Columbus, MN — The Sunday evening (June 9) card at Running Aces had plenty to offer in the way of excitement and nostalgia. The 10-race program featured horses extending their current top form, and it had former champions and top horses returning to glory for the first time this year.
Firedrake is one of the top pacers at Running Aces over the past several seasons, with many memorable accomplishments, including starting out with nine 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 as 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 most of his career success.
The stage was set on Sunday as Firedrake was ready to show his Minnesota fans that he was back. 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-old Dragon Again gelding and take on a field of nine from post four.
The public took notice by 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 Firedrake and 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.
The $16,000 Minnesota-Sired 3-year-old trotters were in the spotlight on Sunday as well, with a field of eight 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. The winning owner is Cathy Dessert and the winning trainer is Nick Roland.
Banker Volo ($6.40, Nick Roland) continued his domination of the Minnesota trotting scene as he scored his third consecutive win in the top $15,000 Open Handicap on Sunday. 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 2-1/2 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 p.m. (CDT).