Pepsi North America Cup Night featured an action-packed undercard on Saturday night (June 17) at Mohawk Racetrack in Campbellville, Ont. Trot Insider has provided complete coverage of all the stakes action.
Saturday's stakes action began with the talented Ron Burke-trained trotting mare Hannelore Hanover living up to the hype as the 1-5 favourite and defending champion in the $253,000 Armbro Flight Stakes.
Sent postward as the overwhelming favourite after winning her elimination last week with ease in rein to Yannick Gingras, Hannelore Hanover trotted out from post four and cleared the :27 first quarter speedster Emoticon Hanover (Sylvain Filion) at three-eighths. From there, she led through a half in :56.1 and raced on to three-quarters in 1:24.1 before extending her leading margin to three lengths down the stretch to stop the clock in 1:51.4 -- four-fifths of a second off the stakes, track and Canadian record she set last year. Her fellow elim winner, Charmed Life (Louis-Philippe Roy), advanced from an early five-hole to finish second ahead of Emoticon Hanover.
"There was a lot of movement behind the gate and a lot of close quarters there for a little bit so I just wanted to make my way to the front as easy as I could and keep her out of trouble," said Gingras, who noted that a delay to the start of the race with contender Majestic Presence (fourth) in need of an equipment adjustment made his mare a little anxious.
"I scored her down a little bit to get her attention before that happened and I got her attention, that's for sure. She was a little bit grabby and wouldn't quite relax for me after that."
The Swan For All-High Sobriety mare, who is now three-for-four in her five-year-old campaign, has won 29 of her 45 races lifetime while amassing $1.69 million in purse earnings.
Gingras, who said that it is nights like this that are what he and his fellow catch-drivers live for, considers Hannelore Hanover one of the best horses he's driven along with the likes of trotters Father Patrick, Mission Brief, Ariana G and Southwind Frank.
"I'm sure I'm forgetting a few, but I've been really fortunate and she's just as good as the rest of them," he said.
Hannelore Hanover is owned by Burke Racing Stable LLC, Weaver Bruscemi LLC, Frank Baldachino, and J And T Silva Stables LLC.
She paid $2.40 to win and $2.10 to place. There was no show wagering.
Former Pepsi North America Cup starter McWicked and driver David Miller powered home off cover to win this year's $100,000 Mohawk Gold Cup Invitational Pace in 1:48.2 for trainer Casie Coleman and owner Ed James of Aurora, Ont.
McWicked benefitted from flashy early fractions of :25.4 and :54.2 during which a parked out Canadian record holder Dr J Hanover (Doug McNair) cleared insider Nirvana Seelster (Trevor Henry), who subsequently retook the lead down the backstretch and remained in front through three-quarters in 1:22.
Meanwhile at the half from mid-pack, McWicked flushed out cover in the form of Dealt A Winner (Brian Sears) and then launched his attack down the stretch, sprinting a wicked :25.3 final frame to get by Nirvana Seelster near the wire for the sizzling score. Great Vintage (Yannick Gingras) finished two lengths behind in third off a three-hole trip.
A 1:48.4 winner last time out in Mohawk's June 3 Preferred, McWicked was the 7-5 favourite and paid $4.90 to win.
Following a four-race 2016 campaign in which he was a Gold Cup scratch, McWicked has won five of his 12 starts this year as a six-year-old. The son of McArdle and Western Sahara now boasts 20 victories overall and career earnings of more than $1.9 million.
Eddard Hanover celebrated his first victory of the year in the $75,000 North America Cup Consolation, rallying home from the backfield for the 12-1 upset in a career-best 1:51 mile.
Matt Kakaley drove the Dragon Again-Edra Hanover gelding for owners Burke Racing Stable LLC, JJK Stables LLC, Weaver Bruscemi LLC, and Lawrence Karr.
Eddard Hanover out-finished fellow late-closer Macs Jackpot (David Miller) while Some Attitude (Tim Tetrick) finished inside the top pair in third and Mc Mach (Brian Sears) was fourth on the grandstand side. They all converged on the fiery race leader Hurricane Beach (Louis-Philippe Roy), who had the field strung out through fast fractions of :25.1, :53 and 1:21.1 before he faded to fifth.
Eddard Hanover returned $26.30 to his backers for a $2 Win ticket.
Bettors Up persevered in a dramatic photo finish with Agent Q ahead of the favoured elimination winners to win the $440,000 Fan Hanover Stakes for three-year-old pacing fillies in upset fashion for her local connections.
Doug McNair made the winning move with the Bettors Delight-Fresh Idea filly mid-race, sweeping from third to first and then held off Agent Q by the slimmest of margins in a career-best 1:49.4 score. Scott McEneny trains Bettors Up for his wife Michelle and co-owners Bradley Grant and Teresa Davidson, both of Milton, Ont.
"I watched the replay a few times and I thought she held on. It was close," said McEneny of the photo finish.
Agent Q (David Miller) got the first call firing off the gate from post seven, but she stalled briefly and post two starter Al Mar Got A Fever (Trevor Henry) shot through inside to grab the lead with insider Bettors Up hot on her heels. Agent Q remained parked out, but drove on past the :26.4 quarter mark to take over command.
Down the backstretch, McNair made his move with Bettors Up and hit the half in :55.1. They began to open up on top by a pair of lengths on the way to three-quarters in 1:22.1 while Al Mar Got A Fever tipped out with favourites Idyllic Beach (Yannick Gingras) and Tequila Monday (Brian Sears) following in the outer flow around the final turn.
Bettors Up continued to show the way into the stretch, but Agent Q emerged from the pocket to make it a thrilling finish. Tequila Monday rallied home for third ahead Idyllic Beach, who was rough-gaited in the stretch.
"There wasn't a lot of leavers and I actually tried to get away in the two-hole behind Dave and it didn't work out," said McNair of his racing strategy. "But it worked out the right way for us. I had to remove her back to the lead and she did the rest.
"We were rolling right along. We went 27 seconds in the third quarter and I think we paced home in :27.3 so they [the favourites] had to come a pretty big back half to catch us. It wasn't like I didn't see them."
Bettors Up, who was a runner-up in her elimination last week to Tequila Monday, returned $24.40 to win at odds of 11-1.
"I was very confident," said McEneny of his filly heading into the race. "She had a good week, she drew well and she raced really tough last week so I was very happy with her race last week and things worked out tonight."
Bettors Up picked up her second win of the season from five starts after going six-for-11 at age two. Her career earnings soared over $456,000.
She is expected to head to the James Lynch Memorial next at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono.
With Scott Zeron sweeping off cover aboard elimination winner International Moni and 50-1 longshot Mass Production closing late for Rick Zeron, the $251,000 Goodtimes Stakes for three-year-old trotting colts ended in a 1-2 finish for the father and son. In the end, it was Scott's mount, the Frank Antonacci-trained International Moni, who held on to win in a career-best time of 1:52.4 by half a length.
The undefeated favourite Enterprise (Tim Tetrick) made an early move to take command from outside leaver Awol Hanover (James MacDonald) past the :28 quarter mark and continued to lead through middle splits of :56.1 and 1:24.3.
Meanwhile racing in mid-pack, International Moni flushed out stablemate Shake It Off Lindy (Brett Miller) down the backstretch and swept by into the stretch with Mass Production maneuvering out late and charging up to finish second. Early trailer Seven And Seven (David Miller) closed from the backfield to show ahead of Enterprise. Shake It Off Lindy finished fifth.
"I didn't mind where I got away. I know my horse is really handy and I can put him in those kind of situations," said Scott Zeron of the Love You-Moni Maker colt owned and bred by the Moni Maker Stable of Enfield, Connecticut. "You know, you can never anticipate what's going to happen. My father floated out with that horse and it put me in a bad spot early, but down at the wire he was coming a million miles an hour.
"The other Antonacci horse was really strong first-up and I could see Timmy chasing his horse a little bit so I was very happy with where I was sitting and with the horse I had [at the top of the stretch]. And when I angled him over, I felt like I was an easy, easy winner and I didn't pull the plugs. Good thing I could hear my dad screaming behind me, because I pulled them and he went on again."
Of course, past the wire, father and son exchanged a few words: "He said 'did you finish second?'" laughed the winning Zeron.
While he was just a one-time winner as a freshman, International Moni picked up cheques in all 12 of his races, mainly in stakes competition. He is undefeated in his first two sophomore starts and now boasts a career bankroll of more than $333,000.
Lady Shadow faced her stiffest test to date in the 2017 edition of the $365,000 Roses Are Red Stakes, but the champion mare handled the challenge like a true champion does: by fighting off all her foes to emerge victorious.
Driver Yannick Gingras had Lady Shadow forwardly placed from Post 4 while Wrangler Magic (Louis-Philippe Roy) and Call Me Queen Be (Scott Zeron) left strongest off the gate. Call Me Queen Be won that tussle with a brisk :25.3 opener with Wrangler Magic in the pocket followed by elim winners Nike Franco N (Tim Tetrick) and Lady Shadow.
Tetrick right-lined his mare from third to move to the front, and cleared before the :54 half. Nike Franco had to face immediate pressure from Lady Shadow, first up and advancing confidently. The third station was reached in 1:21.3 with Lady Shadow edging to a narrow lead that started to widen as the field hit the stretch. Wrangler Magic was on that mare's back coming for home and tipped out for the stretch drive but couldn't track her down as Lady Shadow hit the line in 1:48.4 for her third straight Roses Are Red title.
"At that point I thought I had everybody where I wanted them," Gingras told Greg Blanchard about his confidence around the final turn. "I assumed the way I saw the backstretch that Louis-Philippe was going to be disqualified, I thought I had the field all stacked up behind me, I know I could have gone by Timmy earlier than that but I took it easy on my mare and let her do her thing in the stretch."
Lady Shadow, a six-year-old daughter of Shadow Play-Lady Camella, has won 32 of 59 career races and earned more than $2.1 million. She is owned by David Kryway, Carl Atley, Ed Gold, and BFJ Stable, and trained by Ron Adams.
The undercard also included a pair of Preferred pacing events, which produced 14-1 upsets by Rockin In Heaven and Windsun Glory.
Driven by Sylvain Filion, Rockin In Heaven took the lead into the first turn in the first $34,000 division and carved out panels of :26.2, :55.2 and 1:22.1 before holding off the late-surging Dinner At The Met (Travis Cullen) to take a new lifetime mark of 1:49.4, with the first-up American Virgin (Doug McNair) finishing third in between the top two.
Local horseman Dr. Ian Moore trains and co-owns the Rock N Roll Heaven-Tropics Beachgirl five-year-old with Douglas Polley of Amherst, N.S., Francois Lecomte of St-Hyacinthe, Que., and Gordon McComb of Fall River, N.S.
Driven by Matt Kakaley for trainer Ron Burke, Windsun Glory took a new lifetime mark of her own in the $40,000 distaff division after sweeping by the pocket-pulling Much Ado (Yannick Gingras) and popular pacesetter Sandbetweenurtoes (Doug McNair) in the stretch for the 1:50.4 victory.
The four-year-old Mach Three-Windsun Princess mare provided another Cup Night victory for owners Burke Racing Stable, Weaver Bruscemi, J And T Silva Stables and Lawrence Karr.
For the official judges' report from Saturday's card, click the following link: Judges' Report - Mohawk - June 17.
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