She has a fierce attachment to Handsoffmycookie.
In fact, she’ll brag about it to the world.
“She was our first baby together,” said the owner, referring to herself and trainer Scott DiDomenico. “She actually made me hooked on babies. I spent a little more money on babies, I just bought five-and-a-half, and Scotty has them all. I wouldn’t trust anyone else with them.”
And while the 4-year-old pacing mare is no longer a baby, she will always be special in Fucci’s JFE Enterprise stable.
“I know she gives her all, she does it with heart, she just loves to do it,” Fucci said. “She’s a trip. She loves to compete and she has that great personality. Other horses you can’t even pet. You can pet her, and she loves her cookies. When you visit her, make sure you bring her treats because she loves her cookies. She definitely lives up to her name.”
|USTA/Ken Weingartner photo|
|Handsoffmycookie made more than $1 million as a freshman and sophomore.|
Fucci is hoping she lives up to the past standards she set as Handsoffmycookie prepares for her season debut in Friday night’s Mares FFA Handicap at the Meadowlands. For her career, the daughter of stallion Art Major and mare Observe Me has won 14 of 28 races and $1.01 million.
Handsoffmycookie won nine of 12 races in 2011, including the New York Sires Stakes championship. She also finished second in the Breeders Crown for 2-year-old filly pacers, Three Diamonds and Sweetheart. She didn’t quite reach the same success as a 3-year-old, but won the Lismore Pace, took second in the New York Sire Stakes final and fifth in the Breeders Crown.
It’s important to note that Fucci assures that Handsoffmycookie did not slip in performance last year. It was more a case of the competition catching up.
“I don’t know if she lost it last year,” the owner said. “She was such a superstar as a 2-year-old, and it’s not that the New York circuit wasn’t competitive, but she just blew away a lot of horses in the circuit. I think she had it a little easier.
“When she hit 3, a lot of other horses came up in performance. She was just facing horses that improved. It’s not that she didn’t improve, but she was just so phenomenal as a 2-year-old. She hit the million dollar mark last year, that’s amazing. Her times were fantastic, she was great. But sometimes horses were just a little better than her.”
With all that in mind, Fucci can’t wait to see what’s in store for this season. It gets underway Friday night as Fucci and DiDomenico use the Meadowlands race as a tune-up for the Blue Chip Matchmaker Series at Yonkers Raceway starting March 22. Handsoffmycookie starts from post three with Tim Tetrick handling the driving.
“She only had one qualifier this year and did well, but it’s a qualifier so you don’t push her,” Fucci said. “I’m not really sure what to expect from her Friday. She’s a fighter, so we’ll keep our fingers crossed and hope she races well to start the year off.
“I always love to win. But I just want her to get conditioned in her first race back. Everybody always tells me in the first race back don’t get your hopes up. Who knows, maybe she’ll surprise us.”
It wouldn’t be a huge surprise, however, as Joann likes where her horse is entering the season.
“She’s been training really well this year,” Fucci said. “She’s got her spirit, she loves to race, loves the track. She’s got her old spunk back, where she’s chasing them down. She loves to pass them so I hope she keeps that attitude up.
“I just saw the lineup and she’s in there with a lot of other amazing horses. There are some killers in there, so we hope to give it our best shot.”
Friday’s race includes defending Matchmaker series champion Rocklamation, who is the 2-1 favorite on the morning line. Regardless of what happens at the Meadowlands, Fucci is looking forward to what Handsoffmycookie can do this season.
“I think this is going to be a really good year for her,” she said. “In a lot of her 3-year-old races, even though she didn’t win she really raced phenomenal. She still has it all in her heart. She puts it out there, that’s all I can ask for. I’m really excited for the Blue Chip.”
That’s not surprising, since Fucci lives 15 minutes from Yonkers Raceway and always likes to see one of her own do well there. It doesn’t hurt that Handsoffmycookie feels the same way. She won her first six races at The Hilltop, including the Lismore, before finishing second to favorite Romantic Moment in last year’s sire stakes final and third in the Lady Maud, where she was beaten by a head.
“She loves Yonkers; she just loooooooves Yonkers,” Fucci said. “Yonkers has that crazy finish line where the outside horse always has that advantage. If you watched her last race there last year, it’s amazing. She came in third in the photo finish but if you see the race it clearly looks like she won even though she was third. She raced phenomenal in that race. Sometimes numbers don’t always tell the story.”
Some of the interesting numbers this year have to do with age. After racing against fellow 2- and 3-year-olds her first two seasons, Handsoffmycookie will be going against horses her age and older this season.
“That’s definitely a concern,” Fucci said. “Going up against some more experienced, and some really good horses, it’s going to be interesting. I’m going to be basing a lot on the whole Blue Chip Matchmaker series when she goes up against these horses that have been dominating the track. I’m very curious to see how she does.
“Do I think she’s the best horse? Absolutely!”
Would you expect her to say anything else about her first baby?