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Cleveland\'s fastest field

April 16, 2007

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Director of racing Gregg Keidel has finalized the field for Saturday’s $125,000 Battle of Lake Erie at Northfield, and despite the comparatively early date, he has assembled the fastest field in the history of the race, with an average best win time of 1:49.4. The eight scheduled starters have combined earnings of $4.92 million, in line with some of the classic Battles from the mid \'90s.

The eight competitors (with their best times) in this year’s race are Ataboyart (1:53), Dodgeball (1:51.2), Gold Dust Beach (1:49), Load The Dice (1:49.1), Maltese Artist (1:48.3), Mister Big (1:49.2), My Boy David (1:47.4) and Our Lucky Killean (1:49.4). Ab’s Beach Boy, the fastest horse at Northfield this year with a 1:52 win, is the also-ligible horse in the event of a late scratch.

The 2005 Battle champ Maltese Artist continued to roll along in quest of a second title, winning his $50,000 Levy leg at Yonkers Saturday in 1:52.1 in line to Greg Grismore. That made him the sport’s newest millionaire, while Gold Dust Beach, harness racing’s newest world champion, took a $42,000 Open Pace at the Meadowlands in 1:49.4, with David Miller driving. Mister Big and Our Lucky Killean had the week off, Load The Dice finished fourth behind Gold Dust Beach, and Ataboyart secured his spot in the Battle with a 1:54.3 win over a sloppy (and snowy) Northfield surface Saturday. He is a son of Le Mistral, the second mare ever voted onto Northfield’s Wall of Fame. Five of the eight Battle starters are coming off wins and the eight horses had their final Battle preps at six different tracks.

In a true underdog story, Dodgeball won his third race in four seasonal starts Saturday, taking the $15,000 Invitational Handicap at Freehold Raceway in New Jersey in 1:53.2. Dodgeball, a son of Presidential Ball, has been a half-mile track specialist this year for trainer Tom Fanning and New Hampshire owner Elliot Misshula.

Trainer Homer Hochstetler is “excited” that My Boy David has earned a Battle Invite, according to www.ustrotting.com. “He gets around a half (mile track) so well,” he said of the 4-year-old son of Cole Muffler, who is the fastest horse in this year’s War on the Shore by virtue of his 1:47.4 win last year at Springfield, Ill.\'s fairgrounds. He is also the second-richest horse in the race, with over $910,000 in the bank, just behind Maltese Artist. Shirley LeVin, of Schaumberg, Ill., owns My Boy David

Although drivers won’t be finalized for a couple days, three-time Northfield driving champ Grismore confirmed earlier today that he has plans to return to the Flying Turns. Miller (Gold Dust Beach), Peter Wrenn (Our Lucky Killean) and Yannick Gingras (Load The Dice) are also expected here to drive. Miller won the 1999 Battle with BJ’s Whirlwind, setting a track and stakes record with his 1:51 mile, while Wrenn stunned onlookers in the 1991 Battle, scoring with 22-1 longshot Dare You To. Brett Miller, who tied the pari-mutuel record with 10 wins on Wednesday’s Northfield card, has been listed on Maltese Artist, but he suffered an injury driving in a qualifier at Scioto Downs Saturday morning and the 2000 Northfield driving champ is now questionable for the Battle. (Northfield Park)
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