Northfield, OH — The Battle of Lake Erie, the longest running stakes event to be conducted at MGM Northfield Park, has once again attracted a star-studded cast for its 2021 edition. The $200,000 event, which is carded as the 10th race on Saturday (June 5), features a competitive field of the sport’s best open pacers with a combined 287 victories.
This Is The Plan drew post three and has been named the 2-1 morning line favorite by MGM Northfield Park director of racing operations Dave Bianconi. He attracts national driving star Yannick Gingras and is conditioned by harness racing’s leading trainer, Ron Burke. This Is The Plan won the $514,000 Borgata Series Final at Yonkers on April 19 and is the top-earning horse in harness racing in 2021 with over $349,000 in purses. The 6-year-old has amassed a career bankroll of over $2.1 million and headlines the stacked field of nine – seven of whom enter the Battle off a win in their last start. This Is The Plan was second in his last outing in Sunday’s $100,000 Commodore Barry at Harrah’s Philadelphia.
Western Joe, the other entrant entering this event off a loss, finishing third in the $100,000 Commodore Barry, is the 7-2 second choice on the morning line. The East Coast stalwart drew the rail for trainer Christopher Choate, who listed North America’s and Northfield’s leading driver, Aaron Merriman. Western Joe has earned over $800,000 and is tied for the fastest mark in the race of 1:47.3.
Stars Align A drew post four and is the 4-1 third choice. Stars Align A is an Australian import who has two straight successes entering Saturday’s feature, including a 1:48 romp at The Meadowlands. Driver Joe Bongiorno is named to drive by his sister, Jennifer, who conditions the 8-year-old. The sibling combination teamed up to win the 2019 edition of the Battle with another Australian import, None Bettor A. That 2019 race is the most recent edition of this event due to a cancellation last year during the coronavirus pandemic.
Other top-contenders in the Battle are Indiana-sired standout Little Rocket Man, a winner of 23 of 37 lifetime starts; Open stalwart Hesa Kingslayer N, a winner of over $112,000 this year who enters off a 1:49.4 lifetime best; Ohio-sired campaigner Gold Digger King, who has been victorious in five of his past six starts in the Buckeye State; Century Farroh, champion of the $500,000 Breeders Crown for veteran pacers in 2020 and earner of over $1.2 million; local war horse Southwind Amazon, with 108 lifetime wins and nearly $1.2 million earned in his blue-collar career; and Catch The Fire, one of the sport’s top 3-year-olds in 2020 and champion of the $375,000 Adios at The Meadows.
Since its inception in 1986, the Battle of Lake Erie has drawn the sport’s best veteran pacers. Past Battle champions include racing greats Falcon Seelster, Jaguar Spur, Dorunrun Bluegrass, Cambest, Gallo Blue Chip, Maltese Artist, Foiled Again and Wiggle It Jiggleit.
The 2021 $200,000 Battle of Lake Erie field:
1. Western Joe (Aaron Merriman, Christopher Choate) 7-2
2. Little Rocket Man (John DeLong, Melissa Essig) 8-1
3. This Is The Plan (Yannick Gingras, Ron Burke) 2-1
4. Stars Align A (Joe Bongiorno, Jennifer Bongiorno) 4-1
5. Hesa Kingslayer N (Peter Wrenn, Michael Deters) 15-1
6. Gold Digger King (Tyler Smith, Scott Mogan) 12-1
7. Century Farroh (Ronnie Wrenn Jr., Dr. Ian Moore) 6-1
8. Southwind Amazon (Tony Hall, Paul Holzman) 20-1
9. Catch The Fire (Brett Miller, Todd Luther) 10-1
A power-packed undercard will feature four $50,000 divisions of rich Ohio Sires Stakes action for 3-year-old pacing fillies and 3-year-old trotting colts and geldings. A $10,000 guaranteed Pick-5 will commence in race six on the 15-race program, with the Battle of Lake Erie anchoring the sequence in race 10 at approximately 10 p.m. (Eastern). First race post time is 6 p.m.