07/04/2013 7:29AM

Assiniboia Downs: Balooga Bull and Pleasant Closing meet in Wheat City Handicap rubber match


Balooga Bull turned the tables on Pleasant Closing last time, but barely.

After dropping a neck decision to Pleasant Closing as the 1-20 choice when making his seasonal debut in the five-furlong prep for the Free Press, Balooga Bull held off his new archrival by a nose in the six-furlong Free Press Stakes.

On Saturday, Balooga Bull and Pleasant Closing will have their rubber match at Assiniboia Downs, with a supporting cast of three set for the $30,000 Wheat City Handicap at one mile.

Balooga Bull looked invincible last summer in registering multi-length victories in the 1 1/8-mile Manitoba Derby, a 1 1/16-mile Gold Cup prep allowance, and the 1 1/8-mile Gold Cup Stakes.

And, while he certainly looks more vulnerable this year, Balooga Bull has come back to breeze four furlongs in a bullet 46.20 seconds since his June 16 Free Press score and may be ready for a top performance.

Balooga Bull, owned by Paul Brandt and trained by Ardell Saylor, will break from post 4 under regular rider Paul Nolan and is the co-highweight with Pleasant Closing at 124 pounds.

Pleasant Closing was trounced by Balooga Bull in both the Manitoba Derby and Gold Cup, but he did hand that one his only defeat of 2012 in the 1 1/16-mile Harry Jeffrey Stakes. Trained and co-owned by Murray Duncan, Pleasant Colony campaigned at Hawthorne this winter and will break from post 3 with Tyrone Nelson up.

Ran the Man tried to go with Balooga Bull early in the Free Press, and while he was unsuccessful in that endeavor he held on to finish third, beaten 2 1/4 lengths. Trained by Jim Meyaard, who has been displaying his winning touch since coming to Winnipeg this year, Ran the Man drew post 2, and Chris Husbands again gets the call.

Cherokee’s Goal, fourth in the Free Press, and Gotatigerbythetail, who closed strongly to win going away in a $15,000 claimer at 7 1/2 furlongs in is his previous outing, will be looking to pick up the pieces if a speed duel develops.