Deo already has one win under his belt since arriving in the United States as part of the Standardbred Owners Association of New York’s French American Trotting Club. Sunday afternoon, the trotter will seek a second local score for trainer Scott DiDomenico ahead of the series' first leg Aug. 5.
Deo announced his presence with a victory in a $13,000 overnight for non-winners of two races lifetime July 20. With George Brennan in the sulky, Deo came away evenly from the gate and settled into sixth, racing 10 lengths off the lead. Brennan angled the son of Repeat Love off the pylons with five-eighths to trot and picked up the race’s 4-5 favorite Grammy Winner.
With the whip on his tail and with his nose to the helmet of Grammy Winner’s driver Tyler Buter, Deo advanced to just three lengths from the lead with a quarter-mile to race. Brennan tipped three-wide around the final turn and with the lines in his lap and Deo under a hold, the trotter breezed by his rivals. In the final strides, Deo extended, streaking away from the field to win by 3-1/4 lengths in 1:57.3.
"I was really happy with him. I liked the fact that he raced from off the pace, closed good and was wide off the turn," DiDomenico said. "He did everything very professionally to say the least. I’ve been happy with him right along from the day we qualified him. He left the gate good and to see a horse in his first start in this country, first start over the half, win from off the pace, it was impressive. We’re pretty well tickled with him."
The French American Trotting Club intrigued DiDomenico from its announcement this spring. It didn’t take much convincing for the trainer, who is second in the local standings with 98 victories and $1.69 million earned this year, to take the plunge.
"Any time that there’s something new at Yonkers or a series of some sort, I always try to be a part of it," he said. "Yonkers is my home track and when this was mentioned, I spoke with Alex (Dadoyan) and Joe (Faraldo) and I certainly was pretty eager to be involved in it. Thankfully to the process, how everything shook out getting the horses, the guys going over there to look at the horses, I feel like I’m pretty lucky to this point and I’m pretty optimistic for the future of this horse."
Through the luck of the draw, DiDomenico was assigned Deo, a 5-year-old trotter with one win in 32 starts overseas for Romuald Mourice. The youngest of the French trotters imported, Deo is eligible to the conditions at Yonkers in addition to the rich series.
"To this point, I like the horse, I like the fact that he’s five years old. I like the fact that he fits the conditions at Yonkers if the series doesn’t quite fit his style of racing," DiDomenico said.
When Deo arrived in DiDomenico’s stable in June, he proved a straightforward addition to the barn. DiDomenico approached the gelding as he would any horse from overseas and gave the horse time to adapt to his new surroundings. Deo impressed his new trainer with how quickly he took to the American style of training.
"We gave him a week where we didn’t do anything with him, we just put him out in the pasture and let him put his head down and collect his wits," the trainer explained. "When we started actually working him, he went out jogged like any horse, he trained like a horse who's trained here a hundred times and he was not a horse that took a lot of guessing with."
Deo’s simple manner took his trainer by surprise. After watching replays of the horse’s French form, which included four breaks in stride in his last six starts, DiDomenico didn’t know what to expect.
"I’m not smart enough to understand how those races go or understand how to speak French and try to decipher what happened and the kind of sulky he wore and if they pulled his shoes off," DiDomenico said. "It certainly gets you thinking about how you want to handle it and what you want to do.
"He’s not had a bad day and he hasn’t been a bad actor. He hasn’t done anything that wasn’t expected of him. I think I was most impressed by that. Any time you get a horse from another country, it’s a new system, new people, different track surfaces, putting them on an airplane, you always have a concern of a lot of different things," he continued. "To finally meet the horse and get him here and see how he’s acting and for him to be as simple and straightforward as he’s been, it says a lot about the horse and the people in France who had him before me."
Deo will make his second start for DiDomenico in Sunday’s fourth race at Yonkers, a $21,200 trot for non-winners of four races. He’ll start from post three as the 3-1 second choice on the morning line. Unlike in his first race, which was at a mile, Deo will stretch out to the 1-1/4 mile distance Sunday, the same distance he’ll face in the first leg of the series next week.
"We’ll see how he handles it. It’s all new to the horse and to me," DiDomenico said. "Watching the replays and going back and looking at some of his stuff in France, he didn’t always excel going long distances, but maybe the different track surface and the different training, maybe he’ll adapt to it and really like it. At this point, I’m really optimistic in that it’s something new and I’m really just excited and happy with him." (Yonkers)