Little Rocket Man upsets in thrilling $200,000 Battle of Lake Erie

Northfield, OH — The old saying goes, “third time’s the charm,” and for Little Rocket Man, the third trip to the $200,000 Battle of Lake Erie was a winning one, as he scored an impressive upset victory on Saturday (June 8) at MGM Northfield Park.

Little Rocket Man, dismissed at 20-1, came storming down the center of the racetrack to win in upset fashion by a half-length in 1:52.4. USTA/Mark Hall photo.

Carbine (Austin Hanners) was hustled off the wings, clearing rivals entering the first turn with Bythemissal (Chris Page) left parked by Linedrive Hanover (Aaron Merriman). As the field entered the clubhouse turn Desperate Man (Matt Kakaley) jumped off stride, completely changing the dynamic of the race.

Entering the backstretch, Bythemissal powered past Carbine to take over before a soft :27 first quarter. As the field entered the stretch the first time, Little Rocket Man (Jeremy Smith) looked like he wanted to come to the outside, but bided his time, waiting on Coaches Corner (Jason Bartlett) to step off the pylons to do some of the heavy lifting.

With the outer flow developing, Merriman tipped Linedrive Hanover to the outside first over to take a shot at the two-time Ohio Horse of the Year Bythemissal, who continued to cruise on the front end past the half in :55.2.

Entering the backstretch, Bythemissal continued to fend off all challengers, but at three-quarters in 1:23, the race was on, with Page looking over his shoulder to a host of pursuers.

As they entered the far turn, Coaches Corner tipped off cover three-wide, bringing Little Rocket Man, who got the perfect trip. Pocket sitting Carbine was stacked up around the far turn behind a tiring Bythemissal, with Little Rocket Man roaring four-wide turning for home.

“That four-wide move around the last turn is very difficult,” said jubilant winning trainer Ken Rucker. “He’s got a heart of gold; he wants to win every race he is in.”

Through the stretch, Bythemissal gave way, with Little Rocket Man, dismissed at 20-1, storming down the center of the racetrack to win in upset fashion by a half-length in 1:52.4. Coaches Corner was second and Desperate Man third.

Owned by Russell Beeman and Jack Freeman, the 8-year-old son of Rockin Image is trained by Ken Rucker. It was the 59th victory for the gelding and brought his earnings to $1,272,799.

“Everything I anticipated to happen in the race didn’t happen,” said winning driver Jeremy Smith. “My horse just overcame it; at the half, I thought if I could be third or fourth, it would be great, but going into the last turn, my confidence swelled. He never lets me down.”

Why Not Now was pulled up before three-quarters; following up with trainer Todd Luther after the race, he said, “He’s okay, the vet ran some fluids through him, and we will take him home for further examination.”

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