Missile J returns Saturday in Yonkers open
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Missile J's last win came April 1 at Yonkers. Since then, he finished third in the Levy Final as the race's even-money favorite, third in the Graduate Final, fourth in an Open Handicap Pace, and seventh in the Stafford Invitational at Harrah's. His connections came together and decided to give the gelding some well-earned time off.
"Racing that caliber of horses, going 1:51, :26 three weeks in a row at Yonkers, that's very hard to hold up to. Five or six weeks in a row of that Levy series against that competition, they throw a lot of heat on you every week and it's taxing," Di Domenico said. "I'm not making any excuses on why he didn't win the final or the next race or anything else. I just think it was a combination of getting raced fairly hard through the winter and raced at a very high level in the Levy. I just think he needed a break."
Di Domenico came to McGill and Carsey with his decision and they agreed. Despite having to bypass several Grand Circuit events, Missile J's owners opted to be patient and let their star pacer recuperate from the winter and spring campaign.
"When we sat down and talked about giving him a little break, they were very good about it. You always want to do good for people like that. They give me a lot of options to make decisions, which I enjoy and we work well together," Di Domenico said. "They believe in the horse and they believe in the trainer's decision to sit a horse of his caliber out. He was eligible to some Grand Circuit races for a lot of money. They knew he was out in the field and they watched those races from the sidelines and never said a word or complained about it ever. I'm appreciative of them for believing in my decision to give the horse a little break and I think he'll repay them for it, I really do.
"Horses don't do what he did," he continued. "He came home in some tough spots and mowed them down and I think he's got a lot of future ahead of him."
After about 35 days off at New Jersey Equine, Missile J returned to Di Domenico's barn in great shape. He had put on some weight and came back mentally sharp and with a great attitude. Di Domenico prepped Missile J for his first race off the bench with one qualifier at Harrah's August 8. He finished second to Christen Me and paced 1:53.2 with a :27.1 final quarter.
In his first start off the layoff, the race office assigned Missile J post eight. Brent Holland will drive the 9-2 morning line chance for the first time Saturday night. Di Domenico is expecting an off-the-pace trip.
"He's done everything that I've asked him to do. Everything really professionally," the trainer said. "The outside at Yonkers is not a very easy thing to overcome. Hopefully he'll get some pace ahead of him and he'll have a shot to pick up some of the pieces and get paid."
Saturday's 4-Year-Old Open Handicap Pace also includes last week's winner, Ideal Jimmy. The son of Western Ideal drew post four and is the 7-2 second choice on the morning line. Jordan Stratton will drive again. St Lads Moonwalk finished third last week from post five and drew the same position this time. He is the 3-1 morning line favorite. Dakota Jack, Settlemoir, Mr D`s Dragon, Continual Hanover, and Western Dynasty complete the field. (SOANY)