Ohio-bred 2021 Breeders Crown champion Ocean Rock will look to return to stakes winning form and knock off Jimmy Freight, harness racing's top ranked horse, on Saturday (June 11) in the $200,000 Battle of Lake Erie at MGM Northfield Park.
It's the 36th edition of Northfield’s most storied stakes event, whose past winners include Falcon Seelster, Riyadh, Gallo Blue Chip and Wiggle It Jiggleit, among other pacing greats.
Ocean Rock, who has been installed as the 3-1 morning line favourite by MGM Northfield Park director of racing Dave Bianconi, rebounded from his fifth-place finish in the $150,000 Camluck Classic in May to win the $30,000 Open at Eldorado Scioto Downs in 1:49.2 on June 4.
Husband-and-wife duo Dan and Christi Noble teamed up to win the $600,000 Breeders Crown Open at The Meadowlands with Ocean Rock last fall.
“He came out of the race at Scioto super,” said Christi Noble, the horse's trainer. “I was happy I could get a second start in him going into the Battle.”
Nicholas Beach, the fastest horse of the season by virtue of a 1:47 triumph at The Meadowlands on May 21, will make his first trip to northeast Ohio this weekend.
“In the Open at The Meadowlands, he was the best I ever remember seeing him,” said trainer Jenn Bongiorno. “The Commodore (May 29 at Harrah’s Philadelphia) was a little tough, the front was pretty dead, but we’re back to battle again. The draw gives Joe (Bongiorno, driver) some options.”
This season, Nicholas Beach has earned $81,875 for owners John Lengacher and Michael Cote, and trainer Jennifer Bongiorno. Brother Joe Bongiorno will handle the lines.
Canadian invader Jimmy Freight will look to avenge his 2019 Battle of Lake Erie runner-up finish on Saturday. The No. 1 ranked horse in the Hambletonian/Breeders Crown poll will leave from Post 8 for new conditioner Cory Kreiser, who will make his first career Grand Circuit start as a trainer.
Following a two-year layoff, Jimmy Freight returned to the races following a brief retirement in 2019. After a pair of off-the-board efforts, he returned to the winners circle against conditioned company at Woodbine Mohawk Park in January. Since then, Jimmy Freight has won nine of his last 11 starts for owner Adriano Sorella.
Jimmy Freight is fresh off a two-length victory in the $150,000 Camluck Classic at The Raceway at Western Fair District, defeating Tattoo Artist, who he will meet again on Saturday night.
Currently pulling double duty racing while breeding, the talented stallion has made more than $1.7 million. He enters riding a six-race win streak for owner Sorella.
"He likes Northfield Park; he can race both ways. He will need a trip, but we're looking forward to Saturday night," said Sorella. "Breeding and racing have been somewhat of a challenge, but he has handled it well."
Other top entrants in this year's War on the Shore are Ohio-bred Sectionline Bigry, MGM Borgata pacing champion Funatthebeach N (Jordan Stratton), 2021 Battle of Lake Erie champion This Is The Plan (Ronnie Wrenn Jr.), Camluck Classic runner-up Tattoo Artist (Mark MacDonald), MGM Borgata Pacing Series runner-up Leonidas A (Austin Siegelman) and $1.3-million earner Catch The Fire (Trevor Smith).
Veteran Ohio-sired mares featured in inaugural race
Along with multiple Ohio Sire Stakes divisions, MGM Northfield Park has added a new feature to the Battle of Lake Erie undercard. The inaugural $35,000 MGM Buckeye Distaff is a by-invitation-only event for top veteran Ohio-sired pacing mares.
Local favourite Adorabella has drawn Post 2 for trainer Sam Schillaci, who celebrated his 60th birthday on Monday. Owned by Vincent Costa Jr., the homebred daughter of Pet Rock has put together quite the resume, with 30 victories in 94 starts and $254,376 in the bank.
Adorabella started her career on the fair circuit before taking her talent out east to race at Monticello. Following an almost two-year stint on the East Coast, her connections shipped her back to Northfield Park in December 2020. She quickly took to the "Flying Turns" and became a weekly headliner in the Filly and Mare Open, a race she has won several times.
Adorabella will have a stacked field of veteran mares ready to take her on, including Ellagator, a recent $64,500 purchase by Thunder Racing Stable Inc., which won in a near record-setting mile last Saturday against open company.
Also set to compete in the $35,000 MGM Distaff are East Coast invader McMarkle Sparkle, Slymars Dragon, Snobbytown, Stay Gold, Rock Me Cristal and co-track record holder Smothastenesewisky.
A wagering menu will be on tap for horseplayers, featuring a trio of guaranteed pools. The Battle of Lake Erie will host a pair of guaranteed wagers, including the $15,000 Late Pick-4 and an added $15,000 20-cent Super Hi-5.
The MGM Buckeye Distaff also features a $10,000 Super Hi-5 guaranteed pool.
All three bets feature a low 14 per cent takeout and are hosted in conjunction with the USTA Strategic Wagering Program.
MGM Northfield Park will kick off racing at 6 p.m. and will also host Charity Night presented by the Ohio Harness Horseman's Association. Charity Night will feature 18 different charities, each having the opportunity to race for a donation to their respective group.