With the scheduled date of the 2022 Pepsi North America Cup just over two months away, Trot Insider will profile some of the race's top contenders as horses ready to compete for one of Canadian harness racing's biggest prizes.
Hammering Hank continues the countdown, coming in at #7 in TROT Magazine's 2022 Pepsi North America Cup Spring Book assessed odds of 12-1.
Brett Pelling is no stranger to developing top sophomore pacers, and his shot at a fourth North America Cup title comes courtesy speedy stakes winner Hammering Hank. A $60,000 yearling purchase, Hammering Hank is owned by his trainer along with 3 Brothers Stables of New York, N.Y. and Rojan Stables of Wilmington, Del. The son of Captaintreacherous - History Repeats amassed a solid 8-1-1 summary from 11 seasonal starts with his biggest score of the season coming in the 2021 Kindergarten Final to account for a sizable chunk of his $283,218 bankroll.
Trot Insider caught up with Pelling for an update on the three-year-old that looks to be a part of a big year for the accomplished trainer, who returns in 2022 with U.S. Horse of the Year Test Of Faith and divisional champion Allywag Hanover as well as top trotting mare When Dovescry and pacing filly Treacherous Dragon.
"I actually thought he was the fastest two-year-old out there last year," stated Pelling of Hammering Hank. "He obviously wasn't the best, but his speed was remarkable for a young horse."
Where did he winter and where are you at with him now?
"I actually took him home. I have eight acres and four nice big fields, and he experienced the winter...which was OK. He's not a very big horse and he's still carrying a little bit of 'winter wool' but he's doing well.
"He's not where I want him to be yet. We're still five weeks away; I know the North America Cup comes up quick but he's definitely on schedule for it workwise. I'd like to see him do a little better but I think it's coming."
Have you noticed any changes from last year to this year?
"Not really. He was very quirky when he was younger. We actually castrated him because he sort of lived his life petrified. If someone would walk into the stall, he would throw himself against the wall. Once he was castrated, he was a beautiful horse. He'll put his head on your shoulder now. He's turned into a lovely horse.
"He was actually a ridgling so we knew we'd have a decision to make anyway."
What will his early schedule look like leading up to the Pepsi North America Cup?
"He won't go to The Meadows on May 8, but I think there's a race at Pocono the following week and I'll take him there...I think there's about 11 days between the PA All-Stars and the elims for the North America Cup.
"I'll kind of make sure that the first time he really ships away from home is to Canada. [North America Cup night] is a big night for me; I view my stable right now as 'the big five' (Allywag Hanover, Hammering Hank, Test Of Faith, Treacherous Dragon and When Dovescry) and all five will be racing June 18 at Mohawk. So for me that's a big mark on the calendar that I've been looking at already for a couple months."
What's his biggest asset / strength?
"I remember training some some pretty nice horses and sometimes I would just look across and he was always there. He's got beautiful speed, high speed, like I say, he had a bit of fear in him as well. If I had a reservation about him, I think it was that his biggest quality was that he was scared of everything. So now that he's a bit older, he's got an open bridle, no overcheck, head's between his legs and he's very calm. It will be interesting to see how he is as a nice, calm horse. Generally, that's how you want them to be but that's not how he was."
At what point last year did you think this horse was North America Cup material?
"Once we got to the around Breeders Crown time, and even the finals of the Kindergarten. I think the final of the Kindergarten was really his coming-out party. He did dominate that night, pretty under wraps in 1:51.
"We can race these young horses, kick off with them and they go through the classes and everything, or they're in different divisions but like you said before, until they come together you just don't know. And I just felt when he was in with those horses, and being around the other good two-year-olds as well, you can say to yourself 'we're OK here' and that was when we said he was legitimate."
As someone who has won the North America Cup before, how does it feel to have another colt with a legitimate shot to take home that elusive hardware?
"It's pretty exciting because I own part of him as well. That's even a bigger deal. He wasn't an expensive horse — $60,000 is still real money — but there's a lot of colts that cost a lot more money that won't be there. We're pretty proud of him, he's made close to $300,000 already...we're really happy with him and wherever he goes it's a bonus.
"And you know, I try to get these horses ready when I find one that's good enough...my whole thing is to have a really good three-year-old year. In his two-year-old year, I don't think he was overraced, he was raced the right way."