CAMPBELLVILLE, June 2 -On Saturday evening ten spots will be on the line for the right to battle in the $1,000,000 Pepsi North America Cup on Saturday, June 14 at Mohawk Racetrack.
This past weekend, on both sides of the border, multiple horses proved contenders for the Cup including the three division winners (JK Endofanera, Always B Miki and Hes Watching) of the Somebeachsomewhere Stakes.
Tuesday morning at 10:30am the entry box will close for the 2014 Pepsi North America Cup. The connections of all horses eligible will need to decide if their horse is a contender or a pretender.
In advance of the eliminations, here are an early look at the Top 5 contenders for this year’s Pepsi North America Cup:
1. Hes Watching (Last race: Finished 1st in a division of the Somebeachsomewhere Stakes in 1:49.3)
Driver: Jody Jamieson/ Jim Morrill Jr
Trainer: David Menary
Last season: 8-8-0-0 $291,772 1:50.0 at Tioga Downs
This Season: 2-1-0-0 $37,500 1:49.3 at Mohawk
After finishing his two-year-old season undefeated, Hes Watching was anointed the pre-season North America Cup favourite.
The son of American Ideal was a bargain yearling purchase of $3,000. He showed high speed last year setting at the time a world record of 1:50.0 over Tioga Downs and equaling the half-mile world record of 1:52.2 at Yonkers.
This season trainer Dave Menary opted to qualify him twice over the Mohawk oval before sending him to Yonkers for his three-year-old debut in an elimination of the Art Rooney. That start didn’t go as planned and Hes Watching stopped badly in the final turn en route to his first defeat.
With questions and doubt looming over the much hyped three-year-old, Hes Watching bounced back with an impressive open-length score in his division of the Somebeachsomewhere Stakes.
The victory pushed any questions about whether or not Hes Watching is as good as the hype to the backburner for the time being. It also secured him the top spot on this list as he showed off his explosive speed and ability to win and make it look easy.
2. JK Endofanera (Last race: Finished 1st in a division of the Somebeachsomewhere Stakes in 1:50.0)
Driver: Brian Sears
Trainer: Ron Burke
Last Season: 7-4-3-0 $371,850 1:51.4 at Hoosier Park and The Meadowlands
This Season: 3-3-0-0 $79,207 1:49.4 at Pocono
Last season JK Endofanera quietly put together a nice season of four victories in seven starts while never finishing worse than second.
He finally made a name for himself in his final start of the season capturing the $534,000 Governor’s Cup at the Meadowlands.
This season he has picked up right where he left off with victories in his first three starts of the year. His most recent victory came in a division of the Somebeachsomewhere Stakes.
JK Endofanera made the front just past the quarter pole and made it look easy the rest of the way. Driver Brian Sears sat motionless while holding off Luck Be Withyou for a victory of a length with a last quarter of :26.4.
The confident looking victory improved JK Endofanera’s win streak to five races.
The son of Art Major has done everything he’s been asked this season and is going to be a handful for his opponents in the N.A. Cup.
3. Always B Miki (Last race: Finished 1st in a division of the Somebeachsomewhere Stakes in 1:50.0)
Driver: Corey Callahan
Trainer: Joe Holloway
Last Season: 12-2-4-3 $135,384 1:53.1 at Hoosier Park
This Season: 5-3-1-0 $71,507 1:50.0 at Mohawk
Always B Miki spent the majority of his two-year-old season racing in the mid-west at Hoosier Park competing in the Indiana Sires Stakes.
The son of Always A Virgin won his first start at Hoosier on August 6, but never found the winner’s circle again throughout the rest of his season.
This season Always B Miki has shown the difference between ages two and three.
In his first start he captured a conditioned event at the Meadowlands in 1:51 with a last quarter of :26. He followed that up capturing the Reynolds Stakes at Pocono in 1:50.3 with a final quarter of :26.1.
From there he went to Philadelphia where he went off at 1/9, made a break before the half, recovered and circled the field in the last quarter to be first across the line. Ultimately he was disqualified, but not without turning some heads.
He has continued to make a name for himself by competing in a conditioned event at the Meadowlands against older horses and suffering a nose defeat in a sharp clocking of 1:48.4.
That performance and his three others this season convinced the public to send him off as the favourite in his Somebeachsomewhere division and he did not disappoint with a front end score of 1:50.0 with a last quarter :26.2.
With each start Always B Miki has climbed the ranks as a serious Cup contender heading into the Pepsi N.A. Cup eliminations.
4. Luck Be Withyou (Last race: Finished 2nd in a division of the Somebeachsomehwere Stakes; Timed in 1:50.1)
Driver: Ron Pierce
Trainer: Bill Cass
Last Season: 11-5-1-0 $363,402 1:50.0 at Pocono
This Season: 1-0-1-0 $18,750
Luck Be Withyou knows the Mohawk track as well as any horse in the Cup.
The son of Western Ideal has made 10 of his 12 starts at Mohawk. The only time he went out of town he captured the Breeders Crown last season at Pocono.
This season, trainer Bill Cass had WEG circuit driver James MacDonald guide Luck Be Withyou in a pair of qualifying victories before turning the lines back over to Ron Pierce for the Somebeachsomewhere Stakes.
Luck Be Withyou made the lead early, but got a pocket trip after JK Endofanera cleared to the front just past the quarter. Luck Be Withyou was a length and a half off the lead at the top of the stretch, but couldn’t get by JK Endofanera pacing identical 26.4 last quarters.
Despite being the runner up, the mile was an impressive showing for Luck Be Withyou’s first start of the year.
Luck Be Withyou was a $77,000 yearling purchase and comes from a good family. He is a half-brother to 2012 Fan Hanover and Breeders Crown champion filly American Jewel who earned over $1.8 million in her career.
Luck Be Withyou has got the home town advantage heading into the Cup and could provide the thrill of a lifetime for longtime WEG conditioner Cass.
5. Western Vintage (Last race: Finished 2nd in the final of the New Jersey Sires Stakes at the Meadowlands; Timed in 1:50.1)
Driver: Yannick Gingras
Trainer: Nancy Johansson
Last Season: 8-5-1-0 $326,375 1:49.4 at The Red Mile
This Season: 2-1-1-0 $50,250 1:49.4 at The Meadowlands
Western Vintage is another bargain purchase looking for million dollar race fame.
The son of Western Ideal was purchased for $7,000 and in eight starts last season went on to earn over $300,000.
He finished second last year in the Metro Pace and took a sizzling mark of 1:49.4 at The Red Mile last fall.
This season, Western Vintage has made two starts both in the New Jersey Sires Stakes for Marcus and Nancy Johansson. As a two-year-old he swept the NJSS, but this past Saturday couldn’t hold off N.A Cup eligible Doo Wop Hanover in the $100,000 final.
Despite the loss, he remains a top contender as he has never lost in his career following a defeat.
His driver Yannick Gingras recently competed in Europe and has become one of the top big race drivers in the sport. However, one big race he has yet to win is the Pepsi North America Cup and Western Vintage offers Gingras a solid chance on June 14.