Updated on 08/29/2013 9:25AM

Canadian Pacing Derby: Bolt The Duer has found his comfort zone on the front-end

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Derick Giwner
Third in earnings for older horses this year, Bolt The Duer would vault to the head of the class with a win in the $651k Canadian Pacing Derby on Saturday at Mohawk.

Who would have thought that Bolt The Duer’s penchant for racing off the lead was something done by design. The likely favorite for Saturday’s $651,000 Canadian Pacing Derby at Mohawk has done something in the last two weeks he hasn’t done all year. The fact that Bolt The Duer won on the front end in consecutive weeks is something even trainer Pete Foley is surprised about.

“To tell you the truth, when Sweet Lou pulled on him on the final turn last week I was just hoping to finish fifth,” said Foley, somewhat in disbelief that his four-year-old by Ponder had the resilience to hold sway despite cutting the pace.

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Foley’s concern about the extremely fast four-year-old was based on some hard facts from a year ago. Bolt The Duer appeared to be if not the best, one of the best three-year-olds in a stellar crop last year. He walked into the Art Rooney at Yonkers last year appearing to be a cinch to capture the half-mile track event. Driver Mark MacDonald took Bolt The Duer down the road, which is a surefire strategy at Yonkers, but Pet Rock overtook him before the wire.

A few weeks after that Bolt The Duer also crumbled on the lead in the Max Hempt at Mohegan Sun at Pocono. Those images would be forever etched in Foley’s mind. So this year, under orders from Foley, driver Mark MacDonald has with purpose decided to not cut the pace despite situations where it appeared to be the best strategy.

Two weeks ago Bolt The Duer captured the Gerrity Memorial at Saratoga in 1:49, an amazing record-setting mile over the half-mile track, but one that could have taken something out of him.

“When you get down to the three quarters in 1:21 on a half-mile track and lose the field it can be a good strategy, but sometimes it can bite you,” said Foley. In the case of the Gerrity, MacDonald had to work feverishly in the sulky to keep Bolt The Duer motivated.

Then last week the race broke in a manner that would not be conducive to a pocket trip. “He got stung pretty good before getting the front and Mark didn’t really have any choice but to cut the pace,” said Foley.

Unlike the bitter memories of a year ago, this time Bolt The Duer was fresh and fit and clearly that must have surprised driver Yannick Gingras behind Sweet Lou. What looked to be a smart move attacking a horse that appeared to lack heart when pressed on the lead, proved otherwise, as Bolt The Duer drew off in a 1:48 1/5 effort.

“He usually bounces back the next day after his races,” said Foley, “However, on Sunday after the race he was relaxing.”

Still the trainer didn’t seem that concerned with his horse and instead started looking outward at the toll this year’s aged pacers have taken on one another. His move to keep Bolt The Duer off the front end had helped the horse earn nearly $500,000 to date and of more importance, be fresh as the summer turns to fall and key races remain to decide the division.

“I have to think that some of those hard races have had an effect on Pet Rock,” said Foley about one of the divisional leaders. Pet Rock hasn’t seemed as sharp since his victory in the Haughton at the Meadowlands in July.

Bolt The Duer selected post two for Saturday’s tenth race on a stakes-filled 12-race Mohawk program with a first post of 7:25 pm.

“I’m glad we got to pick inside,” said Foley, hoping that MacDonald will not have to use the horse very hard to secure a desired trip.

The Canadian Pacing Derby, Canada’s oldest standardbred stakes event, shapes up as a great race considering the recent emergence of A Rocknroll Dance. The four-year-old is a vintage example of the recovery power of the standardbred horse. Early in the season he didn’t appear to be a factor in this division but trainer Jim Mulinix has gotten him back on track with four wins in his last six outings, including a 1:47 3/5 lifetime best in last week’s $40,000 trial. Tim Tetrick will again be in the bike from post two.

Trainer Ron Burke has four of the ten in the final, with Sweet Lou landing the rail for Yannick Gingras. Burke also sends out Foiled Again, the richest pacer of all time from post five with Ron Pierce. Ironically Burke’s best chance may come in the form of Clear Vision, second to Bolt The Duer in the Gerrity and then a strong closing second to A Rocknroll Dance in last week’s elimination heat. Clear Vision drew post four for Brett Miller.

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