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WILL ‘DUKE’ RULE TROT ELIM?

By Ken Weingartner, USTA — Duke Of Walner will head to Friday’s lone MGM Yonkers Trot elimination looking for his first win of the season, and trainer/co-owner Lucas Wallin hopes the trip to MGM Yonkers Raceway coupled with several equipment changes can help the colt get the job done.

The Yonkers Trot is the first jewel in the Trotting Triple Crown, followed by the Hambletonian in August and Kentucky Futurity in October. Eight 3-year-old male trotters will meet in the Yonkers Trot elimination, which goes for a purse of $25,000. The top-five finishers from the elim will join bye recipients Security Protected, Situationship, and Sir Pinocchio in the $300,000 guaranteed final on June 28 at The Hilltop.

Duke Of Walner enters the elimination off a second-place finish behind Amazing Catch in a conditioned race on June 10 at Mohegan Pennsylvania’s Pocono Downs, where he was beaten by a neck in 1:53.4. Duke Of Walner went to the lead and set fractions of :28, :56.3, and 1:25.2 before being passed in deep stretch.

Amazing Catch’s win time is the eighth-fastest of the season by a sophomore male trotter on a five-eighths-mile track. The colt, trained and driven by Ake Svanstedt, was a Grand Circuit winner last year who finished second in the Peter Haughton Memorial and third in the William Wellwood Memorial.

“I thought I was going to give (Duke Of Walner) a good confidence booster the last time and then Ake came with that horse, so that didn’t work out,” Wallin said with a laugh. “I was hoping for a win when he got to the lead with those fractions, but he didn’t race bad. He was fighting all the way to the end. Ake’s horse is a very nice horse. It’s no shame to get beat by him.”

Prior to his most recent start, Duke Of Walner had raced only on the mile ovals at The Meadowlands and Red Mile. Last year, he won a preliminary leg of the Kentucky Sire Stakes and finished third in the KYSS Championship Series final.

Although Duke Of Walner has never raced on a half-mile track, such as Yonkers, Wallin is hopeful the colt will respond well to the smaller oval.

“I think he’s going to get around Yonkers good because we train on a half-mile track,” Wallin said. “My feeling is that he’s going to be better the smaller the tracks are, to be honest with you. We’ll have to wait and see if I’m right.

“We’re going to do a couple of changes to try to get him a little better. He’s been racing with an open bridle and stay-in cotton (in his ears) for every start this year. We’re going to switch it up a little bit and change the bridle and put pop-outs on him for the first time. We’re going to train with it to see if he’s OK with it, but I think those are a couple changes that are going to help at the end of the race.”

Duke Of Walner is a son of Walner out of the Love You-sired mare Nashville Lindy. He was purchased under the name Grand Ole Lindy for $90,000 at the 2022 Lexington Selected Yearling Sale and is owned by Berg Bros. Racing, Joe Sbrocco, Daniel Plouffe, and the conglomerate LucasWallinJAFRacingMyFab.

The colt is a half-brother to Grand Circuit winner Shake It Off Lindy. His family also includes millionaires Lookout Victory and Possess The Magic as well as O’Brien Award winner Musical Rhythm and stallion Swan For All.

For his career, Duke Of Walner has hit the board in eight of 13 races and earned a check 12 times. He has banked $136,250.

“He’s probably been training better than he’s raced so far, but he’s been racing OK,” Wallin said. “He’s been racing against tough horses all his life. But he looks super good, and I think he’s going to get better and better. That’s been my plan, at least.”

Duke Of Walner will start Friday’s Yonkers Trot elimination from post six with Matt Kakaley in the sulky. He is part of a betting entry with Nancy Takter-trained Bargain, a Grand Circuit winner last year (defeating eventual O’Brien Award recipient T C I) and runner-up in the New York Sire Stakes championship. The entry is 7-2 on the morning line.

“Kakaley knows Yonkers well and he drove (Duke Of Walner) in his last start, so he knows the horse,” Wallin said. “Even if he’s a pretty nice horse to drive, it’s always good for them to know what they’re sitting behind.”

In addition to the Yonkers Trot, Duke Of Walner is staked to the Stanley Dancer Memorial, Hambletonian, Earl Beal Jr. Memorial, Canadian Trotting Classic, Kentucky Futurity, and Breeders Crown.

“We have some interesting races for him this year,” Wallin said, “and this is one of them.”

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