Buckey Bullet defeats full-brother Midnight Mikey in the Michael F. Rowland Memorial Handicap at Thistledown.
Buckeye Bullet won the Michael F. Rowland Memorial Handicap on Monday at Thistledown for a fourth time, which is remarkable in its own right. Almost as remarkable was the level of family dominance displayed in the order of finish.
Finishing three-quarters of a length behind the 8-year-old Buckeye Bullet was Midnight Mikey, a 6-year-old full-brother to the winner.
Both halves of the exacta are gelded sons of Dark Kestrel, out of the winning Concerto mare Buckler, each racing as Ohio-born homebreds for Louis Ruberto Jr.’s Ruberto Racing Stable. Ruberto also trains both horses.
Buckeye Bullet led at every point of call in the six-furlong race for Ohio-breds, under jockey Erik Barbaran, while Midnight Mikey was second past every pole under Ricardo Feliciano. The two battled within a head of each other for the bulk of the race, and Buckeye Bullet briefly let his stablemate by, but he regained the advantage late and kicked on to prevail.
Dark Kestrel, an 18-year-old son of Stormy Atlantic, stands at Ruberto’s farm in Libson, Ohio. The stallion won once in two starts as a juvenile, taking his debut in an Ellis Park maiden special weight by 3 1/2 lengths.
He entered stud in 2005 as a research stallion for the University of Florida, residing at the school’s equine centers in Gainesville and Ocala.
While under the University of Florida banner, he sired runners of note including Stormofthecentury, who won the Grade 3 Turf Monster Handicap at Parx Racing under Ruberto’s tutelage. The stallion moved to Ohio in 2015, a year after Stormofthecentury’s graded stakes triumph.
The dam, Buckler, has had four foals to race, all sired by Dark Kestrel. In addition to the top two in the Rowland Memorial, she has also had stakes-placed Roses for Sharon and Kingofthebuckeye, who won two of five starts.
On her own accord, the Illinois-bred Buckler won 10 of 48 starts over the course of five years, racing primarily in the claiming ranks in Illinois, Florida, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia. She was also owned and trained by Ruberto, who bought the mare privately in 2009, and raced her for two more years. Buckler’s foals have earned a combined $770,929 on the racetrack.
The Rowland score brings Buckeye Bullet’s lifetime record to 11 wins from 24 starts, with earnings of $406,759. Monday’s race was the gelding’s fourth consecutive victory in the stakes event, after he won the previous renewals in 2017, 2018, and 2020.
In running second, Midnight Mikey improved his lifetime earnings to $296,376, with a record of seven wins in 28 starts. He finished second in the 2019 Rowland Memorial – the one that didn’t feature his brother – and he ran sixth to Buckeye Bullet in 2020.
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