Devito takes pleasure in owning, breeding
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When he was a teenager, John Devito would hop on a bus with a friend and head to Yonkers and Roosevelt raceways, where he developed a passion for harness racing. Trips to the track these days continue to provide the 54-year-old Queens, N.Y., resident with thrills, but as much more than a fan.
Devito, who is in the car wash/express oil change business, owns 20 horses including a handful of homebred trotters. One of those horses, Ms American Muscle, competes Tuesday in the first round of the Bobby Weiss Series for 3- and 4-year-old female trotters at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono.
Pocono hosts three divisions of the Weiss for female trotters on Tuesday's 14-race card. Action begins at 7 p.m., with the Weiss events as races three through five. Ms American Muscle, a 3-year-old making her seasonal debut for trainer Jenny Melander and driver Mike Simons, is 6-1 on the morning line in the second division.
Ms American Muscle won her final start of 2017, a conditioned race at Harrah's Philadelphia, for her first lifetime victory.
"Jenny says she should be OK," Devito said. "There are a lot of horses making their first (seasonal) starts in there. I don't think she's in too deep, but you never know. I think she will be OK."
Devito and his late racing partner Rocco Manniello purchased Ms American Muscle's dam, 2002 Filly World Trotting Derby champion CR Ms American Pie, from Rod Allen and Joseph Palermo III in October 2013. At the time, CR Ms American Pie was in foal to Donato Hanover and the resultingfilly was named My Cherry Pie, who was a winner on the Pennsylvania Stallion Series circuit in 2017. Ms American Muscle is My Cherry Pie's full sister.
"We never did it before, so it was just trying something new," Devito said about breeding. "A lot of times you go to the sales and the yearlings are off the charts. We figured we would take a shot on the breeding end. CR Ms American Pie is an outstanding mare with great bloodlines and she was in foal to Donato. We just took a shot with it."
Devito's relationship with Allen yielded another result. Devito was introduced to Melander, his trainer for the past several years, by Allen.
"They're all good people," Devito said. "Jenny is a great trainer, a great person. I feel like I'm in really good hands with her. She's going to have a lot of success; she's an extremely hard worker. I'm very happy that I'm with her."
Devito's successes last year with Melander included Golden Son and Ameliosi, who both won preliminary rounds of the Yonkers Raceway/Standardbred Owners Association of New York Bonus Trot Series and combined for $286,477 in seasonal earnings. In 2016, Roccos Tacos won a division of the Arden Downs. He missed last year because of injury, but is on the comeback trail this season.
"I enjoy going to the racetrack and watching the races," Devito said. "It's been good to me.
"We're hoping to have a good year. It's like one of those things, lucky and good. There is always a luck factor. You can breed the best mare to the best stallion and it doesn't always work out. If you have a little luck on your side, it always helps. It's always good." (Ken Weingartner/USTA)