MILTON, August 28, 2020 – It might be uncommon for a driver to pick up a horse for a million-dollar final and win the race, but Jody Jamieson knows it is possible. And he hopes history repeats itself Saturday when he drives Captain Kirk in the $1 million Pepsi North America Cup for 3-year-old male pacers at Woodbine Mohawk Park.
Captain Kirk won his North America Cup elimination last weekend by three-quarters of a length over Allywag Hanover in 1:49.3 with Bob McClure in the sulky for trainer Tony Alagna. McClure will drive 2019 Ontario Sire Stakes champion Tattoo Artist in the final, presenting Jamieson the opportunity to pick up Captain Kirk.
Fourteen years ago, Jamieson picked up the drive behind Yankee Skyscaper for the million-dollar Metro Pace final. John Campbell drove Yankee Skyscaper to a second-place finish in his elimination but opted for elim winner Artzina in the final. Jamieson won the race from post eight for trainer Chris Ryder and the Yankee Skyscaper Partners, a group that included some of the same owners of Captain Kirk.
“It doesn’t happen very often, but when it does, I’m glad that I’m the guy they tap on the shoulder to drive them,” Jamieson said. “I was obviously thrilled to go with (Yankee Skyscaper), and I ended up winning, so it worked out really good.”
Captain Kirk is 3-1 on the North America Cup morning line, second choice behind 7-5 favorite Tall Dark Stranger.
A son of Captaintreacherous out of Aria Hanover, Captain Kirk has won two of his last three starts, including the Tompkins-Geers Stakes on Aug. 1 at The Meadowlands, where the field included Tall Dark Stranger and Allywag Hanover. He finished third in the Cane Pace, behind Tall Dark Stranger and stablemate and Cup finalist Capt Midnight.
Jamieson will be driving Captain Kirk for the first time on Saturday.
“There are more zeros (in the purse) for sure, but it’s just another race and I have to prepare the same way I always prepare,” Jamieson said. “You want to make sure you know the horses, have a plan going in, and be willing to change the plan when the gate folds.
“I’ve run the race over in my head a few times already. There are multiple scenarios. One thing for sure, I think Tattoo Artist will be going forward and I think Allywag Hanover will be going forward, so they’re going to mix it up a little bit. We’ll see how that plays out.”
Jamieson is a two-time winner of the North America Cup, capturing the event with Tell All in 2007 and Up The Credit in 2011. Only John Campbell, with a record six Cup victories, and Mike Lachance, with three, have won the race more than twice.
“With any of these big races, it’s so nice to be in them let alone win them,” said Jamieson, who has been Canada’s Driver of the Year on three occasions. “I wasn’t in the race last year, so I’m happy to be in it with a horse that has a chance this year. It would be nice to get three, for sure. This is one of the ones you want to win each time.”
Captain Kirk is one of three horses in the race from Alagna’s stable. Capt Midnight, who finished second by a head to Tall Dark Stranger in his elimination, is 9-2 on the morning line and Captain Barbossa, who was fourth in the same elim, one length behind the winner, is 15-1. Capt Midnight will start from post five with Doug McNair in the sulky while Captain Barbossa leaves from post nine with James MacDonald.
MacDonald was injured in a racing accident Aug. 1 and returned to action last week.
“When I got hurt, I thought there was no chance I would make it back in time,” said MacDonald, who suffered a concussion and broken collarbone. “I worked hard with my doctors and they were able to get me back. I’m just happy to be in the race.
MacDonald picked up the drive behind Captain Barbossa from Louis Roy, who will drive Allywag Hanover in the final. It will be MacDonald’s first time driving the horse. The son of Captaintreacherous-Swinging Beauty has won three of 22 lifetime starts and $180,256.
“I’m going to watch some replays and get a feel for what he likes and I’ll talk to Tony, obviously,” MacDonald said. “I talked to Louis after the race last week, before I even knew I was driving him, and Louis was really pleased with him. He had lots of go; he came a wicked back half and never really had clear sailing. Louis was really high on him. I expect that with a good trip he’ll give a good effort.
“(Post nine) is just a starting spot. Hopefully, we can work something out. If the horse gets a trip, I think he’s coming into the race in good form and Tony has always got his horses ready to go for the big money. I expect him to be very good.”
MacDonald is making his North America Cup debut.
“This is as big as it gets in Canada,” MacDonald said. “I was lucky enough to win the (Canadian Pacing) Derby last year but it doesn’t get any bigger than the NA Cup. That’s the goal when you drive horses, to win these big ones. This is it.”
Capt Midnight, by Captaintreacherous out of It Was Fascination, won multiple Grand Circuit stakes last year. For his career, he has seven victories in 17 starts and $392,338.
“He might have surprised some people last week by almost beating Tall Dark Stranger, but he’s a really good horse,” McNair said. “He’s just like driving a Cadillac. He’s good gaited and versatile. You can do what you want with him, and when it’s go time, he goes. He’s a pleasure to drive.”
McNair, Canada’s Driver of the Year in 2017, is seeking his first North America Cup trophy.
“It’s going to be a good race,” McNair said. “I think there is going to be a lot of speed. There are a couple horses on the outside that they can’t take off the gate if they have any shot of winning and there is a lot of speed from the inside too.”
This year’s Pepsi North America Cup card features nine stakes races and purses totaling $2.4 million. The $400,000 Fan Hanover, $290,000 Roses Are Red, $220,000 Armbro Flight, $234,058 Nassagaweya (two divisions) and $214,645 Eternal Camnation (three divisions) make up the Cup undercard.
The 37th Pepsi North America Cup has been carded as race 11 and has a post time of 10:43 p.m. (EDT). Fans can watch live coverage on TSN4 from 10-11.
Free program pages for Saturday’s card are available here. Racing begins at 6:30.
BY KEN WEINGARTNER – USTA Media