Ruthless Hanover Headlines Battle Of Lake Erie

Ruthless Hanover winning at Harrah's Philadelphia
Published: June 6, 2023 04:36 pm EDT

Fresh off his world record 1:46.3 performance in the $100,000 Joe Auger Memorial at Harrah’s Philadelphia, Ruthless Hanover will look to extend his win streak to three on Saturday, June 10 in the $200,000 Battle of Lake Erie at MGM Northfield Park.

The 2023 edition is one of the strongest fields in recent history of the invitational race.

“Top to bottom, this might be the deepest field in Battle of Lake Erie history,” said Dave Bianconi, Director of Racing Operations at MGM Northfield Park. “There was tremendous interest in the race from the connections of almost all of the sport’s best veteran pacers. I had to turn away a number of  horses that were worthy of an invitation this year.”

Installed as the 5-2 morning line favourite in the 37th renewal of Northfield’s most storied stakes event, Ruthless Hanover has reeled off two straight victories since missing by a head in the Pace Baby Pace Invitational at Miami Valley Gaming.

“He wasn’t at his peak at Miami Valley, but I was still very happy with his performance," said trainer Tom Cancelliere. "He gives his all in every start.”

The Battle of Lake Erie will be the first start over a half-mile track for Ruthless Hanover, something Cancelliere says shouldn’t be an issue.

“He trains over a five-eighths and really likes the mile track. I think he will handle the half just fine.”

Regular reinsman George Napolitano Jr. will make his first-ever trip to Northfield Park to drive Ruthless Hanover.

Matt Kakaley, the winningest driver in Battle of Lake Erie history with four victories, three of which came with Foiled Again, harness racing’s leading money earner, will try to continue his dominance in Northfield’s signature event with Backstreet Shadow.

Trained by Travis Alexander, the son of Shadow Play will make his first start since the $511,000 MGM Borgata Pacing Series final, where he started from post eight and couldn’t advance on the leaders.

“He was a little sick in the Borgata final,” said Alexander. “He has had a great week. The little break helped him a lot. Matt [Kakaley] was very happy with him in the qualifier.”

Alexander said that Backstreet Shadow, who won in his last trip over the “Flying Turns” in November, likes to have things his way.

“He’s like a kid. We let him do what he wants. He is razor sharp going into Saturday.”

Also competing in Saturday’s event is $100,000 Pace Baby Pace Invitational winner Little Rocket Man. He is the second choice after drawing post two. He has reeled off five victories in a row and seven wins in eight starts for trainer Ken Rucker, including victories at Harrah’s Hoosier Park, Miami Valley Gaming and Scioto Downs.

Owned by Russell E. Beeman and Jack Freeman, Little Rocket Man is one of several Midwest competitors looking to capture this year’s Battle. He has earned $834,965 with 45 career victories.

Rounding out this year’s edition will be Borgata Pacing Series runner-up Leonidas A, Australian import Lochinvar Art A, Camluck Classic champion Covered Bridge, Kentucky Sire Stakes champion I Did It Myway, $1.5 million earner Charlie May, and the fastest horse on a half-mile track This Is The Plan.  

Along with two Ohio Sires Stakes divisions, Northfield Park added a new feature to the Battle of Lake Erie undercard in 2022, with the addition of the MGM Buckeye Distaff. The $50,000 event is an invitational for top veteran Ohio-sired pacing mares.

Lukewarm morning line favourite McMarkle Sparkle enters the $50,000 event off a third-place finish at The Meadowlands against Open company. An earner of just over $600,000, the daughter of McArdle raced her way through much of the Ohio Sires Stakes early in her career before tackling some of the top mares in Ohio.  

Following a stint in Ohio, she was sent to Yonkers, where she quickly became one of the top mares in her division. McMarkle Sparkle is owned by Laura Baker and trained by Per Engblom.

McMarkle Sparkle will have a stacked field of veteran mares ready to take them on, including local Adorabella, Hoosier Park invader Love Me Hill, Ocean Music, Dragons Lucky Lady, Violets Rainbow, Cold Hearted Gypsy, Smothastenesewisky and Shesonebadmomma.

A great wagering menu will be on tap for horseplayers on Saturday night. The 11th race Battle of Lake Erie will have feature a $25,000 estimated $1 Pick-4, and superfecta wagering will be added. The 13th race, the MGM Buckeye Distaff, also features a $25,000 estimated Super Hi-5 pool.  

Northfield will kick racing off at 6 p.m. and feature Charity Night presented by the Ohio Harness Horseman’s Association. Charity Night will feature nine different charities, each having the opportunity to race for a donation to their respective group. 

(With files from Northfield Park)



I'm surprised that Borgata winner Hellabalou isn't entered in The Battle of Lake Erie. He's the leading money-winner in North America, and he obviously excels on half-mile tracks, since The Borgata is held at Yonkers.