Day At The Track

'Gokudo' back on top for Di Domenico

07:08 AM 24 Nov 2018 NZDT
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Gokudo Hanover, harness racing
Gokudo Hanover seen here winning at The Meadows
Chris Gooden Photo

YONKERS, N.Y. – Gokudo Hanover joined the ranks of harness racing trainer Scott Di Domenico’s stable last fall and quickly became one of the top horses in his barn. He won the local Open Handicap Pace at Yonkers Raceway twice and placed another two times over the winter. Di Domenico thought enough of the gelding to enter him in the first leg of the George Morton Levy Series March 17. However, the day before the race, Di Domenico found Gokudo Hanover in a state of shock.

“He jogged that morning and he was OK,” Di Domenico recalled. “Around lunchtime, he got violent. He was really uncharacteristically in pain and uncomfortable. That’s certainly not part of his temperament, so we shipped him immediately to the Mid-Atlantic Clinic.

“It was terrible, especially a horse of his personality. He’s very friendly, quiet, nice, real pleasurable horse. To see him up and down and in a lot of pain was certainly alarming.”

Gokudo Hanover suffered from an episode of colic and required emergency surgery. A portion of his intestine was removed, and surgeons also discovered and took out a non-cancerous tumor. Gokudo Hanover pulled through, but the budding pacing star went to the sidelines.

“He missed quite a bit of time. He was probably out two to three months just not doing much of anything. Just healing up and making sure everything was OK,” Di Domenico said. “It was a little bit questionable of how he was going to come back. It seems like most horses who have that don’t come back quite as well as they did before they had it.

“When he started back to work and back on the track, he had no issues of any sort that would lead you to believe anything was out of the ordinary. He jogged back, trained back, did everything right,” the trainer said.

With a significant amount of money still on his card from his early-season success, Di Domenico had no choice but to bring Gokudo Hanover back in Open company, finishing off-the-board in two starts in the Great Northeast Open Series this August. 

The 6-year-old posted two victories at Freehold in September before returning to Yonkers. The Cam’s Card Shark son worked his way back up the class-ladder, his comeback culminating with a pair of wins in the $35,000 Preferred and $44,000 Open Handicap Pace November 10 and 17, respectively.

“We took him to Freehold and he kind of woke up down there and it’s been smooth sailing since,” Di Domenico said. “It’s really gratifying to see where he was, to see how much fun we had early with him, then to the nightmarish day where he was in so much pain, shut him down, bring him back. It’s fulfilling and most of all, to see the horse overcome such struggle is most gratifying.”

Gokudo Hanover left from post five in his latest win, but Techtor Hanover and Mach It So were faster into the first turn, leaving Gokudo Hanover parked outside in third. Dan Dube put the whip on Gokudo Hanover’s tail and forged to the lead in :26.2. 

Gokudo Hanover sped through a half-mile in :55.1 and soon felt pressure from the looming first-over favorite Mach It So. Dube kicked out the plugs entering the backstretch and raised the lines high in his left hand as he urged the gelding on with the whip in his right. Mach It So reached Gokudo Hanover’s wheel past three-quarters in 1:23, but wouldn’t get any closer. Under a sustained drive, Gokudo Hanover turned back his rival and kicked away to a length win in 1:52.

“It was a big mile. The front end didn’t hold up great Saturday night. He went some big fractions. He’s been really, really good,” Di Domenico said. “The other thing about that horse, he’s one of the horses that just loves Yonkers. He really, really enjoys that track, he gets around it so handily and that’s where he does his best work.”

Gokudo Hanover will try to double-up in the Open this week. He will start from post six as a 7-1 shot in the $44,000 feature. Bettor Memories was second in this race two weeks ago and is the 3-1 favorite from post four while last week’s Preferred winner Always At My Place is 7-2 from post five. Techtor Hanover, last week’s runner-up, drew post three and is 9-2. Theartofconfusion, Soho Lennon, Great Vintage, and Mach It So complete the lineup.

“I think he’s up against it,” Di Domenico admitted. “There’s some speed inside of him, probably in a spot where he has to race from off the pace, but that’s pretty common when you win the Open and you have to move to the outside. When you’re racing for the kind of money they race for and have a horse of that caliber, you take everything in stride and just try to handle every week differently.”

Saturday’s 12-race card also features a $44,000 Filly and Mare Open Handicap Pace and a $35,000 3- and 4-Year Old Open Handicap Pace. First post time is 6:50 p.m. For entries to the races, click here

YONKERS SETS SUNDAY POST TIME, ‘DOUBLE’ INFO

Yonkers Raceway’s Sunday matinee this weekend (Nov. 25th) shall offer a first post of 11:10 AM.

Races 1 through 7 go as those added-distance ‘French’ trots, with post times as such…

1st  – 11:10 AM

2nd  – 11:40 AM

3rd  – 12:10 PM

4th  – 12:40 PM

5th – 1:10 PM

6th – 1:40 PM

7th – 2:10 PM

Post time for the 12th-race finale is 3:50 PM.   

Sunday’s ‘New York, New York Double’ is comprised of the first race from Aqueduct (post time 12:20  PM) and the fifth race from Yonkers (post time 1:10 PM). Program pages accompany this release.  

After this weekend, the next Sunday matinee is Dec. 2nd (post time TBA).   

By Brandon Valvo for the SOA of NY

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