The late blooming gelding is campaigned by Northfield Park’s leading driver/trainer combo.
by Jay Wolf
Northfield Park’s leading trainer, Brian Loney, was quick to accept the invitation to race in Saturday’s $200,000 Battle of Lake Erie from the track’s executive vice president of racing and simulcasting Dave Bianconi. Especially when Loney realized his star pacer, Bully Pulpit, would be eligible for an open post draw.
Based on his recent sharp efforts, Bianconi forced the 6-year-old to start from the outside post each of his last two open handicap events.
“I am not sure he’ll know what to do with the inside post,” joked the 41-year old trainer.
The gelded son of Well Said–Cupcakesnwhipcream started his current three-race win streak on April 29 with a 1:50.1 score over a sloppy Northfield surface.
The following week, Bianconi saw enough to give Bully Pulpit the outside post #8 in the open handicap. In what could be described as an old fashioned brawl, Bully Pulpit and Southwind Amazon, who also earned a coveted Battle invite, went toe-to-toe the final quarter of a mile in an eye-popping 1:49.4. The winning time equaled his lifetime best and was a national season’s record.
Last week, again on an off surface, he scored a 1 ½ length victory in 1:51.4 from the outside post #7.
“He has been racing really good, really sharp,” said Loney.
Bully Pulpit missed his scheduled May 20 start when he was scratched “sick.”
“It was nothing serious, he was just a little sick. He was probably 70 per cent, but I wasn’t willing to chance it,” said Loney.
Bully Pulpit is owned by Cleveland native and current Chicago resident, Bradley Schwartz and will be piloted by North America’s leading driver, Aaron Merriman. The pair will leave from post #2 and is 12-1 on the morning line.
“(A Battle of Lake Erie win) would be huge for Aaron and me,” said Loney. “We have raced together for a long time now and we have always done well.
“Aaron drives a lot of good horses, but this is my first Grand Circuit chance. It would be really special to win it with him. We are going to be gunning for it.”
In 13 seasonal starts, all at the Route 8 oval, Bully Pulpit has seven wins and has finished off the board in just one start. With his $65,970 in 2019, his career earnings now sit at $291,259.
As a yearling, Bully Pulpit was purchased by the Ohio-based quartet of Country Club Acres, William J. Robinson, Joe Sbrocco and Richard M. Lombardo at the 2014 Harrisburg Sale for $25,000.
After his 3-year-old season, Bully Pulpit was once again at Harrisburg, this time as hip #1561 in the 2016 Mixed Sale where he went for $32,000.
Bully Pulpit has been getting better with age – 32 on the board finishes in 67 starts at four and five.
“He was good when he first started (this February) when I bought him off Keith Pippi,” said Loney. He was on a break and I brought him back. He qualified well and the last four or five weeks he has been great.”
Billy Pulpit will face some sharp competition in the 34th edition of the “War on the Shore.”
The Wall (Post 3 – Brett Miller) comes into the Battle off an upset win in the $116,180 Camluck Classic. Jimmy Freight (Post 7 – Jason Barlett) has a chance to go over the $1 million mark in career earnings with a first or second place finish. The 2017 Little Brown Jug champ, Filibuster Hanover (Post 8 – Chris Page) rounds out the deep field.
On the Battle of Lake Erie undercard will be a pair of $50,000 legs of the Ohio Sire Stakes for sophomore filly trotters. Trainer Chris Beaver conditions six of the 14 entries, including the two morning line favorites. Post time for the 16 race card will be 6 p.m.
$200,000 Battle of Lake Erie Invitational (Race 12)
Estimated Post Time 10:15 PM (Eastern)
PP Horse – Driver – Trainer – Morning Line Odds
1 Rodeo Rock – Eric Goodell – Robert Cleary – 3-1
2 Bully Pulpit – Aaron Merriman – C. Brian Loney – 12-1
3 The Wall – Brett Miller – Nick Surick – 9/2
4 Always A Prince – Trace Tetrick – Tyler George – 7/2
5 Southwind Amazon – Ronnie Wrenn, Jr. – Paul Holzman – 15-1
6 None Better A – Joe Bongiorno – Jennifer Bongiorno – 6-1
7 Jimmy Freight – Jason Bartlett – Andrew Harris – 4-1
8 Filibuster Hanover – Chris Page – Ron Burke – 10-1