The Turf Publicists of America announced Nov. 20 that the 2023 Big Sport of Turfdom award, which recognizes a person or group of people who enhances coverage of Thoroughbred racing through cooperation with media and racing publicists, will be presented to trainer Jena Antonucci.
Born in Hollywood, Fla., Antonucci was introduced to the hunter, jumper, and equitation disciplines as a child. She was exposed to Thoroughbred racing by her grandparents who were racehorse owners in New York. Spending her formative years retraining and developing off-the-track Thoroughbreds for their second careers led her to move to Ocala, Fla. In 2000 she began breaking and training Thoroughbreds at Padua Stables under D. Wayne Lukas Racing Stables at the farm. Taking out her trainer’s license in 2010, she started her first horse in March 2010 at Tampa Bay Downs.
A career horsewoman, the 47-year-old trainer achieved a banner year in 2023, culminating with historic triumphs in this year’s Belmont Stakes Presented by NYRA Bets and Travers Stakes with Blue Rose Farm’s Arcangelo.
“It has been a historic and phenomenal year for Jena Antonucci,” TPA President Najja Thompson said. “Jena is deserving of this award chosen by the members of the Turf Publicists of America as the Big Sport of Turfdom due to her incredible achievements and leadership in our sport. From becoming the first woman to win a Triple Crown race and campaigning 3-year-old Arcangelo to multiple Grade 1 victories, serving as an advocate for women in the industry, and leading by example. She is always generous with her time and access to the media.”
The Big Sport of Turfdom award will be presented to Antonucci at the University of Arizona Race Track Industry Program’s annual awards luncheon Dec. 5. The luncheon is part of the 2023 Symposium on Racing & Gaming at Loews Ventana Canyon Resort in Tucson, Ariz.
“I am grateful to be selected as the next recipient of the Big Sport of Turfdom Award from the turf publicists,” Antonucci said. “I am incredibly honored to be included with such great past winners who were also as enthusiastic to share the incredible journey they were taken on by these amazing horses and, in doing so, promoting our great sport of horse racing. My team and I look forward to continuing to share our passion in the Thoroughbred industry and, in turn help promote it for many years.”
The luncheon is included in registration fees for the symposium.
The Big Sport of Turfdom has been presented annually since 1966. This is the first time Antonucci has won the award.
Previous winners include jockeys Mike Smith, Pat Day, Chris McCarron, Bill Shoemaker, Angel Cordero Jr., Eddie Arcaro, and Gary Stevens; trainers Art Sherman, D. Wayne Lukas, and Jack Van Berg; and other individuals who have made significant contributions to the sport, such as Secretariat’s owner, Penny Chenery, a two-time winner; announcer Tom Durkin, author Laura Hillenbrand, broadcaster Jim McKay, Turf writer Joe Hirsch and actors Tim Conway and Jack Klugman.
A complete list of past Big Sport of Turfdom winners can be found online at http://www.turfpublicists.com/awards.html.