Sportswriter made headlines once again for Casie Coleman and Mark MacDonald as he captured the 27th edition of the $1.5 million Pepsi North America Cup on Saturday at Mohawk Racetrack
Kyle Major (Jody Jamieson) gunned to the lead from Post 9 with Sportswriter and Mark MacDonald driving up and clearing past the :26.2 opening quarter. The son of Artsplace-Precious Beauty, who finished a close third in his 1:48.4 elimination last week, raced past the half in :53.4 before Fred And Ginger (Dave Palone) applied first over pressure. Sportswriter turned back that rival as he hit three-quarters in 1:20.4 – the fastest third quarter clocking in the Cup’s history – opening up three lengths on the field and charged home to win in a career-best 1:48.3. We Will See (Brett Miller), 34-1 on the board, was the runner-up finishing three-quarters of a length behind after he slipped up the rail and took it to Sportswriter late in the stretch with 98-1 Piece Of The Rock (Paul MacDonell) finishing third.
Sportswriter paid $8.50 to win as the 3-1 third choice.
“Well, I think there was a little divine intervention to be honest with you because pretty much everything had to go wrong for this to go right for me and it did,” said MacDonald, choking up, as he jumped off the bike. “I got lucky, I’m a really lucky guy. It’s a big win for me, it’s pretty emotional."
MacDonald also teamed up with Coleman to win the $666,000 Fan Hanover earlier with Western Silk, making the duo the first trainer-driver combination in harness racing to capture both the Fan Hanover and the Pepsi North America Cup.
“All my big wins have pretty much been with her [Casie Coleman] and Ontario-sired horses," continued MacDonald. "I just got really lucky to get the drive back on this horse. Casie does a great job. We have a great relationship and she’s been texting me all week telling me how good they were and we talked almost everyday. She did an amazing job and what can you say? She won both big races and I’m thrilled."
Sportswriter, last year’s Metro Pace champion, overcame quarters cracks, which he endured early this season, to earn his first win in four 2010 starts and boost his earnings to $770,000 for owners Steve Calhoun of Chatham, the West Wins Stable of Cambridge, ON and Southwind Farm of Pennington, New Jersey. It is the first Cup win for trainer Coleman, driver MacDonald and sire Artsplace.
“His issues were my own stupidity,” said Coleman, who finished second in last year’s Cup with another son of Artsplace, Art Colony. “I decided to put aluminum shoes on him after his first qualifier thinking that was going to help him. He blew one quarter crack on the left front and one on the right front. I needed to do all that before I decided to put his steel shoes back on. Thanks to Jeff Boyd, our blacksmith, he did an unbelievable job. Michel Turgeon, he’s his caretaker, and Harry Wilson, his assistant trainer, they did an unbelievable job. The Mohawk Spa here, he’s been in there everyday, twice a day on most days and I owe this one a lot to that Mohawk Spa. I suggest some of you guys get in there because it definitely worked on this horse.”
Bred by James Avritt of Kentucky, Sportswriter has won eight of 12 career starts and has never finished worse than fourth. With the win the colt also surpassed the million-dollar mark in earnings and now sports a bankroll of $1,645,411.
“This is the pinnacle of success for us, for sure," added part-owner Steve Calhoun. I can’t imagine anything better than this. I can’t believe my knees are actually holding up. This is the greatest thing in harness racing for us.”
Trot Magazine selected Sportswriter as their 2010 NA Cup Spring Book favourite.
Click here for recaps and replays of the action-packed Pepsi North America Cup undercard, which included the $387,000 Goodtimes Trot, the $666,000 Fan Hanover Stakes, the $557,000 Elegantimage Stakes and consolations.
To view Saturday’s results, click here.