05/02/2012 5:51PM

Meadowlands: Bolt The Duer makes 3-year-old debut in Simpson

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Bolt The Duer wins the Kentucky Sire Stakes last year.

The harness racing stakes season begins in earnest on Saturday night at New Meadowlands for the three-year-old pacing class. New Jersey-owned Bolt The Duer, one of last year’s best under-the-radar two-year-olds, will be making his 3-year-old debut in the $46,364 Simpson Memorial (race 5).

Owned by All Star Racing (John Como Sr. & John Como Jr.) Bolt The Duer is the fourth and perhaps the best foal of Wonderbolt that the Comos have owned, and that list includes $1 million winner Shanghai Lil and half-millionaire Blue Claw.
With six wins in eight starts at two including a victory over Breeders Crown champion Sweet Lou, Bolt The Duer had a campaign that was cut short by design.

“The horse was growing a lot during his two-year-old season,” said trainer Peter Foley. “The owners consulted with Mike Lachance about racing the horse in the Breeders Crown and they thought it would be best to stop with him and wait until next year. The owners have always shown a lot of patience.”

This year Bolt The Duer has already qualified three times in preparation for a campaign that may be different than past top-ranking three-year-olds.

“The owner didn’t make him eligible to the ($1.5 million) North America Cup,” said Foley. But the owners did make the horse one of only nine eligible for the Art Rooney at Yonkers later this month.

“I only trained him in 1:58 over a mile track before qualifying him at Yonkers,” said Foley.

That’s why the trainer was somewhat shocked when the colt rolled around the half-mile oval in 1:55 1/5 with a final quarter in a stunning 27 flat on April 13.

“I had Mark MacDonald drive him in the qualifier and he told me afterwards to put him down wherever the horse races. I’m very happy with that because you don’t want to have to change drivers all the time,” said Foley.

MacDonald has plenty of big-race experience, most recently capturing last year’s Breeders Crown sophomore pace with Betterthancheddar at Woodbine.

Bolt The Duer is a son of Ponder, a $1.5 million winner on the racetrack, and MacDonald told Foley he sees plenty of similarities in the father and son. “Mark drove Ponder during his career and he told me that Bolt The Duer goes a lot like his sire,” said Foley.

Last week Bolt The Duer made his final qualifier before his parimutuel debut with an easy 1:52 mile at Pocono. “He’s definitely the best horse I’ve ever trained,” said Foley who did have Horse of the Year Gallo Blue Chip for a six-week period.

Foley also trained Bolt’s half-brother Blue Claw and half-sister Shanghai Lil, both Kentucky-sire champions “Shanghai Lil made $800,000 for me before she moved into Mark Ford’s barn,” noted Foley.

The love affair the owners have had with this particular family comes from a night at the Meadowlands in July of 2006 when Wonderbolt’s first foal Devilfish (by Cams Card Shark) paced his first three quarters of a mile in 1:20 3/5 before making a break. “John thought that horse was going to pace in 1:47 that night,” said Foley.

While Bolt The Duer won’t have the North America Cup, he’s eligible to the Meadowlands Pace in July and plenty of other sophomore stakes action. Many good horses have attempted the North America Cup-Meadowlands Pace sweep only to go down in defeat and sacrifice the second half of the racing season.

The Simpson is one of the highlights on the Meadowlands post-Kentucky Derby program with the $50,000 Graduate elimination for free for all horses following it on the card as race 6.

Defending Pacer of the Year Foiled Again will be looking to bounce back following last week’s second-place finish in the $455,000 Levy final at Yonkers. He landed post 9 sandwiched between early season sensation Golden Receiver (post 8) and last year’s Breeders Crown aged champion Bettor Sweet (post 10).

The Graduate field is quite impressive with Rockincam starting from the rail for driver David Miller. A winner in 1:50 1/5 two weeks ago at the Meadowlands, the five-year-old by Cambest scored gamely in 1:49 this past Saturday at Mohegan Sun Pocono. Alexie Mattosie seemed mired in a season-long slump until he uncorked a 1:49 3/5 crusher for trainer Nick Drennan against conditioned foes on April 21 at the Meadowlands. He’ll start from post 7 on Saturday.

The top eight finishers in the elimination will advance to the $200,000 estimated final on May 12 at the Meadowlands. Levy champion Atochia and Aracache Hanover got byes for the elimination and have advanced to the final.