06/14/2013 12:24PM

Assiniboia Downs: Balooga Bull out to turn tables in Free Press

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Balooga Bull, Manitoba’s horse of the year for 2012, failed to hold off an onrushing Pleasant Closing when he made his seasonal debut in the 5 1/2-furlong allowance prep for the Free Press Stakes.

On Sunday, Balooga Bull will be looking to redeem himself in the $30,000 Free Press, a six-furlong race for 3-year-olds and up.

Balooga Bull, owned by Paul Brandt and trained by Ardell Sayler, was the 1-20 favorite in the May 29 prep.

But the Kentucky-bred 4-year-old gelding never really was able to shake Pleasant Closing, who sat a length or so off the favorite’s pace before rallying up the rail to score by a neck.

Pleasant Closing had seen action three times at Hawthorne over the winter and capitalized on that fitness edge at odds of 9-2. He also was shortening up from 1 1/16 miles, however, and the extra yardage of the Free Press will be to his liking.

So, while the odds spread will not be as pronounced this time around, Balooga Bull will again rule as the choice and can notch career win No. 10 while making his 12th lifetime start.

Balooga Bull’s record includes victories in last year’s Manitoba Derby, the 1 1/8-mile race that is the showpiece of the Assiniboia meeting, and 1 1/8-mile Gold Cup, the track’s top race for 3-year-olds and up.

His record at six furlongs is 3 for 3, with wins in the Golden Boy at 3 and the Winnipeg Futurity and Osiris as a 2-year-old.

Paul Nolan retains the mount on Balooga Bull, who will break from post 5.

Pleasant Closing will start from the outside post in the field of six under the returning Tyrone Nelson.

Bred in Kentucky and trained by his co-owner Murray Duncan, Pleasant Closing also was the architect of Balooga Bull’s only defeat last year as he captured the 1 1/16-mile Harry Jeffrey, with the eventual champion faltering to finish third.

The supporting cast for the Free Press, in post order, will be Seven Tuff, Grandpa George, Ran the Man, and Cherokee’s Goal.