Pepsi North America Cup Night was jam-packed with brilliant performances by Canadian-connected stars at Mohawk Racetrack. Trot Insider has provided full coverage of the stakes-filled undercard.
Hemi Seelster and driver Steve Byron kicked off Saturday's stakes action with a 76-1 shocker in the $233,000 Goodtimes Trot for local trainer John Bax, who campaign the race's namesake.
Set to make the trophy presentation to the winning connections, Bax was pleased when he was able to keep the hardware for his own collection.
"I'm a little numb, but I always dreamed that I'd be able to give the trophy to myself," said Bax in a post-race interview. "I thought it was a little bit of a pipe dream. This was quite a shock."
The popular Jimmy Takter-trained elimination winners Canepa Hanover and French Laundry made breaks in stride paving the way for a double-digit upset.
Rubber Duck (Sylvain Filion) left for the lead from post six with outsider Iron (Tim Tetrick) moving up to his outside, but making a break of his own into the first turn. Rubber Duck reached the first quarter in :27 while heavy 1-5 favourite Canepa Hanover (Yannick Gingras) tried to clear before making his miscue.
Covert Operative (Randy Waples) then pulled the pocket down the backside and overtook Rubber Duck past the :57.3 half-mile mark. He trotted on to three-quarters in 1:25.4 while French Laundry (Brett Miller) advanced first over and then suffered the same fate as his stablemate going off stride.
Covert Operative continued to lead into the stretch with Rubber Duck out and challenging. Rubber Duck struck the front, but Hemi Seelster rushed by to steal the spotlight with the barefoot The Bank (Jimmy Takter) closing off cover. Hemi Seelster prevailed in a new lifetime mark of 1:54 by one and a quarter lengths. The Bank and Rubber Duck completed the top three finish order.
"When [track and Canadian record holder Canepa Hanover] made a break that sure helped, but I was just hoping to get a a good trip and get away close and hopefully see what happens at the end of the mile and it worked out perfect," said Byron, who also spoke about the Holiday Road-Hollywood Beauty gelding's versatility. "He's getting more manageable. He is a big, strong horse and he showed good speed tonight."
After sustaining serious injuries in a qualifying accident at Kawartha Downs in 2013 that kept him out of action for six months, Byron noted how much the stakes victory meant to him.
"To come back and do what you love doing, I'm just a happy man tonight," he said.
Scoring his first victory of the season, Hemi Seelster returned $155.10 for a $2 win ticket. He is owned by Bax's Parkhill Stud Farm, his son Matt Bax, John Houston of Cobourg, Ont. and the Goin To The Show Stable of Peterborough, Ont.
Bee A Magician turned in dominant a stakes record performance in the $272,000 Armbro Flight for older trotting mares as she powered home to a 1:51.4 triumph.
After setting a track and Canadian record of 1:51.1 in her elimination last weekend, Bee A Magician was sent postward as the overwhelming 1-5 favourite and did not disappoint her faithful following.
Defending Armbro Flight champion Classic Martine (Tim Tetrick) left from post two with elimination winner Shake It Cerry (Yannick Gingras) in pursuit and settling into the two-hole through a :26.3 first quarter. Meanwhile, Bee A Magician settled away fourth before making her move down the backstretch.
Driver Brian Sears sent Bee A Magician first over as the field approached the half in :56.4 before rushing by Classic Martine and opening up a pair of lengths en route to three-quarters in 1:24.2. The triple millionaire continued to extend her lead down the lane and hit the wire with her rivals trailing nearly five lengths behind. Charmed Life (Jody Jamieson) closed off cover to finish second over Classic Martine and Shake It Cerry.
"I just let the race come into its own and just played it by ear," said Sears. "She raced so good first over last week, I wasn't going to try to and move her hard to the front. I got away in a first over position and she did the rest. I'm privileged to get the opportunity to drive a great mare like that, that's for sure."
Bee A Magician (Kadabra-Beehive) is now six-for-seven with earnings over $424,000 in her five-year-old campaign for owners Melvin Hartman of Ottawa, Ont., Herb Liverman of Miami Beach, Florida and David McDuffee of Delray Beach, Florida.
"She's in a really good little groove so we haven't been doing much with her in between races," said trainer Nifty Norman. "It seems to really suit her and she's thriving so we'll keep racing her."
Norman said he thinks the 2013 Horse of the Year is only getting better with age.
The 37-time career winner will be returning to New Jersey for a couple of weeks rest and she is expected to race next in the Miss Versatility leg at The Meadowlands on July 18.
Physicallyinclined posted his first sub-1:50 victory with a front end effort in the $75,000 North America Cup Consolation for driver Paul MacDonell and trainer Dr. Ian Moore.
Firing to the lead from post eight, Physicallyinclined carved out fractions of :26.1, :54 and 1:22 en route to the three and a half length victory in 1:49. He fought off first over The Wayfaring Man (Jack Moiseyev) while Rock N Roll World (Sylvain Filion) followed from the pocket to finish second and Pierce Hanover (Jody Jamieson) closed late for the third-place honours.
The Mach Three-Artisicallyinclined colt is owned by Bruce McGean of Stewiacke, N.S. and Sterling Feener of Sydney, N.S.
Lady Shadow put an end to three-time defending champion Androvette's Roses Are Red Stakes streak as she swept to command down the backstretch in this year's $350,000 final and paced away to a three length victory.
Anndrovette (Tim Tetrick) fired off the gate from post eight and crossed over to command ahead of Weeper (Yannick Gingras), who left just to her inside. After a scorching :25.3 first quarter, driver Doug McNair sent Lady Shadow from third to first and never looked back. Lady Shadow raced by the half in :54.1 and three-quarters in 1:21.1 while keeping first over Colors A Virgin (Trace Tetrick), the other elimination winner, at bay and drew off down the stretch to secure her 14th career win and biggest yet. Yangonnakissmeornot (Jody Jamieson) and Sandbetweenurtoes (Dave Miller) rallied home to finish second and third, respectively.
Lady Shadow's 1:48.3 winning time matched her lifetime mark that she established with a front end effort from post seven in last week's elimination round.
"They were probably figuring I was going to leave out of there tonight," said McNair after the race. "I wasn't sure who was going to take a stab at her, but I figured Timmy would be coming out of there like he did and I kind of let them settle and then put her back on the front and she did the rest on her own.
"I had a good mare first up and I never want to let her get too close -- that Colors A Virgin is always tough. I looked to see Waasmula was second over and I figured I'd just let her rock at the three-quarter pole and she paced away from them."
The four-year-old Shadow Play-Lady Camella mare was a recent private purchase by David Kryway of Amherstburg, Ont., Carl Atley of Xenia, Ohio, Edwin Gold of Phoenixville, Pennsylvania and Richard Lombardo of Solon, Ohio. McNair has retained the drive on his father's former trainee, who is now campaigned by Ron Adams of Lasalle, Ont.
"She's just come along ever since she was two to three and now three to four," said McNair of the Ontario Sires Stakes graduate. "She's getting better every year. Dad did a great job with her and Ronnie is doing a great job with her now. She's coming along good and it's great to get this win. I think I've been second and third in this race before and it's a big thrill for me to win it."
"She's a beautiful filly, she's built awesome," said Adams. "It's a great win, a great way to do it on the front at her home track."
State Treasurer added a victory in the $100,000 Mohawk Gold Cup Invitational Pace to his expanding list of accomplishments amongst the tough older male pacing division.
Blasting across the track, Doctor Butch (Tim Tetrick) overcame his outside post position to take the lead before the first turn. He landed in front of the 2014 Mohawk Gold Cup upsetter Evenin Of Pleasure (Sylvain Filion) and put up a :26.2 first quarter.
Art History (Scott Zeron) then made a backstretch brush from third and cleared to command before reaching the half in :54.2. Meanwhile, the outer flow began to develop with State Treasurer and driver Chris Christoforou advancing first over from fourth.
State Treasurer took the lead before the 1:22.2 third quarter mark and opened up a couple of lengths off the turn with Great Vintage (David Miller) chasing off his cover down the stretch before that foe made a break and caused some commotion. State Treasurer won by three lengths in 1:48.3 while Vegas Vacation (Brian Sears) closed in sub-26 fashion for second-place and Bettors Edge (Matt Kakaley) came on for third.
The 2014 O'Brien Award finalist now boasts wins in half of his six starts this year, including a third Molson Pace victory at The Raceway at the Western Fair District in late May.
"I can't get too far back with him, I like to race him from the middle if I can," noted Christoforou of his racing strategy. "He's fearless first over, and basically with any trip he's fearless, so I wasn't worried about that as much as if he could get his head in front at some point like he did in London down the backstretch. Once he gets his head in front, he's tough to beat. We got there and he just took off."
The six-year-old millionaire son of Real Desire and Ideal Treasure is trained Dr. Ian Moore for Sally MacDonald of Souris, P.E.I. and Paul MacDonald of Toronto, Ont.
"He's just been extremely good for us," said Sally's husband Alan. "We've been at all the major races -- the North America Cup, Meadowlands Pace -- we've had a lot of fun with him.
"It's just a thrill. We were looking forward to winning this one at Mohawk and we're real pleased."
Rounding into form at the perfect time, Wrangler Magic prevailed off a pocket trip in the $479,000 Fan Hanover Stakes for three-year-old pacing fillies.
She paid $13.80 to win as the third choice with the betting public backing elimination winner Sassa Hanover and 2014 Horse of the Year JK Shesalady despite that filly scoping sick after her fourth-place effort the previous week.
Driver Sylvain Filion sent Wrangler Magic to the lead from post seven into a :26-second opening panel while post nine starter Single Me (Dave Miller) tucked in behind and The Show Returns (John Campbell) got away third. But after the first quarter, Sassa Hanover (Yannick Gingras) was on the move from fourth and she took over command down the backstretch and reached the half in :54.4.
At the midway mark, JK Shesalady began to advance on the outside, but she was still third at the 1:23 third quarter pole. Filion then pulled Wrangler Magic from the pocket and edged by Sassa Hanover down the stretch to win in a career-best clocking of 1:50.2. The Show Returns came through at the pylons to finish second, one and three-quarter lengths behind at long odds of 113-1, while Solar Sister (Doug McNair) stormed home from the backfield for third.
"She showed it last year at the end of the year and started coming on pretty good," noted trainer Stephane Larocque of his progressing Mach Three-Ja El Shamrock filly, who was second in the Ontario Sires Stakes Super Final last year and had been no worse than third in her four sophomore stakes starts coming into the Fan Hanover final.
Larocque credited Wrangler Magic's success to his partnership with Yves Filion, of Bayama Farms Inc., who developed the filly.
"Yves Filion just did an amazing job to get her to be so good and sound this year. And right now she's awesome," he said. "We have a great relationship. We work together and we talk to each other everyday. It's teamwork and it's working so far."
"This is a tremendous feeling," said Dr. Maurice Stewart of Leduc, Alta., who bred and raised Wrangler Magic and shares ownership with Bayama Farms, Toronto's Thomas Kyron and Quebec City's Brian Paquet. "The last two weeks have been tough, but we got through it. This is really exciting. The partners we have are unbelievable. Yves has done a wonderful, wonderful job along with Sylvain in developing her. Sylvain has done a great job driving her. We couldn't ask for more. And what a time to get on top!"
The undercard also included a pair of Preferred events, which produced double-digit upsets.
Winds Of Change capitalized off hot early fractions and sprinted home in :25.4 from second over to win the $34,000 Preferred Handicap Pace. Chris Christoforou drove the Dustin Jones trainee, who was sent postward at odds of 10-1.
While the early leavers Thunder Steeler (Doug McNair) and Musselsfrmbrussels (Jody Jamieson) battled through a :25.3 first quarter speed show, Winds Of Change settled away fifth and then picked up cover from favoured Ultimate Beachboy (Yannick Gingras) through middle splits of :54 and 1:21.4. As the field came off the final turn, Winds Of Change rallied off his cover and prevailed over fellow late-closer Piston Broke (Trevor Henry), the co-favourite, in a new lifetime mark of 1:48.2. Duc Dorlean (Sylvain Filion) came on for third.
The win was the second in a row for Bennett Wells Stable's four-year-old son of American Ideal-Arts Temptress and his first at the Preferred level.
Driven by Trevor Henry, 12-1 shot Marlee B overcame her assigned outside post 10 starting spot in the $30,000 Fillies Mares Preferred Handicap Pace and also earned her second consecutive win for trainer Rob Fellows.
Marlee B was overland the entire route through fractions of :27.1, :55 and 1:23.4 while American In Paris (Chris Christoforou) overtook the quick-leaving Precocious Beauty (Doug McNair) and then favourite Beach Gal (Jody Jamieson) and Greystone Ladylike (Sylvain Filion) made appearances on the front end down the backstretch. As Greystone Ladylike took over the leading role, Marlee B was left first over and battled past that mare in the stretch before holding off the the late-rallying D Gs Pesquero (Jonathan Drury) by a nose in 1:51.4. Precocious Beauty finished third over a length behind.
The six-year-old Mach Three-Marathon Maxie mare is owned by Synerco Ventures Inc. of Toronto.
Click here for full coverage of tonight's $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
- Handicapping Tips - advice and selections from WEG's handicapping experts
- Live Video - watch the races via live streaming online