported me a lot in the beginning. I didn’t speak English, but I know how to train a horse, I know how to do everything around the barn.”
Antonacci said the change — which will probably be finalized in early 2018 due to insurance reasons and paperwork that needs to be switched over — is a sign Lindy will be more active in the game, not less.
“We’re going to be aggressive at the sales this year and look to fill Domenico’s barn with the best talent that we can,” Antonacci said. “Over the last couple of years, we’ve quietly taken in some outside clients. With the right type of horses, Grand Circuit horses, we’d welcome that again. We trained a bunch of horses for Fred Monteleone this year, like Hat Trick Habit and Ostrich Blue Chip.”
Antonacci was 21 when he took over Lindy around 2004.
“I went down as trainer and we worked very hard over the past 12 or 13 years to get to where we’re at,” Antonacci said. “I think when I took over we were probably at our lowest racing point and we’ve come back from that and over the last five years there’s been a process going on behind the scenes where we’ve been kind of grooming Domenico to take over the day-to-day responsibilities while I have taken over more day-to-day responsibilities in our overarching family businesses.
“I don’t really think much will change. It’s more the fact that Domenico is carrying a lot of water here and we’re going to continue to talk and work together. I was just on the racetrack here with him today. We trained side-by-side, like we’ve done for the last 10 years. It’s just more about giving the guy who is the heart and soul here every day the opportunity to have his name shine in the program.”
The fact that people sometimes confused Cecere for Antonacci at the racetrack because the former was more likely to be present and the latter’s name was down in the program, was never a significant issue for either man.
“It never bothered me because, you know, we are together and every move we do (Antonacci is) there with me,” Cecere said. “I was never worried about that. Everything is a plan. I never thought, ‘Why am I not in the program?’ It never bothered me, but it’s very exciting now.
“From where I came from… and now I’m training the best horses in the country? It’s totally a dream come true.”