Balooga Bull brought his "A" game for the Wheat City Stakes, Jet Again did the same in the Harry Jeffrey Stakes, and Paul Nolan won half of the eight races in front of a large appreciative crowd on Wednesday night at the Downs.
Balooga Bull had lost two in a row to new arch rival Magic D' Oro heading into the $30,000 Wheat City Stakes on Wednesday, but he was also just starting to get fit after a winter spent romping in the snow. Finally ready to roll at a flat mile, the multiple champion jumped out to a clear lead in the Wheat City while Magic D' Oro was being jostled and bumped early, but it didn't take long for the latter to catch up.
After a quarter in 24.40 Balooga Bull was joined on the outside by Magic D' Oro and the duo raced as a team down the backstretch and into the final turn through a half in 48.40 and a quick six furlongs in 1:11.80. Jockey Paul Nolan asked Balooga Bull for some gas in late turn and the reigning champ caught Magic D' Oro by surprise, using his quick turn of foot to open a 2 1/2-length lead into the stretch.
Magic D' Oro was nowhere near as done as many thought he was at that point in the race, and he gave jockey Adolfo Morales everything he had in the long drive to the wire. The problem was, Balooga Bull did the same for Nolan. At the wire it was Balooga Bull by three-quarters of a length. The final time for the mile was the quickest we've seen here in a long time, 1:37.60, and it was the third time in as many starts that these two rivals had run very fast for this neighbourhood. Balooga Bull paid $4.90 to win as the second choice.
Magic D' Oro carried four more pounds than Balooga Bull in the Wheat City and he was also bumped early. How much difference each factor made is difficult to determine, but it appears we're going to see a few more match races from these two stars.
Trained by Ardell Sayler for Paul Brandt, Balooga Bull increased his lifetime earnings to just shy of $300,000 with the victory. The 5-year-old bay gelding by Flashy Bull-Proud Crusader by Crusader Sword also improved his lifetime record to 14-3-1 from 19 starts, all at Assiniboia Downs.
Manitoba-bred Jet Again moved way up in class to face open company in the $30,000 Harry Jeffrey Stakes for 3-year-olds in the race prior to the Wheat City Stakes, and gave the fans a show of heart they're not likely to forget come Manitoba Derby Day, Monday, August 4.
Stretching out to 1 1/16-miles after defeating restricted company going six furlongs in the Frank Arnason Stakes, Jet Again was facing Golden Boy Stakes winner Northern Contract and dual Canterbury Park/Gulfstream Park allowance winner Edison among his five rivals.
Both Northern Contract and Edison had run the distance of the Harry Jeffrey this year. Additionally, Edison was a $950,000 yearling who was purchased by his new owners Bob Butz, Rick Running Rabbit and Fouad El Kardy specifically for the $200,000 Canadian Derby, after finishing third in a $77,000 allowance race at Belmont Park.
Northern Contract opened a short clear lead early in the race and set solid fractions of 23.20, 48.80 and 1:13.80 with Jet Again and Megatron Ruler right behind him and Edison stalking from just back and outside. Jet Again and Megatron Ruler turned up the pressure after a half but by the time the trio reached late turn Megatron Ruler was all done.
Jockey Chris Husbands asked Jet Again to engage Northern Contract turning into the stretch while at the same time Edison was launching his bid three-wide under Rico Walcott. Jet Again and Edison dueled into the stretch and quickly left Northern Contract behind.
Jet Again went stride for stride with his more heralded rival to the sixteenth pole before giving way grudgingly to lose by only three-quarters of a length. It was a further 5 3/4-lengths back to Northern Contract in third. The final time for the 1 1/16-miles was 1:46.40.
Trained by Robertino Diordoro, Edison paid $3.80 to win as the favourite. The 3-year-old colt by Bernardini-Heart of Grace by Exploit improved his record to 3-0-1 from five starts with the first stakes victory of his short career, and increased his lifetime earnings to $71,186 USD.
Edison did what he had to do to win, and it appears that he will be heading to the Canadian Derby for his Alberta owners, which would make Jet Again the locally based favourite for the $75,000 Manitoba Derby on August 4.
Conditioned by Jim Meyaard for the ownership team of Barry Arnason, Cam Ziprick and Charles Fouillard, Jet Again is starting to look like a serious horse. The 3-year-old chestnut gelding by Going Commando-High Pioneer by Pioneering now sports a lifetime record of 3-3-1 from eight starts for earnings of $48,895. He ran a huge race against a much more seasoned (and expensive) rival in the Harry Jeffrey Stakes, and if he continues to move forward off that race, he will be very tough to beat in the Manitoba Derby
Paul Nolan stole the show on Wednesday night with four wins and took a 36-34 lead over Adolfo Morales in the jockey standings, while trainer Ardell Sayler scored a hat trick and widened even further on the pack in his quest for a record 12th local training title. Sayler now has 46 wins, 30 more than current runner-up Rob Atras, at the halfway point in the meeting.
The 15% Pick-4 paid only $204.10 with Balooga Bull and Edison rounding out the final two legs, but there were a few lucrative payoffs on the evening. The early $2 Daily Double paid $188.90 and the $2 Superfectas in races one and three paid $1,535.80 and 2,229.00. The third race payoff was a bit of a surprise, considering less-than-even-money favourite Solar Time won the race.
Good horses. Good payoffs. Good times.
Next Post Time for Live Racing: 7 p.m. Friday, July 18, 2014