Day At The Track

From overnight to Yonker's Open Pace

02:54 AM 08 Sep 2019 NZST
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Andrew Harris, harness racing
Andrew Harris trains San Domino

YONKERS, N.Y. – San Domino’s United States harness racing debut went according to plan for trainer Andrew Harris. The Australian import started in a $17,500 overnight at Pocono Downs Aug. 17 and with George Napolitano Jr. in the sulky, tracked from fourth until the field reached the backstretch the final time.

Napolitano picked up cover nearing the final turn and San Domino hit his best stride. With his driver horizontal in the bike and with a good hold of the lines, San Domino advanced into a 1:21.4 three-quarter split set by Rebellious.

Turning into the stretch, Napolitano kicked out the plugs, angled three-wide, and went to a right-handed whip. San Domino pinned his ears back, extended, and glided past the pacesetter to score by a half-length in 1:49.1.

“He was pretty impressive,” Harris said. “He got a perfect drive, George ‘Nap’ did an awesome job, got him a second-over trip. You know because it’s Pocono that you’re going to go fast. You can only put so much stock into a fast mile at Pocono on a nice, sunny day, but it was a good mile to see what he had, and he exploded home.

“When he tipped him, he really did have a nice turn of foot, so he did everything that he was supposed to do and he looked great doing it and he came out of the race great,” Harris continued. “There wasn’t anything more to dwell on, it was just, OK, now where’s the limit, where’s the bottom on this horse and where are we going to find that?”

By Somebeachsomewhere out of the Maple Lanes Strike mare Reggae Miss, San Domino went 14-for-51 in Australia from February 2016 to May 2019. Although he failed to make an impression in nine tries in grouped stakes company, San Domino earned $140,187 Australian and took a mark of 1:52.2 at Melton April 12, 2019.

San Domino attracted the attention of Joe Pennacchio and Steve Oldford, who bought the 6-year-old gelding, imported him to the United States, and sent him to Jenn Bongiorno. After one qualifier for that stable July 30, the owners transferred San Domino to Harris and the new conditioner started dreaming.

“It was the question of whether or not he was as good as None Bettor, or better,” Harris said. “It was that kind of mentality with him. I don’t know that they can compare them, but he is definitely a very nice horse, that’s for sure.”

When he arrived in the barn, San Domino proved to have a big personality.

“He goes out in the field with the Kiwi horses, loves his field time. He’s got a little quirk to him, he’s got a little bit of sass to him, but nothing serious,” Harris said. “In the barn, he’s great. His caretaker, Jamie, takes great care of him and loves him and he clearly loves her. He plays around a lot, but he lets you know he’s got a little attitude. He’s not all just friendly. If you get too close, he’ll let you pet him for about five seconds then all the sudden, he lets you know that’s enough.”

On the track, San Domino takes his time, but Harris obliges the talented pacer’s laid-back training style.

“On the track, it takes an extra 10 minutes to jog him than any other horse in the barn. Very lazy horse, just does everything at his own pace,” Harris said. “We let him get away with that, it keeps him happy. Training, he picks up the bit a little bit. He’s still not super aggressive, but he lets you know he’s got a little bit of a hold of you.”

After his sparkling debut at Pocono, Harris brought San Domino to a $30,000 Yonkers overnight August 24. Starting from post three, Jason Bartlett put the gelding on the lead. Although he went gate-to-wire, he won by a neck in 1:52.2 as Rodeo Rock appeared to give San Domino all he could handle in the stretch. However, Harris thinks there is more in the tank.

“He was actually a little bit sick and I don’t think his game is front-end. He’s just not used to being on the front-end. Most of his races down under were coming from off the pace,” Harris said. “I had an open bridle on him and Jason said his ears were going back and forth because he was looking at everything. I think it would have been more impressive last week if he wasn’t on the front because he would have been concentrating.”

Harris added a hood with eye cups and San Domino responded well to them in training. He will start with the change of equipment in Saturday night’s $46,000 Open Handicap Pace.

“It will be different this week because we’re adding a hood with eye cups to him so he can focus a little bit more on what’s in front of him and not what’s beside him,” Harris said. “Jason said even finishing, he wasn’t done at all, he was just looking at everything and he didn’t know what he was doing. It was almost like he was green up front. When you’ve got him on a helmet, he’s got a nice hold at the end and he lets you know he’s ready to explode whenever you want it. On the front was a totally different animal, and I wasn’t expecting that.”

San Domino will start from post five in his first local Open try, just outside of Theartofconfusion, who established a new standard at Yonkers last week. The fellow Australian-bred pacer went to the front in race 11 on the Yonkers Trot and Messenger undercard, a $30,000 overnight. With Austin Siegelman in the bike for trainer Gilbert Garcia-Herrera, Theartofconfusion streaked through fractions of :26.2, :54.2, and 1:21.3 before kicking away in the stretch to win by 10 lengths in 1:49.3, logging the first sub-1:50 mile in the history of the Hilltop oval.

“I think the way the Yonkers track is, it was going to break 1:50 sooner or later. The track is so good right now, I knew that kind of speed would be coming, didn’t know when, but it sure came the other night,” Harris said. “I’m surprised it came in a late race, not in the early races. That horse is a good horse, Gilbert does a fantastic job his with horses. Nothing surprises me with speed at Yonkers. When you shake a loose lead and you can keep carrying your speed. The horse obviously finished up strong. Those type of horses love to do that when they can shake loose.”

The six-pack of pacers in the Saturday co-feature also include last week’s Preferred Pace winner Mickey Gee, who will start from the outside for Lance Hudson, last week’s Open runner up I’m Some Graduate, who will start from an assigned post two for George Brennan and Ron Burke, and The Real One, winner of the Open in two of his last five tries. Benhope Rulz completes the lineup.

“I hope that we’re not on the front,” Harris said of San Domino. “I don’t ever tell Jason how to drive, but I can’t see Austin taking back. I have to think off that mile, that Austin will be going forward. I think we’ll be off the pace, but who knows once the gate folds.

“I definitely think if we manage him properly, he’ll be a Levy horse next year,” Harris said. “He’s going to be a fun horse. We just have to keep him healthy, happy, and sound and he’ll do the rest.”

Saturday night’s card also features the weekly $46,000 Open Handicap Trot and the $37,000 4-Year-Old Open Handicap Pace.

By Brandon Valvo, for the SOA of NY

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