Schenectady, NY — John Grasso credits divine intervention for his presence at the racetrack these days. The longtime owner and trainer was ready to call it a career after his wife, Janine, passed away on Christmas Eve last year. The two had been high school sweethearts and spent 48 years of life together. Before her passing, Grasso recalls telling Janine that he thought he had a couple of good horses that would be ready to race in 2019. By the time January arrived, Grasso wasn’t sure his heart was in racing anymore.
Grasso owns and trains 3-year-old pacer Fromthestartagain and sophomore trotter Experienced Action, both homebreds and stabled at Yonkers Raceway this season. Fromthestartagain is named for his dam, NYSS winner From The Start, which comes from Grasso’s belief that the talent comes from the mare, more so than the stallion.
“Fromthestartagain looks just like his mother and is about the same size,” said Grasso of the So Surreal gelding. “Last year as a 2-year-old, he was still a little too small so we trained him down to 2:10, then turned him out to let him develop.”
It was during this time that Grasso says he received a sign.
“I have a travel bag that I always carry with me when I go to the track. One night, it came flying off of the shelf at home. It was like my wife was telling me to keep going. ‘You told me they were going to be good, so let’s see,’ she said. That keeps me going every morning.”
Grasso had kept Fromthestartagain eligible for the New York Sire Stakes and the 3-year-old made his stakes debut at Monticello on May 13. He faded to a fifth-place finish in a race won by 2018 Sheppard Pace winner Hickfromfrenchlick. But Grasso didn’t have to wait long to confirm his instincts about the horse.
Two weeks later at Saratoga, in his second NYSS start, Fromthestartagain set a lifetime mark of 1:53 with Jason Bartlett driving to edge out returning NYSS champion Reigning Deo by a neck. The field also included 2018 standout Melodies Major.
For Grasso, this was his first NYSS win since 2014, when he won with Expressive Action. That homebred trotter earned just shy of $250,000 in his 3-year-old year, helped by a win in the Empire Breeders Classic.
Now, through two legs, Fromthestartagain is the third highest NYSS earner in his division ($30,960). He races next in Buffalo on Wednesday (June 5) in the third leg of the NYSS, again taking on Melodies Major and Reigning Deo in the $118,800 sixth race. Grasso hopes the pacer can continue to follow in his mother’s tracks and record multiple NYSS wins.
“He’s got a lot of speed and he’s learning on the fly. Just like his mother, he likes to win. They like to beat other horses and that’s instinctive. You can’t teach that,” said Grasso. “If he has half the ability she has, he’s going to be a great racehorse.”