by Frank Carulli
June 13, 2017
Matt Kakaley wore his thinking cap. All Bets Off wore his running shoes. Together, they provided the winning formula in Northfield Park's $200,000 Battle of Lake Erie earlier this month.
Kakaley did the driving, taking the classy and versatile 6-year-old off the pace in the field of eight. All Bets Off, the even-money favorite, took care of the rest, rallying into torrid pace and wearing down millionaire Luck Be Withyou en route to a 2-1/2-length victory in 1:49.2, the fastest every for 5-year-old and up pacers at the half-mile oval.
"I figured the race would rock and roll early," said Kakaley. "I thought I should get away mid-pack and cross my fingers. The trip worked out perfectly for us."
Luck Be Withyou (Aaron Merriman), the 9-to-5 second favorite, was gunned to a 5-length lead through a 26-second quarter mile and remained clear through a :52.4 half. As the lead began to dwindle, All Bets Off moved closer and launched a 3-wide bid toward the lead near the 3/4-mile mark. Luck Be Withyou put up a fight, but All Bets Off edged clear in mid stretch toward his 25th victory in 86 starts.
All Bets Off, owned by the partnership of Burke Racing Stable, Weaver Bruscemi LLC, Frank Baldachino and Panhellenic Stable, joined Wiggle It Jiggleit as the only other horse to win the track's two signature Grand Circuit events -- the Battle of Lake Erie and Carl Milstein Memorial.
But the $2.3 million earner has left perhaps his biggest mark on Kakaley. "All Bets Off is a special horse to me and has really helped further my career to a place I'm not sure it would be without him," he said.
All Bets Off wasn't the only Ron Burke-trained star to bask in the Northfield Park spotlight. Foiled Again, harness racing's richest horse and the only three-time Battle of Lake Erie winner, was honored by the track in a pre-race ceremony. The 13-year-old wonder horse was brought to the grandstand apron to greet fans and pose for selfies.
IN THE XPRESSLANE: Dr. J Hanover (Doug McNair, $32) paced the fastest mile in Canadian harness racing history when he won a division of the C$67,230 Graduate series in 1:46.4. Trained by Tony Alagna, he broke the record set by 2016 Horse of the Year Always B Miki by 3/5 of a second. ... Trainer Brian Brown and driver David Miller teammed for two victories in the C$50,000 elimination heats for this Saturday's C$1 million Pepsi North America Cup final at Mohawk. Downbytheseaside won in 1:50.4 and Fear the Dragon scored in 1:50, both as the odds-on favorite. Huntsville, no worse than second in any start, won the third division for driver Tim Tetrick in 1:49.1.