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g>Yonkers, NY — When Scott Di Domenico thinks back on the journey Angel’s Pride has taken so far, he feels a sense of pride. Di Domenico purchased the Roll With Joe daughter as a yearling and she’s been a fixture in the barn sense. Friday night (March 8), the 5-year-old mare will seek her first win in the $44,000 Filly and Mare Open Handicap at Yonkers ahead of a bid in the Blue Chip Matchmaker Series.

“It’s truly been gratifying. We broke her and trained her and raced her every start, watched her mature and get better,” Di Domenico said. “There’s a lot of gratification to see that.

“She’s a sweetheart. She’s a big strong mare, you’ve got to feed her first because she gets pretty anxious when it’s lunchtime and time to eat. As far as her personality on the track, you can’t say enough good things about her. She’s really a very, very nice horse.”

Angel’s Pride had a difficult beginning to her racing career. Before she started as a 2-year-old, she suffered a fractured sesamoid. Although she showed potential, the injury left her future in doubt.

“Training her down as a 2-year-old, we really, really liked her and she broke a bone and she missed the majority of her 2-year-old year,” Di Domenico remembered. “Gave her a lot of time and she healed up and came back strong. You don’t want to see broken bones and you definitely don’t want to see broken sesamoids. It’s a difficult injury to bounce back from, but she has, and she’s done it gracefully.”

Angel’s Pride finally made her first start Nov. 25, 2016 and she debuted a winner, taking a $12,000 maiden at Harrah’s Philadelphia. She finished second in her only other start at 2 before coming back at 3 to win a division of the Weiss Series at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono and two legs of the New York Sire Stakes, adding a runner-up finish in the Lady Maud Pace at Yonkers along the way.

Angel’s Pride continued to improve last year at 4, winning six races and finishing second in another six from 28 starts, including two runner-up placings in the Filly and Mare Open Handicap at Yonkers to end her 2018 season. She earned $136,420 last year, boosting her career earnings to $326,588 for Triple D Stables and JFE Enterprise.

“She was good all year. She was iron-tough all year,” Di Domenico said. “To see her not have to be awarded the one or two hole and get an easy trip or get lucky was good. She was drawing middle to the outside and still able to do a good job. The racing at Yonkers is tough and to see her do that was good.”

Di Domenico attributes Angel’s Pride’s steady improvement to her physical and mental progression. Angel’s Pride has learned to be versatile on the track, a trait her trainer admires.

“She’s gotten bigger and stronger. She’s learned how to race both ways, being leaving the gate going forward and spots where she’s come off the gate and still raced good and come home good,” Di Domenico said. “She’s picked that element up, to be a professional racehorse and being handy and her versatility to go either way.”

Angel’s Pride ended her 4-year-old season with a second-place finish in the $44,000 distaff feature Dec. 7 and got a well-deserved break from training. She qualified back Feb. 23 at The Meadowlands before making her return March 1 at Yonkers, where she drew post eight in the Filly and Mare Open. She will start in the same class Friday (March 8) with Di Domenico eyeing the first leg of the Matchmaker Series March 15.

“We put her in the Matchmaker. There’s a lot of good mares,” Di Domenico said. “If she can show that she can go with them, I think that would really be special. I don’t know that I’m sold on that or not, but we’re going to give it a try and see how it goes.”

Angel’s Pride drew post four in Friday night’s $44,000 feature and will have regular reinsman Brent Holland in the sulky. She will face a strong lineup of mares, including Feb. 15 winner Delightfulmemphisn, last week’s winner Lispatty, and Feb. 22 winner Itty Bitty, who drew posts six, seven and eight, respectively. Twinkle, Write Me A Song, and Lakeisha Hall all return from layoffs off qualifying efforts and will start from posts one, three, and five, respectively. Slick Artist A is the only mare in the field not nominated to the Matchmaker; the longshot will start from post two.

“We’re going to race a little more aggressively and see what the future holds. We’ll let her dictate what we do and how we do it. Hopefully she can show that 5-year-old season, she can go with the better horses at Yonkers and just try to work with it,” Di Domenico said. “I hope we go out of there, she can win, and that would be a good building block to the Matchmaker Series. But it’s a tough race, there’s good horses. Racing at that level is difficult, it’s a tough task.”

Live harness racing is featured at Yonkers Raceway every Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday night. First post time is 6:50 p.m. For entries to the races, click here.