None Bettor A and Rodeo Rock are hoping to make strong impressions on the Grand Circuit this year, and the two older male pacers will begin their journey together by making seasonal debuts in Saturday’s (Feb. 29) preferred at the Meadowlands Racetrack.
None Bettor A captured last year’s Battle of Lake Erie as part of a campaign that saw him win 12 of 18 races and $375,970. Rodeo Rock, who won eight of his 21 starts and $349,650, was victorious in two preliminary rounds of the George Morton Levy Memorial Pacing Series and finished second in the final. He also was second in the Commodore Barry Invitational.
The two seven-year-old geldings are expected to head to the MGM Borgata Pacing Series (formerly the Levy) at Yonkers Raceway when it begins March 14. The six-week series will conclude on April 18.
None Bettor A won a qualifier in 1:51.2 on February 22 at the Meadowlands. He finished second in a qualifier on February 15.
“He’ll race this week and then get next week off before jumping into the (Borgata) series,” trainer Andrew Harris said. “Hopefully he can earn himself a week off sometime in the series, but if not, this way he can go four or five races in a row if need be. It’s tough. Things have to go right from the get-go.
“He qualified great last week. It looks like they’re ready to go (1:) 48 this week, so I’m sure he’ll get stretched out and whatever happens it will be good for moving him forward.”
Harris began training None Bettor A this past August. After joining his stable, the gelding won the Great Northeast Open Series final and finished second in the Bobby Quillen Memorial.
The 2019 season was the Australian-bred horse’s first year racing in North America. He is owned by Joe P Racing and Oldford Racing.
“He’s just one of the coolest horses I have in the barn,” Harris said. “He doesn’t do anything wrong. He was real anxious in his first qualifier, but he’d been away (from the track) for a little while. Last week he was back to his normal self.
“He’s got good gate speed, but on a personal level, I just really like his demeanour in the barn and how he handles himself.”
None Bettor A, then in the stable of trainer Jennifer Bongiorno, won the Battle of Lake Erie at half-mile Northfield Park in a world-record equalling 1:49.
“I think he’s probably one of the better half-mile horses we’ll see this year,” Harris said. “But we’ve staked him to everything, so he’s going to get his opportunities on the big track, too.”
Rodeo Rock enters Saturday’s preferred off a fourth-place finish in last week’s qualifier won by None Bettor A. He was timed in 1:51.4.
“He’s been very good (coming back),” trainer Robert Cleary said. “We were very happy with the way he qualified last week. I thought it was pretty good, really.”
Rodeo Rock was sidelined because of health issues in midseason last year. He was away from the races for nearly two months but ended his campaign with four wins and two seconds in his last eight starts.
“I was super happy with the way he raced in the Levy and the early stakes,” said Cleary, who trains Rodeo Rock for owner Royal Wire Products Inc. “Then he ran into some health issues and we had to give him some time off, but he came back strong at the end of the year.”
Cleary plans to race Rodeo Rock on the Grand Circuit but will keep the horse close to his base in New Jersey rather than send him on extended trips.
“He’s a bad shipper, so I only staked him to the local tracks,” Cleary said. “But he’s as good on a small track as he is on a big track, you can race him anywhere and any way. He’s going to have opportunities to make money.
“He can carry his speed a long way, which is probably one of his biggest attributes. He’s just a real good racehorse. He shows up every week.”
Racing begins at 6:55 p.m. (EST) Saturday at the Meadowlands.