"We drew inside them all so we drew inside the speed and it puts us in the race. If you draw outside the speed, it makes it that much more difficult to get yourself positioned early."
It's been 13 Ben Wallace years since trainer Ben Wallace last had a horse in the North America Cup, when Camotion finished third to Gallo Blue Chip in the 2000 Cup Final. That year, Camotion's connections didn't have the option of picking their post after winning an elim and ultimately drew the nine hole. This year, the post position gods were seemingly smiling on Wallace and owner Brad Grant with an inside post for Apprentice Hanover (PP1, 20-1).
"Post position is so important in this race given that the three [winners] get to pick their spot," Wallace told Trot Insider at the NA Cup draw. "We conceivably could get ourselves positioned with the least amount of effort - that's not suggesting that it's going to be easy but it would be the least amount of effort."
With Jody Jamieson at the controls, Apprentice Hanover sat the pocket behind Vegas Vacation for the majority of his mile and kicked home in :26.3 to finish third in his first sophomore test against Grand Circuit competition. That schedule -- making his first two starts of the year against Pennsylvania Sire Stakes colts -- was mapped out by Wallace for a good reason.
"Where he fit condition-wise would have put him in against a bunch of aged pacers who've been racing all Winter, and we just thought that - given that it's his first start - I'd just as soon have him race against three-year-olds that are just getting started themselves."
The son of Somebeachsomewhere - Allamerican Nadia finished second and a solid fourth in those PASS tests, pacing the five-eighths mile ovals at Pocono and The Meadows no slower than 1:50 and change. After a 1:49.3 mile on Saturday, Wallace has deemed his pupil ready for his biggest three-year-old test to date, and that he wouldn't need any extra work training-wise this week.
"I'm not going to be that hard on him. I think he's fit, I think it's just a matter of maintaining that fitness, I don't think it's a matter of tightening him up anymore."
Apprentice Hanover was purchased privately by Grant last year from trainer Jack Darling and paid instant dividends with a third place finish in the $1-million Metro Pace.
"You buy an animal like him hoping to be exactly where we are. We'd like to have been maybe a little better in our elimination, we'd like to have been second but, I mean, we drew the rail, we're going for a million dollars and we're in scoring position. Like I said earlier, if you draw outside here, it's very difficult. We're in the race right now. "
Not only does Wallace feel his horse is in the race, but that Apprentice Hanover is versatile enough to adapt to whatever style his driver needs to employ.
"I'll be honest, we've only raced him a half dozen times last year and he's only raced three times this year so I have a handle on him but he's shown me nothing that he can't do," noted Wallace. "So I think he doesn't have to drag a racetrack around with him to race good, he doesn't have to race in any particular style to race good."
The O'Brien Award winning trainer has won Breeders Crowns and even pacing's elusive Triple Crown with Blissfull Hall, so there's no sense of pressure from the Milton, Ont.-based trainer. There is, however, a slight sense of urgency knowing that chances like the one on his plate for Saturday don't come around everyday.
"Anytime you're going for a million dollars with a quality horse, if a trainer's not excited then you shouldn't be in the business."
To view the harness racing entries for Saturday at Mohawk, click the following link: Saturday Entries - Mohawk Racetrack.
For free, printable program pages for Pepsi North America Cup Night courtesy of TrackIT, click here.
First-race post time for Saturday's card is 7:05 p.m. The $1-million Pepsi North America Cup has been carded as Race 7.
The Woodbine Entertainment Group has signed a deal with Sportsnet to air the NA Cup on The Score. The one-hour broadcast, a joint production between WEG and Sportsnet, is scheduled for 9:00 p.m. (EDT). It will be the first time that a standardbred race will be shot and aired live in high-definition (HD) in Canada.
Pepsi North America Cup night will not only feature some of, if not the best harness racing in Canada this year, but also loads of contests, draws, music and entertainment for fans on track at Mohawk.
Every customer can register on site for a free $2 bet. There will be free commemorative NA Cup posters given away and you can have it signed at the driver’s autograph session from 6:00 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.
There will be a draw for the Pepsi Best Seats at the Track and you can take the Pepsi Taste Challenge for a chance to win a BBQ set valued at $2,000.
Visit Labatt’s Beerville to play great games and win cool prizes.
There will be a $100,000 guaranteed Early Pick 4, and HPI members will receive four times the HPI points when you wager on Mohawk at Mohawk on Pepsi NA Cup night.
(Photo of Jake Gardiner, Ben Wallace & Jody Jamieson courtesy Graham Paine)