Magic D' Oro let champion Balooga Bull have things all his own way in the $30,000 Free Press Stakes at Assiniboia Downs on Friday night, and still beat him. In fast time.
Balooga Bull went right to the lead and took the inside as expected in the first stakes of 2014 for older horses at the Downs, and even got away with a relatively slow opening quarter mile in 23.60. He maintained a short but clear lead on the turn over pace pressers C.C. Ride and Barrio Baby through a faster second quarter of 22.80, and got the half in 46.40 before shaking off the pressers in late turn, but there was no time for a breather.
While jockey Paul Nolan was helping Balooga Bull rid himself of the pressers, Magic D' Oro was flying up on the outside under jockey Adolfo Morales. By the time the field turned for home Magic D' Oro was at Balooga Bull's throat latch and the duel was on. Balooga Bull on the inside, Magic D' Oro on the outside, the pair passed the eighth pole in tandem after five-eighths in 58.80.
Balooga Bull can fight with the best of them when he's on his game, but by the time the tandem reached mid stretch it was clear he wasn't going to be able to match his outside rival. Magic D' Oro started to edge away from Balooga Bull and drew out late to stop the timer in a very quick 1:10.60 for the six furlongs over a fast strip.
The final margin of victory for Magic D' Oro was 1 1/4-lengths over Balooga Bull. It was another 4 1/4-lengths back to C.C. Ride in third.
The fact that the top pair ran away from their rivals at the top of the stretch was impressive and the time was legitimately fast. While it would be easy to say that Balooga Bull got outrun by a better horse -- and Magic D' Oro does look like a very good horse -- we're not quite ready to crown a new king yet.
It was only Balooga Bull's second start of the season and he probably wasn't quite ready to go full bore yet against a fit winter-raced rival. The next time these two meet will tell us more.
Still, you have to give trainer Rob Atras credit for his preparation of Magic D' Oro. His horse, owned by Martin Yeroschak and Robert Mitchell, not only looked the part, he ran like it. And at the wire he still had a something left in the tank.
The Free Press was the first stakes win for the 4-year-old colt by Medaglia d'Oro-Jennie R. by Awesome Again and helped him improve his lifetime record to 4-0-1 from 10 starts for earnings of $77,508. And not only does his past record say he'll get a distance of ground, his pedigree backs it up. If Balooga Bull moves forward off the Free Press, we could have a real battle to look forward to this year!
On tap for tonight is the $30,000 La Verendrye Stakes for fillies and mares. The favorite is Cavaletta, who showed excellent determination to win her first local start here after racing primarily on turf in California and Arizona. Trainer Gary Danelson might have a runner on his hands with this one and he has done some excellent work with south of the border purchases in the past. Omar Walker is slated to ride against six rivals. The La Veryendrye goes as the sixth and final live race at the Downs Saturday night and the live card will be preceded by the Belmont Stakes and the Triple Crown bid of California Chrome. This is something you definitely don't want to miss.
Heavily favoured, California Chome is seeking to become the first Triple Crown winner since Affirmed in 1978, and only the 12th in history. He's in great form, having won six in a row, but the Belmont Stakes is 1 1/2-miles, further than any of the horses in the race have run before. California Chrome's pedigree says he won't get the distance, but of course it said that before he won the Kentucky Derby at 1 1/4-miles. He's already outrun the class and heart limitations of his pedigree, so why not the stamina weakness too. After all, it's only on paper.
Races are won on the track.
Next Post Time for Live Racing: 7 p.m. Saturday, June 7, 2014