In three recent important races, Bolt The Duer left from the rail and had the lead late, only to be nailed at the wire. In Saturday’s $500,000 Delvin Miller Adios Final at The Meadows Racetrack and Casino, Bolt The Duer and driver Mark MacDonald left from the rail once more, but this time, with a different strategy.
They powered to the two hole, sat behind an amazing, unprecedented three-quarters timed in 1:19.2 thrown down by A Rocknroll Dance, brushed through the lane and won the 46th “Pace for the Orchids” in 1:47.4, fastest mile ever on a five-eighths mile track, regardless of age. A Rocknroll Dance, game to the wire, saved second, 1-1/2 lengths back, while Breakin The Law rallied for show.
Yannick Gingras, who pushed A Rocknroll Dance to the lead from post six, the outside slot in the compact field, indicated that he never envisioned fractions that swift. “I had him a little too fired up maybe, and once he got to the front, he was rolling along,” Gingras said. “He went an unbelievable mile.”
That appeared to leave the leader vulnerable to the first-over bid of Sweet Lou, the 6-5 favorite who was undefeated in 10 previous starts at The Meadows, his home track. But when Rocknroll Hanover refused to tire, it spelled the end for Sweet Lou, who finished fourth, as well as Bettor’s Edge and Thinking Out Loud, who were following Sweet Lou’s faltering cover.
Only Bolt The Duer, at 11-1, was left to challenge A Rocknroll Dance. With that change in strategy following narrow losses in the Art Rooney Final at Yonkers Raceway, the Max Hempt Final at Pocono Downs and an Adios elimination, the son of Ponder–Wonderbolt had plenty in the tank. “I was hoping Yannick would take me where I wanted to go,” MacDonald said. “I was pretty sure he would. Sweet Lou might have cleared him, but I got lucky — he kept going.
“He’s really only been nipped at the wire, but the trip was different today. I was on a helmet instead of on the front. I’d been floating him off the rail before and then moving him. Today I decided to leave hard as I could and sit in. It was a different mindset.” All Star Racing, Inc.’s Bolt The Duer, the 2011 Kentucky Sires Stakes final winner, began his record-setting day with a leisurely walk followed by a light snooze, according to trainer Peter Foley.
“He’s a very laid back horse,” Foley said. “When you warm him up, you have to chirp to him to make him go, and even then, he only goes a little bit. “Mark punched out there as hard as he could. We had no choice, and Mark did a helluva job. I knew that first quarter would be 25 and change. When you think there’s never been a mile that fast on a five-eighths mile track in the history of harness racing it’s pretty incredible.”
Foley plans to turn Bolt The Duer out for several weeks before sending him to Kentucky to defend his championship. For trainer Ron Burke, driver Dave Palone and Sweet Lou’s ownership group, the defeat extended a frustrating campaign for a horse that was harness racing’s best at age two but has failed his major tests this year.
“That’s the worst trip you want at The Meadows,” Burke said. “We’ve seen a thousand times that first up from the three-eighths pole is just not going to work going into those fractions. The way it shook out, I knew we were in trouble. I was glad to salvage third and fourth. “It is disappointing. This is the race we really wanted to win. It’s starting to look like this year is becoming a train wreck. We have to either re-evaluate how good we think he is or turn it around.
Fractions for the record mile were :25.1, :52.4, 1:19.2 and 1:47.4 . . . With the victory, Bolt The Duer now boasts nine wins in 16 career starts and a bankroll of $649,901 . . . There will be no more siblings to Bolt the Duer as Wonderbolt died in foal last year . . . Dapper Dude, the 1-5 favorite, won the $50,000 Adios Consolation for John Campbell and trainer Bob McIntosh, who owns the son of The Panderosa–Dress To Suggest with Al McIntosh Holdings. (Evan Pattak, The Meadows)