When the Freehold meet for 2012 ended on Dec. 22, the man on the top of the driver standings was Eric Abbatiello. When Freehold opens on Thursday, Jan. 3, for the first of 110 dates, Abbatiello will be back to defend that title.
The 44-year-old Abbatiello finished with 126 wins to 111 for Cat Manzi in second place.
"This is my second driving title at Freehold,” the East Windsor, N.J., resident noted. "I race primarily at Freehold throughout the year. It is special to win another title because it is my home track. I grew up nearby in Colts Neck, N.J.
"To win the driving title and train a stable of horses that were very competitive at Freehold made it that much better,” he added.
Abbatiello's stable accounted for 11 wins in 48 starts. But he was the busiest driver at Freehold in 2012 with 763 drives. Along with 126 wins, he had 113 seconds and 118 thirds at Freehold. His purse earnings reached $564,549 toward an overall total of $993,626.
His career records now top 1,200 victories and $8.8 million in earnings as a driver and 300 wins and $4.1 million as a trainer.
Abbatiello, who received a degree in philosophy and business from Catholic University, switched from stockbroker and financial planner to harness horseman in 1999. But that was no surprise given his roots. His father, Carmine, and uncle, Anthony, are both Hall of Fame horsemen.
"My expectations are to try to win the title again, stay healthy, try to help New Jersey racing prosper the best I can,” he said. (SBOANJ)