02/25/2016 3:16PM

Meadowlands: Missile J could have a bright future

Lisa Photo
Missile J posted a 1:51 1/5 victory on February 20 at The Meadowlands.

Lightning may not strike twice this winter, but once again as we slog through the cold and damp in East Rutherford there’s a chance something big could be brewing. Trainer Linda Toscano, better known for Hambletonian-type trotters in recent years, has an interesting prospect in Missile J. The sophomore may be making his last start for a period of time on Saturday at The Meadowlands with eyes on a more ambitious future that includes stakes races.

“Ken (co-owner Jacobs) was talking about putting him in the winter sale,” said Toscano of Missile J. “This was always a horse with a good attitude last year but he couldn’t put it all together. We decided to castrate him and bring him back in the winter.”

[DRF HARNESS: Get Free Harness Eye Past Performances daily!]

Toscano was more than pleased with the way the son of American Ideal returned over the fall and early winter.

“His attitude was still very good but he seemed to have figured it out on the track,” said Toscano.

The likely odds-on favorite in Saturday’s second race, Missile J landed post six and will get Tim Tetrick back in the bike.

“I liked the way he qualified but he got a bit grabby in his first start,” said Toscano of the ninth-place finish in Missile J’s first start on January 2 with John Campbell driving.

After that, Tim Tetrick picked up the lines and Toscano was careful in her approach.

“I told Tim to drive him like he was his own,” said Toscano.

After a pair of solid closing miles, Tetrick notified Toscano this past week that he wanted to be more aggressive.

Tetrick again took Missile J from off the pace but this time he didn’t wait for cover, instead he launched Missile J on the backstretch and the gelding manhandled his rivals sailing right past even-money favorite Connecting Flight on the way to a 1:51 1/5 maiden-breaking mile.

Connecting Flight will face Missile J again on Saturday, starting from post five directly inside the Toscano-trained sophomore.

“We decided to put him into a few stakes,” said Toscano, who noted that both Jacobs and co-owner Wanda Polisseni (Purple Haze Stable) are staunch supporters of the New York Sire Stakes program. “They put him in the Rooney and the Empire Breeders Classic, and he’ll be racing a lot in New York Sires.”

Toscano hopes that Modest Prince will bounce back in the third race of the night after a near disastrous performance last week. “Tim (Tetrick) wanted to change things up last week with his bit,” said Toscano. That decision was an attempt to calm the gelding, but that plan flew out the door when Modest Prince left with Tetrick a passenger through a 26 2/5 and 53 3/5 opening half.

“We’re going back to the old bit,” said Toscano, “and I expect him to be racing from off the pace this week.”

Yippity Hanover (post 2) drew into a competitive field in race 10 and Toscano hopes the 4-year-old will be a bit better this week. “The first start on Lasix he finished strongly,” said Toscano. “I think missing the week because of the cancellation hurt him.”

Toscano will send out The Show Returns in a qualifier on Friday morning. The 4-year-old pacing mare moved into her barn over the winter and she’s hopeful to have her ready for the Matchmaker at Yonkers in mid-March. “She’s a nice mare and she’s coming along well,” said Toscano.

Last year was a mystery for the 2012 Hambletonian winner Market Share. A winner of near $3.7 million heading into the 2015 campaign, Market Share won just one time in nine starts before being turned out.

“Nothing we did seemed to work so we decided to stop with him and give him some time off,” said Toscano. “He’s in North Carolina now training back and so far everything looks fine.”

On the 3-year-old front, Toscano has high hopes for a pair of American Ideal-sired fillies that had completely different freshman campaigns. “I like the way Soft Idea is coming back,” said Toscano about the filly that earned more than $200K winning half of her 12 starts last year.

“Rough Stuff is a filly I raced just once in Lexington last year but I really like her,” said Toscano. “She’s training very well and I think you’ll be hearing from her.”

[DRF HARNESS LIVE: Real-time insights from the DRF Harness team this Saturday at 6:35 p.m.]