Anthony T. Abbatiello, a harness racing leader for several decades who was a member of the sport's Hall of Fame, died Thursday, Oct. 19, at his home in Colts Neck, N.J., after complications from heart failure. He was 89.
Mr. Abbatiello was inducted into the Harness Racing Hall of Fame in 1995 after a long career in harness racing as a trainer, driver, horseman's association president and a member of numerous other organizations. He joined his brother Carmine in the Hall of Fame, making them the first brother combination to do so. He became a member of the New Jersey Racing Commission in 2005 by appointment of the governor.
He was co-founder of the Standardbred Breeders and Owners Association of New Jersey and served as its president for more than 30 years. Due to his leadership, the organization became a strong, motivating force in the success of harness racing in New Jersey. He also served as chairman of the board of the United States Trotting Association, a director of the Standardbred Owners Association of New York, chairman of the New Jersey Sire Stakes Board of Trustees, a trustee of the American Horse Council and the Trotting Horse Museum.
In addition to his induction into the Hall of Fame, Mr. Abbatiello received the Proximity Award of the U. S. Harness Writers Association and was honored as man of the year by Harness Horseman International.
He was a decorated U.S. Army veteran of the Korean War, rising to the rank of captain and receiving numerous commendations, including the Silver Star, Bronze Star with Valor, two Purple Hearts, Combat Infantry Badge, and Korean Campaign Ribbon with four Battle Stars.
Predeceased by his wife Kathleen, he is survived by three daughters, Jean Sardoni (Craig) of Colts Neck, Christine Whelan (John) of Colts Neck, and Lisa Locke (James) of Virginia; six grandchildren, Ava and Michael Sardoni, Shane and Jack Whelan and Abigail and Ian Locke; two brothers, Carmine and Matt, and one sister, Sadie Merillo, and several nieces and nephews.
Visitation will be from 4-8 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 24, at the Higgins Funeral Home in Freehold. A military burial will be private on Wednesday, Oct. 25, at the Brigadier General William C. Doyle Memorial Cemetery in Arneytown, N.J.