She looks to follow up that effort in the $46,000 Night Styles Series Final on Friday night. In round two of the series, Cruzin Angel withstood heavy pressure on the lead en route a $19 upset with Ron Pierce driving. The daughter of Yankee Cruiser owns seven wins in 25 starts and sports earnings of $53,492 for trainer Dan De Vitis and owners George Green of Clarksburg, N.J. and Rhonda Heady of Peoria, Ariz.
“Ron decided to send her out of there and see what she could do on the front end,” De Vitis said about his mare’s round two performance. “She held her own and it worked out well. I was a little surprised with the way she held on so gamely and took a new lifetime mark, yet I was really happy for her.
“This week we’ll just stick to her basic routine and keep her calm and relaxed,” he continued. “We’ve really just taken our time with her and not pushed her. She protects herself pretty good.”
Cruzin Angel was a bargain $5,200 yearling purchase at the Ohio Selected Jug Sale. She finished second in an Ohio Breeders Championship division during Jug Week last year at the Delaware, Ohio Fairgrounds.
Although she will starting from Post 10 in a tough field, De Vitis is pleased with the way his mare is coming into final.
“She can perform either way, so I’m thinking Ron will try to leave with her a little and try to find some live cover coming home,” De Vitis, 46, of Jackson, N.J., said. “She’s improving, she’s still green and learning, but coming along.”
De Vitis, who worked for noted New Jersey horsemen Tony Abbatiello and Carl LeCause, is stabled at Gaitway Farm in Englishtown, N.J.
“We had some great moments, and I learned a lot from those two gentlemen,” he noted.
You Little Rascal proves to be smart purchase for Ricco
In a challenging market, Iowa has become trainer Jason Ricco’s go-to place for ready-made racehorses.
One of his recent purchases from the Hawkeye State, You Little Rascal, heads into Friday’s $46,000 Night Styles Series Final at the Meadowlands fresh off a hard-charging third in the second leg of the series. The 4-year-old mare by Relentless Yankee has nine wins in 42 career starts and earnings of $37,984 for owner Anthony Lake of Millington, N.J. She will start from post two with Dan Dube in the sulky.
“We bought this mare as part of a package deal from agent Larry Miller,” Ricco, 34, of Monticello, N.Y., said. “She came with another mare I have racing in the Petticoat Series (at Yonkers Raceway), I Got Skills. She raced against (Night Styles finalist) Miss Behave in the Iowa Sires Stakes and beat her in the final. It was difficult keeping her race-tight with the track out there (Prairie Meadows) being closed. Now that she’s getting in every week here, she’s only going to get better.
“I’m going to take a trip out to Iowa this year to pick up some more horses,” he continued. “Once their sire stakes are over, they have nowhere else to go.”
You Little Rascal required patient handling from her trainer.
“She got sick right after we got her last fall,” Ricco noted. “At Yonkers (on Feb. 27) she made a speed break trying to leave. They never left with her out in Iowa. She’s come into form the past few weeks. We’ve had a little issue with her tying up, but we’re turning her out and keeping her happy.
“Last week, Dube (driver Daniel Dube) said he thought he was going right on by, but she started lugging in on him near the wire,” he continued. “I had the vet go over her the next day, and we treated her hocks and back ankles. I think she should go straight and be even better this week. Hopefully, we can work out the same kind of trip. Maybe some of the others will get roughed-up a bit and we can get some racing luck.”
Ricco trains the mare for Anthony Lake of Millington, N.J. A family friend, Lake owns Exclusive Auto Collision in Ramsey, N.J. Ricco was introduced to Lake through his father, Joe Ricco Jr., who is also the stepfather of driver George Brennan.
“We’re always looking for more horses,” Ricco said. “Tony (Anthony Lake) is pretty good at finding them, and he always comes up with one or two that you would never look at. We claimed a couple at The Meadows recently.”
Ricco finished third in the White Ruffles Series Final this season with Rei of Sunshine. He has eight horses in training at White Birch Farm in Allentown, N.J.