Charlie May finds himself behind the eight ball in Saturday’s $200,000 Battle of Lake Erie for older pacers at MGM Northfield Park, but the five-year-old gelding is no stranger to overcoming disadvantageous spots at the northern Ohio half-mile oval.
In fact, he’s pretty much made a habit of it.
Charlie May and driver Brett Miller will begin the Battle from post eight, the outermost position on the starting gate and the worst spot, statistically, in terms of win percentage at Northfield (4.8 per cent).
Over the course of his career, though, Charlie May has raced six times at Northfield, posting four wins and two seconds. All four victories have come from posts that typically rate among the least favourable there — one from post eight (a division of the Ohio Sire Stakes in 2021), two from post seven (including the Carl Milstein Memorial in 2021), and one from post nine (the Myron Charna President’s Pace in 2022).
Charlie May also has shown proficiency on half-mile tracks in general, hitting the board in 14 of 16 lifetime races with eight triumphs. He has three sub-1:50 wins on a half, the most of any starter in this year’s Battle, and his 1:48.4 victory in the 2021 Milstein remains tied for the fastest mile ever by a three-year-old on a half.
“He’s had some rough goes of it, some bad luck in his career — he’s not been a horse that’s drawn the rail every time,” said trainer Steve Carter, who trains Charlie May for breeder/owner Don Tiger. “But he’s very consistent. When it’s race time, he’s ready. He’s like an old hunting dog, he knows what day it is to go hunting. He’s a good racehorse.”
Charlie May, a son of McArdle-Stipple Hanover, has won 24 of 51 career races, finished in the top three 16 additional times, and earned $1.57 million. He has two second-place efforts in his two starts this season, with the most recent a neck loss in the June 3 Open at Eldorado Scioto Downs.
“I do look for him to be sharper this start,” said driver Miller. “Last week, we got away kind of in a bad spot and I came first-over with him, but overall he raced great. I think he needed that start. I look for him to be really good Saturday, it’s just a shame we drew the eight-hole.”
Jimmy Freight finished second from post eight in last year’s Battle of Lake Erie. Ponder drew post eight in back-to-back editions of the Battle, 2005 and 2006, and finished second in both. The first of those runner-up performances came in a race won by Miller, who was driving Maltese Artist, and had to hold off the fast-closing Ponder.
“You never know what can happen,” said Miller, who has won the Battle of Lake Erie three times. “But this is such a good group of horses. When that gate folds, they’re all going to be leaving so fast.”
Regardless of the starting position, Miller will be expecting a good effort from Charlie May.
“He’s one of those horses that gives 110 per cent,” said Miller. “It feels like he would do whatever he could do to get past another horse. He’s just got heart and guts. He’s definitely special when he’s on his game.”
Ruthless Hanover, who won the Joe Auger Memorial in a world-record 1:46.3 at five-eighths-mile Harrah’s Philadelphia on May 28, is the 5-2 morning-line favourite in the Battle of Lake Erie. He will be making his first-ever start on a half-mile oval. Charlie May is 20-1 on the morning line.
Racing begins at 6 p.m. (EDT) at Northfield Park. For more about the Battle of Lake Erie and other highlights on Saturday’s card, click here.