by Ellen Harvey, Harness Racing Communications
Freehold, NJ — Moni Maker, the trotting mare who was 1998 and 1999 Horse of the Year, died Friday morning (May 2) at New Bolton Center, veterinary hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, after complications from colic surgery. She was 21.
Moni Maker won $5.58 million and 67 of 109 starts in six seasons of racing in North America, France, Denmark, Sweden and Italy. She was only ten times worse than third in her long career, in which her lifetime mark of 1:52.1 was set at age seven.
The daughter of Speedy Crown-Nan’s Catch was born February 23, 1993 at Cane Run Farm in Kentucky and was originally named Nursery Rhyme. She was voted Dan Patch Trotting Mare of the Year in 1997 through 2000, the year she retired. Moni Maker was inducted into the Harness Racing Hall of Fame in 2006.
The tall (nearly 17 hands) bay mare regularly beat male horses and in her final start, she donned a saddle and got the services of Hall of Fame Jockey Julie Krone in breaking the world record for trotting under saddle in 1:54.1, a mark set in October of 2000 which still stands.
Owned by the Moni Maker Stable and trained as a 2- and 3-year-old by Bill Andrews and later by Jimmy Takter, she has lived since retirement in 2000 at the Connecticut farm of one of her owners, Lindy Farms, owned by the Antonacci family. Her eight foals, all fillies, have won a collective $315,904.
Moni Maker’s foals have lately been born via embryo transfer, and at the time of her passing, a recipient mare was carrying her Muscle Hill foal, confirmed David Reid, a partner in the Moni Maker stable.
“It’s a sad and emotional day for all of us,” he said.
Moni Maker’s wins read like a travel itinerary — the 1996 Hambletonian Oaks at The Meadowlands in New Jersey, the Elitlopp in Sweden and the Copenhagen Cup in Denmark in 1998, the Prix d’Amerique in France in 1999 and the Trot Mondial in Montreal in 2000.
She retired as the richest female racehorse of any breed, with $5,589,256.
Her life has been a quiet one in retirement, living on Lindy Farm, near Hartford, largely outside with a shed, as was her preference, with a mare named Dream On Candy.
She survived a disaster in 2011, when a fast-falling snowstorm caused the roof of the barn she was in to collapse.
She retained a quirk, dating back to her racing days, not wanting to be caught.
“She chased the kid that looked after her, Roman Kogalin, out of the paddock many times, like a bull,” said Jimmy Takter. “If he had to call someone else to help, suddenly she’d come up to that person. I think she enjoyed messing with him.”
Frances Sutherland, who has been caring for Moni Maker for 14 years, got the same treatment.
“You had to have a feed bucket to go out and catch her,” she said. “You had to ask her how she felt that particular day.”
The toll of her years has only slowed down her diversionary tactics.
“She just keeps walking, says Katie Jonas, another Lindy Farm caretaker. “She’s like, ‘No, no, not today, not today.’”
Frank Antonacci, a partner in her ownership group, and owner of Lindy Farm, has seen the mare several times a day for 14 years, as he drove by her paddock.
“She is far and away, without a doubt, the best horse we have ever owned,” he said. “Nothing else is even close. She was always on her “A” game, no matter what. Never had a bad race.”
Jimmy Takter, who has trained a raft of good horses since Moni Maker, recognizes the trip of a lifetime she provided to her connections.
“It was a heck of a good journey with her, something nobody else experienced like we did,” he said. “She was a dream horse. The whole group of us, the owners and me, Wally (Hennessey, her driver), we owe everything to this girl. She made it look very easy for us.”