Day At The Track

Firedrake and Twilight Tinker back on top

03:59 AM 11 Jun 2019 NZST
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Firedrake and Nick Roland
Firedrake and Nick Roland
Dee Leftwich Photo

The Sunday evening (June 9) harness racing card at Running Aces had plenty to offer in the way of excitement and nostalgia. The ten race program featured horses doubling and even tripling up and extending their current top form, and it had former champions and top horses returning to glory for the first time this year. It had upset winners and it had spot-on favorites, it was a great night at the races.

Firedrake is one of the top pacers at Running Aces over the past several seasons, with many memorable accomplishments - including starting out with 9 wins in his first 10 starts of 2017, then going on to win the inaugural Dan Patch FFA Pace that same year, and coming back in the 2018 Dan Patch to almost repeat with a second place finish beaten only a neck.

His season in 2019 has been a little different - he dealt with some obstacles over the winter and for a while he didn't look like himself - at least not on paper. He visited some new tracks and perhaps didn't care for them as much as Running Aces, where he has seen the most of his career success. Things began to improve as Firedrake began to pick up some decent finishes in Ohio and later in Indiana, but still the winner's circle had been elusive. Firedrake made his way back to Minnesota for the start of the season and he was right here where he belonged on opening night (May 18) and he turned in a decent effort in the feature race (3rd). He was back in the feature one week later and finished a respectable fourth, and then he was seventh after that.

Firedrake was back home at his favorite track and he was doing ok, he was looking good, but there was still something missing - his trainer Nick Roland had not driven him in a race in nearly a year. That was about to change. Firedrake was in to go in a $9,000 conditioned pace, getting some well deserved class relief and Nick Roland would reunite with his 6 year Dragon Again gelding and take on a field of nine from post four.

The stage was set and Firedrake was ready to show his Minnesota fans that he was back. The public took notice - sending him off as the 4-5 favorite. He was fastest off the gate but was immediately challenged by Whatchyastarinat (Don Harmon) who took the lead with Roland opting for the pocket. The early fractions were tepid for the top-level pacers and the challengers came calling after the half mile. Elusive Image (Tony Huffman) was pressuring the leader with Five Card Draw (Mooney Svendsen) charging from second-over. Firedrake had lots of pace but was blocked. Roland was patient and waited for the homestretch - they got the room they needed and the dynamic duo immediately took off with a furious and impressive rally to the wire. The competition was left reeling as Firedrake drew off by two lengths in 1:54.2 for the fastest mile of the night.

Firedrake ($3.80) is back, and with Nick Roland in the bike the two of them proved once again that they are a force to be reckoned with. Five Card Draw was up for second, while Whatchyastarinat held for third. Firedrake is owned by Set The Pace Racing, LLC.

The $16,000 Minnesota-Sired 3 year old trotters were in the spotlight on Sunday as well, with a field of 8 going to battle in the opener. Major Al-Mar (Rick Magee) was favored from post one while MD Magic (Nick Roland) was a close second choice in the wagering. Dewey's Machine (Steve Wiseman) set the tempo and led for most of the contest, but there was a nice battle as the field rounded for home.

Twilight Tinker ($18.20, Brian Detgen) was trotting fastest of all on the far outside after angling from third on the pylons, and she passed her rivals with an impressive stretch drive to stay in front of Major Al-Mar and MD Magic at the wire in a career best 1:59.4. Twilight Tinker was the 2 year old filly Champion trotter in 2018, and the victory on Sunday was her first win of the year. She had shown maturity and increased abilities in her first few starts of 2019, picking up a second and a third in three starts and holding her own against the male trotters as well. The winning owner is Cathy Dessert and the winning trainer is Nick Roland.

Twilight Tinker and Brian Detgen

Banker Volo ($6.40, Nick Roland) continues his domination of the Minnesota trotting scene - a reign that has spanned the last four years continues as he scored his third consecutive win in the top $15,000 Open Handicap on Sunday. At age ten the always impressive Stallion shows no signs of letting up. Banker Volo made easy work of this week's seven horse field with an early charge to the front and a never-in-doubt mile of 1:56.4 to check in 2½ lengths ahead at the wire. Banker Volo fans got a very generous price of more than 2-1 this week. Bringoverthemoney (Tim Maier) was second best and My Uncle Cuz (Don Harmon) was home third. The winning owner is Lucas Roland and the winning trainer is Jenni King.

Live Racing returns to Running Aces on Tuesday (June 11) with a couple of nice carryovers - $6,123.93 for the Pick-5, and $4,582.36 for the Hi-5. Post time on Tuesday is 7:00 pm (CDT)

By Darin Gagne, for Running Aces Casino, Hotel & Racetrack

 

 

 

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