Mohawk Racetrack's 2013 Pepsi North America Cup night featured many of the sport's brightest stars competing on an stellar undercard.
Saturday night's stakes began with new millionaire Maven scoring a 1:52.4 victory in the $271,470 Armbro Flight for trotting mares.
Driven by Yannick Gingras for trainer Jonas Czernyson, heavy 2-5 favourite Maven swept first over from fourth at the half and flushed cover from the pocket-sitting Cedar Dove (Ron Pierce). Former O'Brien Award winner China Pearls (Randy Waples) lead the field through fractions of :27.3, :56.1 and 1:24.2 before Maven swept by in deep stretch on the far outside to score her 18th career win. Cedar Dove finished second two and a half lengths behind and Bax Of Life (Chris Christoforou) closed from last to show.
Now undefeated in three starts as a four-year-old, Maven paid $2.80 to win.
The Glidemaster-M Stewart mare, who surpassed the million-dollar mark in career earnings with her Armbro Flight Stakes victory, is owned by William Donovan of Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.
O'Brien Award winner Bee A Magician prevailed in a photo finish with Angies Lucky Star to capture the $364,266 Elegantimage Stakes for three-year-old trotting fillies.
Sent postward as the 3-5 favourite with a perfect four-for-four sophomore record heading into the rich final, Bee A Magician lowered her lifetime mark to 1:53 and sent her earnings over the million-dollar mark for trainer Richard 'Nifty' Norman and owners Melvin Hartman of Ottawa, Ont. and Florida's Herb Liverman of Miami Beach and David McDuffee of Delray Beach.
Driven by Rick Zeron, Bee A Magician made a backstretch brush after the :28-second opening panel, sweeping from third to first over early leader Angies Lucky Star (Sylvain Filion). The Kadabra-Beehive filly raced past middle splits of :56.3 and 1:25.1 while Shared Past (Tim Tetrick) advanced first over with To Dream On (Yannick Gingras) on her back. Bee A Magician was still clear on top entering the stretch, but Angies Lucky Star pulled the pocket and gave her a run for her money down the lane. However, Bee A Magician fought back for the narrow victory, returning $3.30 to her backers.
Angies Lucky Star was a hard-fought second, just missing by a head, with Mistery Women (David Miller) following the leaders under the wire in third.
"This is her biggest fight that she's had at two or three years old, there's no doubt about it," said Zeron, noting that an equipment change from an open bridle to side cheeks made the difference in her getting up for the win. "She had to dig in deep and find out where she's really from to get he job done tonight.
"If you were looking to come to the races and see a catfight, you just witnessed the best catfight of all."
O'Brien Award winner I Luv The Nitelife turned in a dominant 1:49.1 open length victory over her fellow three-year-old pacing fillies in the $391,882 Fan Hanover Stakes
With Tim Tetrick in the sulky, heavy 3-5 favourite I Luv The Nitelife scored her first sub-1:50 win defeating Belle Boyd (Jody Jamieson) and Jerseylicious (Corey Callahan) for trainer Chris Ryder and owners Richard and Joanne Young of Coconut Creek, Florida.
After getting away third, I Luv The Nitelife followed pocket-sitter Jerseylicious' move around early leader Jettin Jamie (Randy Waples) after the :26-second opening panel. I Luv The Nitelife took over command at the :54.1 half-mile mark and fronted the field past three-quarters in 1:21.4 before drawing away by five and three-quarter lengths in the stretch. Belle Boyd rallied home off cover for second forcing Jerseylicious to settle for third.
"Obviously she won her elim and we were happy with her, but deep down I had a feeling I was looking for her to be a little better and she showed up tonight with all guns firing," said Ryder in the winner's circle. "I'm really, really excited about how good she was tonight."
The Rocknroll Hanover-Lisjune filly, who now three-for-four during her sophomore campaign, boasts a bankroll totalling $936,765.
She paid $3.20 to win.
Three-year-old trotting colt Flanagan Memory front-stepped his way to a 1:54.1 career-best victory in the $225,276 Goodtimes Trot for trainer Rene Dion and co-owner Liette Flanagan of Repentigny, Que.
Driver Chris Christoforou sent Flanagan Memory to the lead from post nine into the :28-second opening panel and cruised through middle fractions of :57 and 1:25.2 with favourite Toocool Forschool (Mike Saftic) advancing first over from third. The Kadabra-Classy Stacy colt began to open up in the stretch and cruised home for his biggest victory yet. Toocool Forschool came in one length behind with second over Gotta Secret (Sylvain Filion) finishing third.
"My father told me this horse could win this race so he's usually pretty right on," said Christoforou after the race. "I took his advice; he said don't get too far back. I thought I might as well do the opposite and go right to the front. It worked out good.
"That's the first time he raced on the front in quite some time, I think since last year. I wouldn't like to make it a habit with him, but he's pretty good from anywhere. He seems to be getting better and better."
Sent postward as the 9-1 fourth choice in the field after finishing second to Toocool Forschool in his elimination, Flanagan Memory, paid $20.60 for the mild upset.
Closing out the stakes action, Warrawee Needy, a North America Cup contender last year, matched his lifetime mark of 1:48.3 in the $100,000 Mohawk Gold Cup Invitational Pace after rallying home from the backfield.
Jody Jamieson worked out the winning trip aboard the four-year-old son of E Dees Cam and Great Memories for his father, soon-to-be Hall Of Fame trainer Carl Jamieson, who shares ownership with Dr. Michael Wilson of Rockwood, Ont., Toronto's Thomas Kyron, and Floyd Marshall of Jarvis, Ont.
Camaes Fellow (Yannick Gingras) was hustled off the gate from the outside post 10 and put up a :26.4 opening quarter before 3-2 favourite Fred And Ginger (Ron Pierce) swept up from third to take over down the backstretch. Fred And Ginger reached the half in :55 and three-quarters in 1:21.4 before drifting off the pylons in the stretch. Camaes Fellow was able to scoot up the inside lane as it opened up, but Warrawee Needy stormed home from third over on the grandstand side to earn his 18th career win. Camaes Fellow settled for second three-quarters of a length behind with Modern Legend (John Campbell) finishing third.
"It was a monster trip coming from third or fourth over like that," said Jody Jamieson. "A mile in :48.3 -- he's just an awesome horse -- I think it's the fastest mile tonight.
"A year ago tonight it would have been nice to win, but it just wasn't in the cards. He's still showing his merit, he's still going to be a great horse -- he is a great horse -- and I am just happy to be involved with him."
The winner's share of the purse leaves him just a few thousand dollars shy of the million mark.
Warrawee Needy returned $7.10 to his backers as the 5-2 second choice in the wagering.
He is headed to the Ben Franklin Pace next at Pocono Downs.
Click here for coverage of Saturday's feature event, the $1 million Pepsi North America Cup.
- Entries - Saturday's overnight sheet
- Results - Saturday's racing results
- Program Pages - past performance program page for each race, courtesy of TrackIT
- News - all the previews and recaps leading up to Canadian harness racing's richest prize
- Stats & Figures - WEG's Mike Hamilton provides a wealth of interesting North America Cup statistics
- Live Video - watch the races here live starting at 7:05 p.m.