If it were a fight they would have stopped it 46.20 seconds into the first round.
Balooga Bull had his rivals reeling early in the 64th running of the $75,000 Manitoba Lotteries Derby after a sizzling first quarter in 22.20 seconds. He then delivered the knockout punch on the final turn, opening up and drawing away to win by a stunning 9 ¼-lengths over favoured Alberta invader Up Jumps a Monster on a sunny Monday afternoon in Manitoba.
Horses just don’t run the first quarter in 22.20 in mile-and-an-eighth races and draw off to win, at least not on any regular basis. Graded stakes horses don’t even do that. But that’s just what Balooga Bull did on Derby Day. His opposition never saw it coming.
Balooga Bull opened up early under jockey Paul Nolan and smoked the first quarter without any urging. Vancouver invader The Gov, a legitimate speed horse who had been on the lead in route stakes at Hastings Park in his previous two starts, pressed from a few lengths back in second with jockey Adolfo Morales probably thinking Balooga Bull was going way too fast and he’d catch him later. He got the first part right.
But Balooga Bull escaped with a leisurely second quarter of 24 seconds and after a half in 46.20 he had a 2 ½-length lead while coasting and slowing the pace down even further. He ran the third quarter in 25.40 to get the six furlongs in 1:11.60 and went into the final turn with a 3 ½-length lead over Cahill Chrome, who had advanced from the outside as The Gov was fading.
Any of the other jockeys with notions of sugar plum fairies in their heads quickly had them dispelled at this point, when Nolan asked Balooga Bull for run and he exploded. By the time he got to the top of the stretch he was 10 lengths in front and after a mile in 1:38.20 he simply coasted home.
At the wire it was Balooga Bull by 9 ¼-lengths over Up Jumps a Monster, who had dropped back between horses into the final turn before mounting an outside rally to grab second money by 3 ½-lengths over Pleasant Closing. So Shiny finished fourth, 1 ½-lengths behind Pleasant Closing after making a place bid in early stretch.
The second, third and fourth place finishers all ran sensible races, but they were never going to catch a talent like Balooga Bull after letting him have his way on the front end. Sorry, we have to qualify that. Balooga Bull earned this one. He laid it down early and he laid it down late.
No less than five of his rivals including Clear the Runway, The Gov, Up Jumps a Monster, Pleasant Closing and Cahill Chrome, had shown legitimate speed going a route against good horses, but the The Gov was the only horse who got remotely close to Balooga Bull early and he paid the price late, fading to finish seventh. Cahill Chrome, who was close throughout in the California Derby earlier this year going 1 1/16-miles at Golden Gate, had a good trip and advanced into second on the turn for home, but Balooga Bull sprinted away.
The final time for the 1 1/8-miles over the fast strip was 1:51.80. Balooga Bull paid $14.30, $4.60, $3.70 across the board, topping an Exactor of $46.00 and a Quinella of $11.50. The $2 Triactor paid $190.40 and the $2 Superfecta paid $1,199.
A 3-year-old bay gelding by Stephen Foster Handicap (G1) winner Flashy Bull out of the mare Proud Crusader by Crusader Sword, Balooga Bull gave owner Paul Brandt, trainer Ardell Sayler and jockey Paul Nolan their first Manitoba Lotteries Derby win and improved his lifetime record to 7-0-1 from eight starts for earnings of $147,108. He also left some wondering what had happened in his previous race, his first try at a route and his first career loss in the Harry Jeffrey Stakes on July 14. Both Sayler and Nolan took a lot of flak over that defeat.
“That stung,” said Nolan, who also gallops Balooga Bull for Sayler. “Some of things people were saying. That hurt. It’s easy to criticize, but it’s a lot harder when you’re in the actual race trying to win. He’s a very smart, confident horse and he likes to do things his own way. We just had to get our minds working together. Last time I tried to make him relax. Today I just let him do his thing.”
“He ran his race today,” said a vindicated Sayler. “Paul just let him do what he wanted to do. I’d like to thank my whole crew, including groom Richard Spencer, for doing a great job.”
Some will say the other riders messed up in the Derby. They didn’t. Others will say the track was favouring speed. It wasn’t. More will say Balooga Bull got lucky as the lone frontrunner. They’d be wrong. He’ll knock you out if you run with him early.
And if you don’t.