Local heroes longshots in Battle of Lake Erie
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Both of Northfield Park’s local pacing stars have accepted their invitations to Saturday’s $200,000 Battle of Lake Erie. Dave Bianconi, the track’s executive vice president of racing and simulcasting, has assigned Bully Pulpit and Southwind Amazon 12-1 and 15-1 morning-line odds. His customary assignments to them are outside posts in Northfield’s weekly Open Pace.
“It is unusual to have two local horses in the Battle, but both of these appear to have the ability to compete on the big stage, explained Bianconi. “This year’s race is totally wide open. The local horses just add two more pieces to a very interesting puzzle.”
Bully Pulpit is conditioned by Northfield Park leading trainer Brian Loney and owner Brad Schwartz of Chicago, a Cleveland native. Saturday will mark the first time Loney will harness one of his trainees for a Grand Circuit event, but he feels good about his chances.
“The way I see his (Bully Pulpit’s) competition is that I’m not in against them, they are in against me,” said Loney.
Bully Pulpit goes to post off a three-race win streak in Northfield’s Open Pace, one of those wins being a 1:49.4 victory from post 8. That 1:49.4 effort is the fastest clocking on any half-mile track in North America this year. North America’s leading driver, Aaron Merriman, will guide the 6 year old from the two hole.
Southwind Amazon drew post 5 for trainer Paul Holzman. The 9 year old is trained at Sahbra Farms about 15 miles from Northfield, and was North America’s winningest horse in 2018 with 22 victories from 38 races, usually from an assigned outside post. His regular pilot, Ronnie Wrenn Jr., will drive.
“This is a quality field of horses and I wish a had a little better draw than the five hole,” stated Holzman. “My horse is very sharp right now and with some racing luck anything can happen. If Southwind Amazon wins, I don’t know if I would be surprised, but I would sure be ecstatic.”
The two local stars will face a stiff onslaught from invaders. Rodeo Rock drew the rail and has been named the 3-1 slight morning-line favorite. He was the runner-up in this year’s $664,000 Levy final at Yonkers Raceway in April and enters this race off another runner-up finish in a $100,000 Invitational at Harrah’s Philadelphia. The Robert Cleary trainee has four wins in nine races this year and seasonal earnings of $289,400. Eric Goodell has been listed to drive. Rodeo Rock has never raced at Northfield, but is owned locally by Royal Wire Products of North Royalton.
Indiana-sired superstar Always A Prince enters this event with 20 victories in 26 lifetime starts. The 4 year old won 19 of 22 races last year and has not missed the board so far in four starts this season. He has been given a 7-2 morning line. Always A Prince has a career bankroll of $515,855 and sports a 1:48.1 (HoP) lifetime mark, the fastest in this year’s field. Trainer Tyler George brings Trace Tetrick to drive.
Ontario-based speedster Jimmy Freight drew post 7 and is the 4-1 third choice. He was second in last year’s $400,000 Carl Milstein Memorial in his only other race at Northfield. Jimmy Freight has finished in the top three in 35 of 37 career races, taking a 1:48.3 (Wbsb) lifetime mark and earning $950,448. Trainer Andrew Harris tabs Yonkers standout Jason Bartlett to drive.
The 2019 $200,000 Battle of Lake Erie field – Race 12 – 10:15 p.m. approx. post time:
Post Horse Driver/Trainer Odds
1 Rodeo Rock Eric Goodell/Robert Cleary 3-1
2 Bully Pulpit Aaron Merriman/Brian Loney 12-1
3 The Wall Brett Miller/Nick Surick 9-2
4 Always A Prince Trace Tetrick/Tyler George 7-2
5 Southwind Amazon Ronnie Wrenn Jr./Paul Holzman 15-1
6 None Bettor A Joe Bongiorno/Jennifer Bongiorno 6-1
7 Jimmy Freight Jason Bartlett/Andrew Harris 4-1
8 Filibuster Hanover Chris Page/Ron Burke 10-1
A $10,000 guaranteed Pick 4 has been added to the 11th race. The Battle feature will be the second leg of this wager, which offers a low 14 percent takeout rate.
Since its inception in 1986, the Battle of Lake Erie has drawn the sport’s best veteran pacers. Past Battle champions include racing greats Falcon Seelster, Quite A Sensation, Jaguar Spur, Dorunrun Bluegrass, Cambest, Gallo Blue Chip, Maltese Artist and Foiled Again. (Northfield Park)