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McDermott Marvels At For You Almostfree

Published: February 28, 2013 7:20 pm ET

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He cost a little bit of money, but For You Almostfree is paying dividends for trainer John McDermott.

McDermott bought the now five-year-old trotter for $45,000 at the 2012 Tattersalls January Select Mixed Sale at the Meadowlands. Since then, For You Almostfree has earned $133,810 while working his way through the condition ranks at Yonkers Raceway and into Friday’s $35,000 Open Handicap.

Starting from post four with driver Daniel Dube, For You Almostfree is 6-1 on the morning line. Brandos Muscle Man, with George Brennan in the sulky for trainer Gilbert Garcia-Herrera, is the 8-5 choice from post eight.

For You Almostfree is a son of 2006 Horse of the Year Glidemaster out of the multiple-stakes-winning mare Pizza Dolce. He is a half-brother to Ontario standouts Bella Dolce and Miss Paris and was purchased as a yearling for $270,000 (under the name Ultimo Dolce).

As a two- and three-year-old, For You Almostfree competed in several major stakes, including the Valley Victory and Breeders Crown, but had his most successful performances in the condition ranks. He won four of 25 starts and earned $91,454 in his first two seasons of racing.

He is now owned by Jet Dream Stables, Robert Pucila, Jonathan Klee Racing and Mitchell Cohen.

“I thought he had the potential to be a horse,” McDermott said. “I changed around his shoeing a little bit, but the biggest thing is I taught him to race from off the pace. Danny has driven him tremendously and he’s really matured and he really loves his work right now. I can’t say enough good things about him.”

For You Almostfree has made 36 starts for McDermott, with 35 coming at Yonkers. He has six wins and has earned a paycheck 30 times at the Hilltop. Of the five times he failed to get money, he went off stride in four of the races.

This year, the horse has won two of five races and earned $29,160. He enters the Open Handicap off back-to-back wins, the most recent coming by one length over Bound For Fame in 1:56.3.

“You have to manage the horse,” McDermott said. “That doesn’t mean I don’t want to win every race, but when you’re on a half-mile (track) everybody thinks you have to go to the front. We all want our picture taken; we all want to win every race, when you’re gunning down the road on a half that many weeks in a row, it takes a toll.

“I’ve just ducked him all year and let him get in the flow and come from the back. I really think that it’s paid off. He’s had a chance to mature and he keeps getting better and better.”

The two most recent times that For You Almostfree went off stride followed races in which he was in the lead by the opening quarter-mile.

“The only times he makes a break is when he gets too revved up; too hot behind the gate,” McDermott said. “That’s the few times we’ve gone forward with him off the gate, he’s seemed to come real hot the next few weeks. He’s just a really nice horse. You’ve just got to work on him keeping him calm. I think keeping him calm has been done by just racing him off the pace.”

Initially, McDermott thought he might need to geld For You Almostfree. But almost as quickly as McDermott had the idea, the horse removed it.

“The minute I walked in the barn the first day, he’s got his head on my shoulder and is giving me kisses and loving on me,” McDermott said. “He’s just the friendliest horse in the world. He’s a stud that you’d never realize is a stud. So I said forget the idea of gelding him; that’s not the issue.”

For You Almostfree wears brace bandages on his hind legs and no other equipment, McDermott said.

“His gait is flawless,” McDermott said. “He’s probably the best-gaited trotter I’ve ever had. Eventually he’ll be in Europe. If he goes to Europe they’ll just love him over there. He’s made for their type of racing.”

For now, though, For You Almostfree will stay at Yonkers.

“People say I should take him to the Meadowlands or take him to Pocono,” McDermott said. “Why? The money at Yonkers is amazing and he goes around that track like it’s nothing to him.”

McDermott hopes that For You Almostfree gets around Yonkers like it’s nothing on Friday night in the Open Handicap.

“He fits,” McDermott said. “I’m so happy to have him. This is what I look for. I don’t want claiming horses; I want horses like him that you can try to teach to become a horse. Hopefully it pays dividends.”

This story courtesy of Harness Racing Communications, a division of the U.S. Trotting Association. For more information, visit

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