09/12/2013 1:50PM

Assiniboia Downs: Balooga Bull, Pleasant Closing face off again in Gold Cup


Balooga Bull appears to be back in business at Assiniboia Downs.

After winning just one of his first three starts this year as the odds-on choice on each occasion, Balooga Bull was freshened and returned from an absence of almost eight weeks to score impressively over 7 1/2 furlongs Aug. 30.

On Saturday, Balooga Bull will be looking to duplicate his success in the $50,000 Gold Cup, a 1 1/8-mile race in which he scored by 12 lengths last year to conclude a strong 3-year-old campaign.

Paul Nolan retains the mount on Balooga Bull, who is trained by Ardell Sayler and will break from post 8 while carrying 124 pounds under the Gold Cup’s weight-for-age conditions.

Balooga Bull’s only loss in six starts last year came in the 1 1/16-mile Harry Jeffrey, in which he finished third behind Pleasant Closing, who also is in the Gold Cup lineup.

Pleasant Closing has split his four meetings with Balooga Bull this year, scoring a neck victory over his nemesis in the 5 1/2-furlong Free Press prep only to see the tables turned when he was beaten a nose in the stakes itself.

Trainer and co-owner Murray Duncan next watched Pleasant Closing win the one-mile Wheat City, with Balooga Bull a well-beaten fourth. Pleasant Closing then finished a distant fourth in the 1 1/16-mile R.J. Speers, which was won by Gold Cup entrant Ran the Man, before finishing second to Balooga Bull in the Aug. 30 allowance race.

Adrian Ramos returns aboard Pleasant Closing, who drew post 7 in the field of nine.

Ran the Man, conditioned by Jim Meyaard, took the 1 1/16-mile R.J. Speers by 7 3/4 lengths in front-running fashion and pressed Balooga Bull’s pace on Aug. 30 before faltering to finish third.

Manitoba Derby winner Assembly Hall will be looking to follow Balooga Bull’s lead in the Gold Cup. Based in Minnesota with trainer Bryan Porter, Assembly Hall gets in with 119 pounds.

Jon Q and It’s All Here, third and fourth, respective ly, in the Manitoba Derby, also will try their elders here.

Rounding out the field will be Flexiplus, the R.J. Speers runner-up; Gotatigerbythetail, second in the Wheat City three starts back; and C. C. Ride, winner of the restricted Agassiz Stakes last month.