05/26/2014 11:05AM

Bergman: Grasso hoping for big things from Expressive Action

Derick Giwner
Expressive Action is primed for a big three-year-old season.

From a lifetime stabling at Yonkers Raceway trainer John Grasso has always wanted to win the big race. For him the Yonkers Trot would be divine. In the year 2000 he thought he had the chance with the homebred Approved Action. The New York-bred was favored but could not hang on to win that Triple Crown event.

Now, some 14 years later, Grasso may have finally found the missing piece to a career puzzle. Expressive Action, a son of Conway Hall, has emerged, again in the Empire State as a potential force in the three-year-old trotting division. If his extremely impressive 1:54 2/5 debut on Friday night at Tioga Downs is an indication of his talent then Grasso has good reason for optimism.

“I’d like to win a big one,” said Grasso. “I don’t need to win them all, one would be great.”

[DRF HARNESS: Check out our NEW and IMPROVED Harness Eye PPs and see our discount packages]

There is perhaps no more loyal harness trainer than John Grasso. One of just a few that has remained stabled at Yonkers Raceway, Grasso and his family have dipped into the trotting market through generations of the broodmare Dorothy Action and in doing so have come up with a healthy line of quality New York-breds and on occasion Grand Circuit types.

In Expressive Action the blend of the Grasso-owned mare Yettas Angel, a daughter of Credit Winner, with Conway Hall has yielded a beautiful individual with some size and plenty of speed.

In his New York Sire Stakes victory at Tioga Expressive Action left from the rail with catch-driver Mike Simons not really looking to take the lead. With a host of others leaving the gate Simons was able to put Expressive Action into the action and discourage some to take back eventually winding up in the pocket through a brisk opening quarter.

Where Expressive Action caught the eye was on the final turn where Simons had to back out and come three wide to have a clear chance at victory. “They usually lose all momentum when making that move,” said Grasso, “But he was flying at the wire.”

Last year Expressive Action got a taste of stakes action after a very late start. There were a series of mishaps including the horse getting cast in its stall and missing significant time that kept him out of action. He entered the Breeders Crown after capturing a $50,000 Fall Harvest New York Sire stakes consolation at Yonkers.

“It was a difficult situation. He was coming into that race with just two starts and the other horses had nine and ten starts,” said Grasso of the Crown. “I wish he had more experience it could have made the difference.”

Expressive Action trotted in 1:54 3/5 in his Crown elimination heat that helped him make the final but he was a dozen lengths off eventual champion Father Patrick in that race. The colt came back to finish fifth at season’s end in the Valley Victory at the Meadowlands that helped boost his juvenile bankroll to $80,173 in just five starts.

After being turned out for 65 days this winter Expressive Action got back to work and again had to overcome some minor issues to make it to the races on time. “He pulled on a blanket and ripped up his leg,” said Grasso.

The trainer could have qualified Expressive Action in his backyard at Yonkers Raceway but instead sent the colt to Pocono. “I figured that his first start was going to be on a five-eighths track (Tioga) so I wanted him to get acclimated,” said Grasso of the move. Expressive Action won consecutive qualifiers at Pocono for catch-driver Mike Simons before his initial start.

“I’ve got him staked to everything,” said Grasso. “He’s eligible to the Hambletonian, The Yonkers Trot, the Kentucky Futurity, the Canadian Trotting Classic.”

Next up for Expressive Action will be the Empire Classic eliminations this Friday at Vernon Downs followed hopefully by a berth in the $250,000 final on June 8.

In an era where trainers with small stables are literally forced to sell to the major stables to have a chance to compete for major stakes dollars, Grasso has resisted the temptation. “I turned down $600,000 for the colt,” said Grasso, “I don’t know if I’d sell him for $1 million.”

That wasn’t Grasso trying to elevate the price of his colt either. The pursuit of a dream to capture a big race is worth more to him than seven-figures.

As each spring turns to summer Grasso has shown up at the baby races with either one or two trotters with high expectations of finally hitting it big with a top colt. He finds himself in that situation again in 2014 as Elusive Action, the third foal of Yettas Angel and a full brother to Expressive Action is set to make his debut in baby races at the Meadowlands.

There will be plenty of money to make in the rich New York Sire Stakes program for Expressive Action should he continue to improve. Still Grasso holds out the hope that his colt can make it in the big time.

“That R C Royalty colt (Royalty For Life) won the Hambletonian last year and he’s a New York-bred,” said Grasso, hoping lightning strikes in consecutive years.

[DRF HARNESS: Follow us on Twitter for the latest harness news!]