05/30/2012 5:50PM

Yonkers: Bolt The Duer heads Art Rooney from rail

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Mark MacDonald will drive Bolt The Duer in the $306,204 Art Rooney on Saturday at Yonkers Raceway.

Driver Mark MacDonald made a bold move this past February. The top-flight, Ontario-based driver elected to move out of his comfort zone and try the Big Apple on for size.

With the limited support of a couple of trainers, MacDonald was initially slow to find his footing. Over the last three months, he has solidified his position among the top pilots at Yonkers Raceway on a nightly basis.

On Saturday night, MacDonald will be behind morning-line favorite Bolt The Duer in the first major test for 3-year-old pacers, the $306,204 Art Rooney at the Westchester County oval.

Bolt The Duer landed the rail among a field of six in the Rooney, and that had to put a smile on the driver’s face.

“I’m ecstatic,” MacDonald said.

MacDonald got the mount from trainer Peter Foley and owners All Star Racing (John Como Sr. and John Como Jr.) who were looking to garner a regular driver for their star sophomore. He first tested the son of Ponder’s mettle in a qualifier at Yonkers on April 13.

“They had only trained him a trip in 1:58 before entering him in the qualifier,” MacDonald said. “I was very happy when he qualified in 1:55 1/5 that day. He did it handily.”

Since that first day, MacDonald has stayed with Bolt The Duer every step of the way. That included a few other qualifiers and a victory in the Simpson at the Meadowlands in early May. That race proved rather eventful for the colt and MacDonald when they got trapped inside on the final turn.

“I wasn’t looking to give the colt a tough trip in his first start,” MacDonald said. “I really wasn’t that concerned if I got locked in, because it’s a long stretch and I knew if he got out he would respond.”

Bolt The Duer’s trip left second-choice Mel Mara a few lengths ahead of him in early stretch, but that margin evaporated quickly when Bolt The Duer shook loose and blew by late.

MacDonald found out something more about Bolt The Duer in the Simpson.

“He wants to go past horses,” MacDonald said. “He was well within himself.”

Bolt The Duer’s progress since the Simpson has been stunning. The colt qualified a mile in 1:50 1/5 at Pocono last Thursday in his final prep for the Rooney, and MacDonald spoke of the effort as a “good training mile.”

“He went out of there easy the first half, and I just let him finish up strongly,” MacDonald said.

When he says strongly, he meant a final quarter in an eye-catching :25 4/5.

While Bolt The Duer enters the Rooney in great shape, MacDonald has been doing his homework to become completely familiar with his competition. He looked over the five rivals and found a great deal of respect for second choice Hurrikane Kingcole, a 1:49 4/5 winner in a New Jersey Sire Stakes last Saturday at the Meadolwands. He also watched the first two races of Pet Rock at the Meadowlands and believes that colt has high-class potential.

“Major Bombay looked very sharp finishing,” MacDonald said.

That colt was a strong closing third in his stakes debut at Yonkers on May 21.

For Foley and All Star Racing, having MacDonald in the bike could be a blessing. The driver has been in some major races and been successful. Last year, he engineered an upset in the 3-year-old Breeders Crown colt final with Betterthancheddar. Prior to that, he gained fame guiding another Casie Coleman colt named Sportswriter to major victories, including the $1.5 million North America Cup in 2010.

MacDonald compared Bolt The Duer favorably to Sportswriter in their gate and manners on the track.

Bolt The Duer will not be able to give MacDonald another crack at the North America Cup, since the colt wasn’t made eligible. However, the driver is quite happy with the way the connections have handled the racing schedule of the colt thus far.

“They have done a great job of managing his racing,” MacDonald said. “I think that’s going to make a significant difference down the road.”

The complete field for the 22nd edition of the Rooney, race six on Yonkers’s 13-race Saturday card in post order is: Bolt The Duer (MacDonald) 7-5, Domethatagain (Jim Morrill Jr.) 12-1, Dynamic Youth (Andrew McCarthy) 10-1, Pet Rock (Brian Sears) 8-1, Hurrikane Kingcole (Tim Tetrick) 8-5, and Major Bombay (Jason Bartlett) 6-1.