04/20/2015 10:40AM

Bergman: Bolt The Duer hoping 2015 is HIS year

Derick Giwner
Trainer Peter Foley warming up Bolt The Duer before the 2012 Little Brown Jug.

One door closes and another one opens.

Or in the world of harness racing, one ‘Duer’ opens.

For the better part of the last four years, Bolt The Duer has had to compete and contend with one of the greatest pacing classes of the last 20 years. The son of Ponder appeared on the doorstep of greatness so many times, but at each juncture there was a horse as fast, as tough, and as durable to keep him from reaching the pinnacle of success.

In 2014 it was Sweet Lou that finally graduated and took control of the aged pacing ranks. The two were equals in many ways as three and four-year-olds but at the age of five Sweet Lou had the advantage. While trainer Peter Foley looked for answers to what had happened to Bolt The Duer in 2014, a look at history may be more revealing than any series of veterinarian exams.

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In six of Bolt The Duer’s first seven competitive races in 2014 he faced Sweet Lou and in each one of those races he would chase him hopelessly. Though the five-year-old did win a race in between, it was an overnight without Sweet Lou.

“At the end of last year we tried to find out if there was anything wrong with him but the tests revealed nothing,” said Foley about last year’s strange season.

Bolt The Duer won the Adios and the Messenger during a sensational three-year-old season in 2012. His victory in the Adios came at the expense of hometown favorite Sweet Lou as well as A Rocknroll Dance and North America Cup winner Thinking Out Loud. Bolt The Duer pushed an opening quarter of 25 1/5 and not only lived to tell about it but won handily in 1:47 4/5.

In 2013 his class had to meet with the best aged horses in North America and while the wins didn’t come quite as often, Bolt The Duer’s keen speed was on display. Perhaps no horse will ever accomplish what he did over a two week span in August of that year. First on August 24, Bolt The Duer captured the Gerrity Memorial over the Saratoga half-mile track in a record-shattering 1:49 mile. As was often the case, Bolt The Duer had to deal with multiple Ron Burke-trained horses and on this night defeated Clear Vision and Foiled Again.

A week later in the trials for the Canadian Pacing Derby, he left Sweet Lou and Atochia (again both Burke trainees) in the dust with a 1:48 1/5 blowout at Mohawk.

Bolt The Duer was disappointing in the Canadian Pacing Derby final and didn’t regain a semblance of his edge until a surprising (101-1) third-place finish from post 10 in the TVG FFA final at the Meadowlands in late November.

In 2012-13 Bolt The Duer earned over $1.5 million. But last year he earned slightly more than $100K.

So it really wasn’t a surprise to hear trainer Pete Foley silently cheering from the sidelines as Bolt The Duer preps for his 2015 debut, likely this Saturday at Yonkers. “It looks like the Burke horses are starting to get some wear and tear,” said Foley, well aware of just how difficult it was to race just one horse in the FFA ranks against the stable of stars.

“He qualified very well and seems ready. We’ve paid him into the big ones,” said Foley, hoping the absence of Sweet Lou and perhaps the demise of some of his old pals will pave the way for a return to glory for Bolt The Duer.

This past Thursday, Bolt The Duer scored a 1:51 3/5 qualifying mile at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono. It was his second qualifying victory. Foley hopes the six-year-old version of Bolt The Duer will be more like the horse he was at two through four years of age. He’s always been a solid half-mile track horse going back to his three-year-old season where he captured the Messenger (1:51 2/5) coming out of the pocket to defeat Pet Rock. That mile avenged an earlier defeat in the Art Rooney at Yonkers where Pet Rock scored in 1:51 flat coming out of the pocket.

Whether those big miles are behind Bolt The Duer remains to be seen. When at his best there are few horses with the equivalent early speed or staying power. Should he come back well, Foley sees the Van Rose (May 2) at Pocono as a likely first stakes encounter.

Foley has qualified some others for action and hopes that Parklane Eagle can at least fill the roll of a small-track stakes horse this season. The son of Somebeachsomewhere makes his seasonal debut on Tuesday at Yonkers and the trainer is hopeful to build on a decent two-year-old campaign.

“His best quality is that he can leave the gate really quickly,” said Foley. “We have him staked on the half-mile track and we’re hopeful his quickness will give us a chance.”

Foley is always looking for the next top horse and he believes he has a couple of nice two-year-old colts in training. Nox Vegas Bluechip is an Art Major colt from Casino Miss that cost $80,000 at last year’s Harrisburg Sale. John Como Jr.’s All Star Racing owns the juvenile. Luke’s Rocketman was purchased for $75,000 at the same Harrisburg Sale by owner Shirley Le Vin. He’s a son of Well Said from a half-sister to Dial Or Nodial.

The Como’s have had great success with Bolt The Duer and his immediate family that includes the $1 million-winning mare Shanghai Lil. Last fall they purchased High Fashion Model for $200,000 at Harrisburg. Foley was training the Western Terror lass from a full sister to Shanghai Lil. “She was training down really well, but got a little sore and we’re going to make her into a three-year-old,” said Foley.

Shanghai Lil’s first foal, a filly by American Ideal named Ideal Classic, is a yearling this year for Como’s All Star Racing.

But for now it’s time to open the door on a new season for the stable’s star and hope he’s ready to ‘Bolt’ into action.