The field for next weekend's prestigious $1 million Pepsi North America Cup was decided on Saturday night as harness racing's finest three-year-old pacing colts and geldings faced off in three $50,000 eliminations at Mohawk Racetrack.
The top three finishers from each elimination plus one fourth-place finisher drawn by lot will advance to the final on Saturday, June 14 at Mohawk, which will be televised live on TSN. Toronto Maple Leafs centre David Bolland will serve as the guest drawmaster for the 2014 edition of the Pepsi North America Cup at a press conference on Tuesday, June 10 at Mohawk.
Undefeated three-year-old pacing colt Lyonssomewhere slipped up the pylons off a two-hole trip to win the first elimination in a career-best 1:50.1 for driver Corey Callahan.
Firing off the gate from post six, Lyonssomewhere was the first to get a call as he established the lead over the popular insider Jk Endofanera (Brian Sears), but the 1-2 favourite swept around the early leaver and cleared at the :27.4 first quarter mark.
Jk Endofanera proceeded to lead the colts to the half in :56.3 and three-quarters in 1:24 with Western Vintage (Yannick Gingras) advancing from fourth to apply heavy first over pressure around the final turn and into the stretch.
However, Lyonssomewhere found room along the pylons with Jk Endofanera drifting out and unleashed a ferocious :25.4 final kicker to earn his fifth straight victory. Beat The Drum (Brett Miller) finished one and three-quarter lengths behind in second off a three-hole trip while Jk Endofanera held on for third over Western Vintage.
"I talked to Jimmy earlier tonight when we got here, and looking at the program, the only horse I was really worried about leaving out of there was Limelight Beach," said Callahan after the race. "My plan was to get there and follow Brian so everything worked out perfect. I got there really easy. With him getting soft fractions like that, I was a little worried, but his horse came up a little short and my horse was really good.
"Brian's horse kind of drifted out there [in the stretch] and it gave me a nice easy trip up the rail and he just absolutely floated. That's the first time I actually called on him and asked him to pace and I still think he has more left."
The lightly race Somebeachsomewhere-Miss Kitty Hanover colt has earned three of his five wins this year and sports a bankroll of $54,000 for trainer Jimmy Takter and owner Geoffrey Lyons Mound of Burford, Ont.
"I think this colt has a big future," added Callahan. "He hasn't really raced anybody as of yet, but tonight he beat some really good colts so were expecting some big things from him."
Lyonssomewhere paid $9.20 to win as the 7-2 second choice.
Used twice in a career-best mile, McWicked turned in a dazzling 1:48.3 victory in the second elimination for driver David Miller.
Outside post eight starter Capital Account (Ron Pierce) fired to the lead over insider McWicked with Ideal Cowboy (Tim Tetrick) rushing up on the outside and even-money favourite Always B Miki (Corey Callahan) three-wide before breaking stride around the first turn.
Ideal Cowboy took over command at the first quarter in :26.4, but his lead was short-lived as Miller sent McWicked to the top down the backstretch. They cleared at the :54.3 half-mile mark, but the lead changed hands once again with Lets Drink On It (Tyler Smith) hot on his heels as he advanced from fourth to first.
Lets Drink On It raced to three-quarters in 1:21.2 with Sometimes Said (John Campbell) moving up off his cover to apply pressure around the final turn and into the stretch. Those two battled down the lane while Miller maneuvered McWicked out into the three-path and sped by them both with a :26.4 final frame for the two length victory. Sometimes Said and Lets Drink On It were second and third while Ideal Cowboy finished fourth and drew into the final.
"I didn't expect a :48 mile, but I've been real high on this colt since [owner] Ed James [of S S G Stables] gave him to me," said trainer Casie Coleman in the winner's circle. "The guy that trained him down did an awesome job this winter. I didn't train him down myself, I got him after he qualified and he did a really good job with him. He's been push-button for us, he's just a sweetheart of a horse and he makes our job look easy."
After putting together a record reading 3-5-1 in 10 starts and earning $179,617 in purses last year, the McArdle-Western Sahara colt has had two wins and two runner-up finishes in his first four sophomore starts adding $68,840 to his bankroll. He was a runner-up to Always B Miki in last week's Somebeachsomewhere Stakes prior to his big test.
"When they sent him to me and looked at the stakes schedule [the North America Cup] was their goal and definitely my goal," said Coleman, a winner of the 2010 Cup with Sportswriter. "The way I prepped him is to get ready for this race. This is his first major race and I'd like nothing better than to win another N.A. Cup.
"I just hope I can have one in here as good as this every year if possible, but a colt like this year after year doesn't come all that easy."
McWicked paid $9 to win as the 3-1 third choice.
Tellitlikeitis provided Takter with his second North America Cup elimination winner with a 1:48.4 career-best score in rein to Brett Miller.
Leaving from post three, Tellitlikeitis established the early lead, but the early pocket-pulling Luck Be Withyou (Ron Pierce) rushed up to take over as they approached the :27.1 first quarter mark.
After getting away third, heavy 4-5 favourite Hes Watching (Jody Jamieson) made his move into the backstretch and cleared to command en route to the half in :54.2. He proceeded to three-quarters in 1:21.4 while Jet Airway (Scott Zeron) moved first up from fourth, but remained stalled on the outside with Silverhill Shadow (Chris Christoforou) on his back.
Hes Watching remained unchallenged until the stretch as Luck Be Withyou emerged from the pocket and Tellitlikeitis tipped to the outside. Sprinting home in :26.1, Tellitlikeitis managed to steal the glory as he prevailed by two and a quarter lengths over Hes Watching with Luck Be Withyou a close third. Jet Airway finished fourth.
After winning a Pennsylvania Sires Stakes in his mid-May sophomore debut, Tellitlikeitis is now a perfect two-for-two this year with $58,181 in seasonal earnings. As a freshman, he won two of his eight races and banked $126,563.
"I've sat behind him twice and once in a qualifier. The colt has tremendous speed," assessed Miller. "He can leave and he can sit in a hole nice. He's very, very quick. He's special.
"He did relax pretty good [tonight], but also a half in :53.4, that helped," he added. "He sits in there very nice, he's been taught well."
Owned and bred by three-time Cup winner Lothlorien of Cheltenham, Ont., the colt is by Well Said out of Kikikatie.
Sent postward as the 4-1 third choice, Tellitlikeitis returned $10 to win.
The field for the North America Cup:
Beat the Drum
Lets Drink On It
Luck Be Withyou
Lyonssomewhere (to pick post)
Mcwicked (to pick post)
Tellitlikeitis (to pick post)
AE: Jet Airway
Uffizi Hanover & Table Talk Upset In Fan Hanover Eliminations
The top five finishers in each elimination for three-year-old pacing fillies will advance to next Saturday's rich final.
Last year's Breeders Crown champion Uffizi Hanover pulled off a mild 6-1 upset as she sprinted a final quarter in :25.1 to prevail over Beach Gal (Jody Jamieson) and 4-5 favourite Nat A Virgin (Rick Zeron). Fancy Desire (Ron Pierce) and Take That Hanover (Mike Saftic) finished fourth and fifth, respectively.
"She usually has a pretty good kick to her and the race actually set up for her not too badly," commented winning driver David Miller in a post-race interview. "She wasn't too far out and she had her usual kick tonight."
When the wings of the gate closed, Nat A Virgin out-sprinted insider Take That Hanover to the first quarter in :25.4 before taking a middle-half breather. She led the way to the half in :55.2 before facing first over pressure towards the 1:25.3 three-quarters mark as Wanna Rock N Roll (Brian Sears) advanced from fourth. Beach Gal followed the cover with Uffizi Hanover moving third over from next-to-last. Nat A Virgin continued to lead the field into the stretch while Beach Gal and Uffizi Hanover rallied off cover to make it a three-across finish. Getting up in the final strides, Uffizi Hanover earned her first win of the season by just a head.
"I think she's the type of horse that just needed a few starts," noted Miller. "I didn't start driving her until late last year and she was just kind of having a so-so season before then. She may just be the type of horse that needs four or five starts before she gets into form."
With that in mind, Miller added, "I think she'll improve off of that."
Jimmy Takter trains the Well Said-Up Front Dragonfly filly for owners Al Libfeld of Pickering, Ont. and Toronto's Marvin Katz and Sam Goldband.
In the second Fan Hanover elimination, Table Talk and driver Jim Marohn Jr. went from last to first in the stretch to pull off a 37-1 shocker. Finishing second through fifth to earn the remaining spots in the final were Major Dancer (David Miller), Mamas Fallen Angel (David Miller), Rock N Roll Xample (James MacDonald) and Bahama Blue (Jody Jamieson).
Precocious Beauty (Doug McNair), the 4-5 favourite, swept up from third to take over command from stablemate Lady Shadow (Brian Sears) after the :26.3 opening quarter and posted middle splits of :55.2 and 1:24.2 before the backfield closed in down the stretch. Fresh off a New York Sire Stake score last weekend, Table Talk circled the seven-horse field, kicking home on the far outside in :26-seconds flat, to win by a neck.
"The trip worked out great," said Marohn Jr. of his first drive on the WEG circuit. "She was a little nervous in the post parade and going behind the gate she was throwing her head around so I didn't get her off the gate quite as good as I wanted to, but she settled in nice past the quarter, and with the fractions up front, it helped her out finishing.
"She's gritty," he added. "She likes passing horses."
The Bettors Delight-Place At The Table filly established a new lifetime mark with her elimination win. She is trained by William Dalious and owned by the Delaware-based Wiz Kids Stable LLC.
"She can carry her speed a lot more this year than she could last year," said Marohn Jr. "She was always quick, she could turn speed very fast, but now she can hold on to her speed a lot longer."
Anndrovette & Yagonnakissmeornot Prevail In Roses Are Red Elims
The top five finishers in each elimination also advance to next Saturday's final.
O'Brien Award winner Anndrovette delivered on her pari-mutuel promise as she prevailed in the first elimination in 1:49.3 with Tim Tetrick aboard. Finishing second through fifth were Summertime Lea (Scott Zeron), Shelliscape (Brian Sears), Shebestingin (David Miller) and Charisma Hanover (Yannick Gingras).
Shebestingin overtook Jerseylicious at the :26.2 first quarter while Anndrovette watched the early action from third. Shebestingin carved out middle splits of :55.2 and 1:22.4 while Charisma Hanover advanced first over with Summertime Lea on her back before rallying wide to match strides with the top two mares into the stretch. However, Anndrovette kicked into high-gear and came flying home in :26-seconds to nab the victory at the wire, prevailing by a quarter-length.
“I was following two really good mares, Shebestingin on the front and I’ve got a lot of respect for Ronnie’s mare Jerseylicious,” said Tetrick after the race. “So I figured I’d have room and be able to race her late, and when I finally did get some room, she really charged home. Usually after an effort like that she really responds well the following week.”
The seven-year-old Riverboat King-Easy Miss mare is trained by P.J. Fraley and owned by New Jersey's Bamond Racing and Joseph Davino. After a month-long break from competing in Yonkers Raceway's Blue Chip Matchmaker Series, Anndrovette won the Betsy Ross two weeks ago at Harrah's Philadelphia.
"She loved to get out of Yonkers," noted Tetrick. "She's a great big mare and those four [half-mile] turns really got to her. They didn’t make her lame or sore or anything, but she was just aggravated with them I think. She's getting older and she likes getting off the half-mile track."
The $2.79 million earner will be looking for her third straight Roses Are Red title next week.
"I guess she likes the Canadian air," said Tetrick. "She's loves to race up here and she likes racing. She's tough as nails. When the big money is down, she always seems to show up and give an A+ effort."
Yagonnakissmeornot and Ron Pierce wore down popular pacesetter Somwherovrarainbow (Brian Sears) in deep stretch for a mild 7-1 upset in the second elimination, clocked in a career-best 1:50.1. Krispy Apple (Tim Tetrick), Camille (Brett Miller) and Rocklamation (Yannick Gingras) completed the top five finishers.
Somwherovrarainbow leap-frogged around early leaver Voelz Hanover (Randy Waples) after the :27.3 opener and led the way through middle splits of :56.3 and 1:24. Meanwhile, Yagonnakissmeornot began to advance from the backfield and eventually edged by the 1-5 favourite as they raced down the homestretch for the half-length victory. Her final quarter was clocked in :26-seconds.
"We got away back and they went kind of slow up front," explained Pierce. "I was a little concerned, but I knew if I could just get her out and feed her some racetrack she would give me a good mile. I raced her before when George Teague had her and I learned a lot about her in just one start and I told myself if I ever raced her again that's how I would race her, just like that."
The five-year-old daughter of The Panderosa and Artstopper is trained by Carmen Auciello while racing in Canada and owned by Allard Racing Inc. of Saint-Esprit, Que., Yves Sarrazin of La Presentation, Que., and New York's Kapildeo Singh.
"I knew this track would help her a lot, I knew she would just eat it up," said Pierce. "She has the speed, everything is there. She's the whole package, we just need the right trip."
To view Saturday's harness racing results, click on the following link: Saturday Results - Mohawk Racetrack.