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Northfield: Bolt The Duer captures Cleveland Classic in 1:51
By Jay Bergman
It’s not often when six horses go on a half-mile track that they produce a great race. But it did on Saturday night in the $130,000 Cleveland Classic at Northfield Park, where Bolt The Duer dramatically captured the event in a stunning 1:51 flat.
The six-horse field had some all-stars with Thinking Out Loud, the North America Cup winner and an earner of nearly $1.2 million in 2012, drawing the rail and being sent off as the 1-2 prohibitive favorite. Unfortunately driver Dave Miller couldn’t take advantage of the pole position at the start of the race as the son of Ponder gapped the gate as it picked up speed. That left the door open for Bolt The Duer and driver Mark MacDonald to jet away from post three and outsprint Pet Rock into the first turn.
Bolt The Duer enjoyed a brief lead but his driver was more than content to yield to second choice Pet Rock, a horse he’s met on numerous half-mile track stakes events this year. The quarter was a sensible :27 2/5 for this class and MacDonald’s strategy of getting a two-hole trip seemed to be sealed.
That was until Miller pulled Thinking Out Loud from the three-hole past the quarter and made an explosive move that got him the front shortly past the :54 4/5 half mile. Miller didn’t let the field catch their collective breath as he kept his foot on the pedal and Thinking Out Loud marched away from his rivals through a spirited third quarter of :27 2/5, reaching that marker in 1:22 1/5.
Heading into the final turn MacDonald knew he had to get moving and Bolt The Duer was crisp and fresh when called upon. Also by Ponder, he quickly advanced towards the leader and once in the stretch under an active whip began to close ground with a vengeance. Thinking Out Loud, a closer in most every race this year, suddenly began to weaken from his taxing journey on the front end. Miller allowed him to bear out and that provided enough space for Pet Rock to emerge as a threat. But that threat was only to Thinking Out Loud, as Bolt The Duer had momentum and the courage to finish the mile in a sparkling 1:51.
Despite his half-mile track prowess (a 1:51 2/5 victory in the Messenger at Yonkers) the public allowed Bolt The Duer to go off at odds of 4-1. Pet Rock finished second, with Thinking Out Loud fading to third.
“He just never stops coming. He’s been like that all year. Pete’s (trainer Foley) done a great job with him,” said winning driver Mark MacDonald in his post-race interview.
Foley confirmed as expected that Bolt The Duer would return next season.
“He’s a beautiful horse and you haven’t seen the best of him yet because he’s still growing and maturing,” said Foley.
MacDonald showed his appreciation to co-owner John Como Sr. who passed away on Wednesday.
“He really loved this horse,” said MacDonald, “I have to thank him for the faith he showed in me.”
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