Driver Jody Jamieson said he can’t wait for Saturday’s $1 million Pepsi North America Cup at Woodbine Mohawk Park to have the opportunity to back up his statement that Bulldog Hanover is the best sophomore pacing colt on the continent.
“He’s done everything I’ve asked of him and, lately, he’s done it with ease,” Jamieson said of the son of Shadow Play out of BJs Squall. “I’m really excited about Saturday night to see what he can do and show off some more talent that he has. He’s just such an exciting horse and the best that I’ve ever driven because he’s never gotten tired. I’ve gotten horses tired and got them beat and whether or not I get him beat or not, I haven’t got him tired yet. I’m hoping that he stays that way.”
The Pepsi North America Cup is Race 11 on Saturday’s jam-packed stakes card that also includes the $392,000 Peaceful Way final for two-year-old trotting fillies (Race 3), the $240,000 Goodtimes for three-year-old trotters (Race 7), the $425,000 Fan Hanover final for three-year-old pacing fillies (Race 8), the $640,000 William Wellwood Memorial for two-year-old trotters (Race 10) and two divisions of the Champlain for two-year-old pacers (Race 4 for open pacers, Race 9 for pacing fillies). First race post time is 6:30 p.m.
Bulldog Hanover, a winner of six of eight starts in 2021, is trained by Jack Darling, who owns the colt in partnership with Brad Grant. With no dominant U.S. star in the division, Jamieson points to Bulldog Hanover’s races as the evidence for the statement that the pacer is the top of the class.
“I just think he’s the most impressive one," said Jamieson. "He got beaten his first start, which wasn’t his fault. He got beaten in Georgian, struggling around the turns on a track that was loose and they’ve had tons of complaints all year about the track surface. No excuses because everyone else had to race on it, too, but he got beat by a half-length in :49.4 on a terrible track and not the greatest trip with traffic."
“He’s just a great, big, strong, perfect individual.”
The driver said Bulldog Hanover’s last two starts — a career-best 1:48.2 performance on August 28 in his $85,250 Somebeachsomewhere division and a wrapped-up 1:49 victory on September 4 in his $50,000 NA Cup elimination — were both impressive, with the latter being the slightly better performance.
“He was so dominant last week,” said Jamieson. “Someone said it looked like you gave him a tap with the whip and away he went, but I don’t think I did tap him with the whip. I might have pushed his tail with it, but I don’t think I tapped him with it. He was pacing so hard, he didn’t need any encouragement. He knew his job and he knew what he had to do. Down by the wire, I just let him pull up a little just to conserve some energy for next week, but he was so damn good.”
Bulldog Hanover defeated Desperate Man by a length to earn the right to pick post four for the $1 million final.
Jamieson said he’s been watching a lot of replays of his competition this week and thinking a lot about how the NA Cup may unfold.
“Perfect Sting was the other division winner, so he’s a good one, but there’s other horses in there," said Jamieson. "I think Rockyroad Hanover will be heard from. I think Whichwaytothebeach will be heard from. The McNair horses (Jimmy Connor B and Bettor Sun) drew 1-2. I’ve beat them, but you never know. It’s a horse race and that’s why we run the races… If I was to say one horse, it would be Perfect Sting, I suppose, but there’s a couple in there that are going to take a shot and we’ll see how it plays out."
As for landing the drive on Bulldog Hanover at the start of the horse’s racing career, Jamieson said he owes the opportunity to drive the NA Cup favourite to Darling listing him to drive Northern Sky 18 years ago when Jamieson was just a 26-year-old up-and-coming driver.
“I would come up (to Mohawk) from London to drive one horse in the Mares Open and it was Northern Sky," said Jamieson. "You’d have to ask Jack why he used me, but he’s been using me for that long. I’m his number one, go-to-guy each year and I couldn’t be happier about that.
“Everybody wants to drive at the big show, and that’s Woodbine Mohawk Park and I was no different, so I would leave five or six drives on the table at London. I’d drive a couple and then I’d take off to drive to Northern Sky or, as a four-year-old, Jr Mint. I got to drive him as a four-year-old. I was a bit in awe at the time, especially driving in Jack’s old Telstar with the outside stirrups. Looking back at it, it’s kind of funny now thinking about it, because he still has that bike… Anyway, it was that long ago that Jack gave me the call. You’d have to ask him why, but I definitely appreciate it and we’ve raced some really nice horses together and 'Bulldog' is the best one we’ve raced together. I think Jack even stated he was the best horse he’s ever trained.”
In the other stakes on Saturday, Jamieson will drive Samosa in the Peaceful Way (post seven), Logan Park in the Goodtimes (post eight), Off The Record in the Fan Hanover (post 10) and World At War Deo in the William Wellwood (post one).
“I’ve got a really good line-up. I think it’s all going to culminate in the 11th race. I hopefully will have a good night and get some cheques, hopefully win a couple before I get there and then you’re settled right into the night and you’re working hard and trying to do your best and you get to the best race of the night… it’s sort of the routine of every night, you just treat it like every other night, even though we’re going for a million.”
In recent years, Jamieson has often brought a victorious horse along the tarmac rail so he could slap hands with fans on the way to the winner’s circle. That likely isn’t possible now since the track was resurfaced and there’s an incline between the edge of the track and the railing making it dangerous to steer horses too close to the fans. But, should Jamieson pull off a third Pepsi North America Cup victory to add to the ones he earned in 2007 with Tell All and in 2011 with Up The Credit, the driver said he hopes to bring racing fans along for the ride, somehow.
“These last two Saturday nights, especially in the summer time, have been great crowds… I’m hoping to get some high fives in on Saturday night. We’ll see what happens,” he said. “A few months ago we weren’t sure if we were going to have a North America Cup, let alone a North America Cup night with all these races on the undercard, so it’s really nice to know that a bunch of the guys are all racing in those races. All the guys from up here that were locked down, everybody has at least a drive in one of the big races and it really does make it all worthwhile and puts the lockdown a long way in our rear-view.”
To view complete entries for Saturday's harness racing card at Woodbine Mohawk Park and complimentary past performance pages, click on the following links: Saturday Entries -- Program Pages (courtesy TrackIT).
(With files from Woodbine)