MILTON, June 12 – Lather Up, Stay Hungry and Wes Delight, all impressive winners in last weekend’s eliminations, headline a field of 10 for the $1 million Pepsi North America Cup onSaturday, June 16 at Woodbine Mohawk Park.
The 35th edition of Canada’s richest harness race, showcasing the finest three-year-old pacers on the continent, will go postward at 10:40 p.m. EDT and will be broadcast live on TSN2 from 10:00 – 11:00 .m. EDT. The winner of the Pepsi North America Cup earns $500,000. This year’s marks the 18thanniversary of Pepsi’s sponsorship of the race.
Post positions were drawn today at Woodbine Mohawk Park, with Toronto Maple Leafs’ defencemanConnor Carrick as the guest drawmaster.
A total of 29 three-year-old pacers competed over three $50,000 eliminations last Saturday to determine the field for this year’s race. The top-three finishers from each division, plus a fourth-place finisher drawn by lot, qualified for the $1 million final.
The group of 29 entered in this year’s eliminations was the highest turnout since 2010.
Elimination winners earned their connections the right to select their post position for the final. Nineteen of the 34 Cup winners won their elimination.
Lather Up (PP4), an Ohio-sired son of Im Gorgeous, was the fastest elimination winner, as he shot up the inside to win his division by nearly three-lengths in 1:49.2 for trainer Clyde Francis and driver Montrell Teague.
A homebred for owners Gary & Barbara Iles, Lather Up is undefeated in five starts this season and currently holds a record of nine wins and 11 top-three finishes from 12 career-starts. The bay colt holds a pair of Track Records in the state of Ohio and enters the Pepsi North America Cup with $167,100 in career earnings.
The combination of Francis and Teague will be looking for redemption in this Saturday’s $1 million race after they finished second with superstar Wiggle It Jiggleit in the 2015 Cup.
Teague understands the pressure that is on him and Lather Up following their dazzling elimination performance.
“Adds more pressure (winning an elimination). I mean, you always got to figure out the next trip that’s going to be next week,” said Teague. “You got to make sure the horse is healthy, make sure I do my job, make sure he does his job. I had the best horse in 2015 and I got beat, so you never know.”
Stay Hungry (PP2), last year’s Breeders Crown champion, came from third-over on the final turn to power by rivals in the lane and win his elimination in 1:50 for trainer Tony Alagna and driver Doug McNair.
A son of Somebeachsomewhere, Stay Hungry was one of the Winter-Book favourites for this year’s Cup after winning six of nine starts and being named Canada’s Top 2-Year-Old Pacing Colt at the O’Brien Awards. His trainer Alagna won the 2013 Cup with Captaintreacherous, while driver McNair, last year’s Driver of the Year in Canada, will be seeking his first Cup in his third try.
“It feels good (winning an elimination),” said McNair following last Saturday’s victory. “That’s always what you dream of when you’re growing up watching the race, so to be in the race and have one that’s legit and low odds is a great feeling.”
Stay Hungry has won seven of 11 career starts and earned $588,760 for owners Brad Grant, Woodbine’s leading owner, and the late-Irwin Samelman.
Wes Delight (PP3) split rivals late to prevail victorious in the tightest finish of last Saturday’s eliminations for trainer Mark Harder and driver Corey Callahan. The son Bettors Delight stopped the timer in 1:50.2 for his fifth win in six starts this season.
“I was kind of worried I wasn’t going to get any room,” said Callahan following the elimination. “But (American History) went on enough I could sneak out there and this little horse is so gritty, he just loves to win.”
Owned by Rick Phillips, Deena Rachel Frost and Mark Harder, Wes Delight has had a powerful start to his three-year-old campaign after being competitive in his rookie season, winning three of 11 starts.
The Harder trainee has made more starts (17) than any other horse in this year’s Cup.
Wes Delight’s career-totals sit at eight wins and $232,573 earned going into Saturday’s $1 million race.
Trainer Brian Brown, who won last year’s Cup with Fear The Dragon, has a chance at a repeat withDone Well (PP7). The son of Well Said finished second to Stay Hungry to suffer his first loss in six career starts.
Jimmy Takter has won nearly all the sport’s biggest races, but the Pepsi North America Cup has yet to come his way in five-previous attempts. The Hall of Fame trainer will send out Nutcracker Sweet (PP8), who finished second by a neck to Wes Delight, and Lost In Time (PP6), the fourth-place finisher to draw in.
Lost In Time captured last year’s Metro Pace at Woodbine Mohawk Park and was named the Dan Patch Award winner as Top 2-Year-Old Pacing Colt in the U.S.
A pair of Husband-Wife, Driver-Trainer teams will compete in this year’s Pepsi North America Cup.
Jody and Stephanie Jamieson will send out Ontario-sired gelding St Lads Neptune (PP1), who finished second to Lather Up in his elimination. Jody is a two-time Cup winning-driver, having won in 2007 with Tell All and 2011 with Up The Credit.
Andy and Julie Miller team up to compete with Hayden Hanover (PP9), a third-place finisher in last Saturday’s eliminations. The New Jersey based Miller’s have had a good run with Hayden Hanover, as the son of Somebeachsomewhere has two wins, 11 top-three finishes in 14 career starts.
Stay Hungry may grab the headlines, but trainer Alagna is another trainer in this year’s race with two-entries. American History (PP5) finished third, beat less than a length, in the elimination won by Wes Delight. The son of American Ideal has won four of eight starts and is tied with Lather Up for the fastest career-mark in this year’s field at 1:49.1.
Driver Brett Miller will sit behind Hitman Hill (PP10) in Saturday’s race hoping to change his luck and capture his first Pepsi North America Cup. The 44-year-old driver has finished second in three-different editions of the Cup and will be making his seventh appearance in Canada’s richest race.
A son of American Ideal, Hitman Hill was nearly perfect in his rookie season, winning six of seven starts. The Chris Oakes trainee is winless in three starts this season.
The North America Cup stakes record is 1:47.4, set by Thinking Out Loud in 2012 and equaled in 2016 by Betting Line. Hall of famer Bettors Delight holds the record for the largest margin of victory, four and half lengths in 2001.
The list of past Cup winners is a who’s who of Standardbred greats, including Jate Lobell (1987), Precious Bunny (1991), Presidential Ball (1993), Cams Card Shark (1994), Gallo Blue Chip (2000), Rocknroll Hanover (2005), Somebeachsomewhere (2008) and Captaintreacherous (2013).
The shortest-priced winners in Cup history are Jate Lobell and Presidential Ball at $2.70, while Goalie Jeff, in 1989, provided the biggest upset, returning $93.60 for a $2 Win bet.
The Cup was raced at Greenwood Raceway from 1984-03, followed by Woodbine Racetrack from 1994-2006. The North America Cup was moved to Mohawk in 2007 and this year’s edition marks the first Cup since the renaming to Woodbine Mohawk Park.
The Cup night card will offer three Pick-4 wagers, including an All Stakes Pick-4 with a $100,000 guaranteed pool, comprising of Races 9 through 12. There will also be a mandatory payout on the Jackpot Hi-5.
The North America Cup undercard features the $415,000 Fan Hanover for three-year-old pacing fillies, $370,000 Roses Are Red for pacing mares, $250,000 Armbro Flight for trotting mares, $266,000 Goodtimes for three-year-old trotters and the $100,000 Mohawk Gold Cup Invitational for older pacers.
Post time for the first of 15 races on the Pepsi North America Cup card is 6:30 p.m.