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Road to the NA Cup – Week 1 (July 16, 2020)

July 16, 2020


MILTON, July 16, 2020 – The 37th edition of the Pepsi North America Cup is now six-weeks away and the stakes season is heating up for three-year-old pacers.

The saying “good things come to those who wait” will ring very true for the connections of this year’s Pepsi North America Cup winner. The $1 million race for three-year-old pacers was originally scheduled for June 20, but will now take place on Saturday, August 29 at Woodbine Mohawk Park.

The Pepsi North America Cup is traditionally the first major race for sophomore pacers, with most of the eligible horses making just a few starts prior to the eliminations.

The late-August date certainly changes the ‘Road to the Pepsi North America Cup’, which will head through the Meadowlands this Saturday for the 2020 Meadowlands Pace.

The continuation of Sires Stakes and more Grand Circuit events will fill the schedule in the coming weeks, building more excitement for the potential showdowns in Campbellville on August 29. A total of 65 three-year-old pacers remain eligible for the Cup.

Below is the initial ‘Road to the Pepsi North America Cup’ top-ten rankings, as ranked by Mark McKelvie, which will be updated weekly leading up to the eliminations, scheduled for Saturday, August 22.


  1. Tall Dark Stranger
    Owner(s): Crawford Farms Racing, Marvin Katz, Caviart Farms & Howard Taylor
    Trainer: Nancy Takter
    Driver: Yannick Gingras

Last year’s Metro Pace, Breeders Crown, O’Brien Award and Dan Patch Award winner has look superb through two starts this season and enters the Meadowlands Pace as the morning-line favourite. Took a mark of 1:47.4 in his season debut, the fastest mile this season by a three-year-old. He’s the big dog and he looks poised to rule the yard all season.

  1. Papi Rob Hanover
    Owner(s): David McDuffee
    Trainer: Brett Pelling
    Driver: David Miller

The start of his three-year-old season hasn’t gone completely as planned, thanks to terrible post position luck. Landed post-ten in his first two starts, charging home strong each time to finish second and third, respectively. But this weekend is the first major dance, the one that really counts and he would shock nobody with a winning effort from post-nine.

  1. Tattoo Artist
    Owner(s): Frank Cannon & Let It Ride Stables
    Trainer: Dr. Ian Moore
    Driver: Louis Philippe Roy/Bob McClure

Last year’s Ontario Sires Stakes champion is currently riding a three-race win streak, with each victory a bigger statement than the last. He’s gone down the road in all three, including a dazzling 1:48.2 victory in his most recent, which just missed the all-time OSS record by a fifth of a second. Ontario’s best will be ready to protect home turf.

  1. Allywag Hanover
    Owner(s): Allywag Stable
    Trainer: Brett Pelling
    Driver: David Miller/Tim Tetrick

Showed a couple glimpses of major talent as a rookie, but never reached the top. That has changed this season. Now racing for Brett Pelling, he’s looked incredible posting three wins in three starts. Appears poised to give my top-two ranked horses a run in the Meadowlands Pace.

  1. Capt Midnight
    Owner(s): Marvin Katz, Kenneth Jacobs, Brad Grant & Capt Midnight Racing
    Trainer: Tony Alagna
    Driver: Andrew McCarthy

A rare bad night almost cost him a chance at the Meadowlands Pace, but he’ll draw in as the also eligible with a stablemate bowing out for a different route. Following a steady and strong rookie campaign, he came back with a wicked performance in his season debut. Can’t be overlooked.

  1. Beaumond Hanover
    Owner(s): Jack Darling Stables
    Trainer: Jack Darling
    Driver: Jody Jamieson

Posted a 1:49.4 score in his season debut and most recently took an OSS Gold division dominantly in 1:49.1. Squeezed in between were a couple narrow defeats. He’s never raced bad and is showing that he’s Grand Circuit material. Burst onto the scene late last-season in dominating fashion and is showing that those blowout wins had nothing to do with the company he was facing. He’s the real deal.

  1. Elver Hanover
    Owner(s): Burke Racing Stable, Bridgette Jablonsky, Jason Melillo, JandT Silva Purnel & Libb
    Trainer: Ron Burke
    Driver: Chris Page

Perfect 10 for 10 and the fastest two-year-old pacer in history. Not a bad introduction for this Ohio superstar. Has only ventured away from Ohio for two starts, scoring back-to-back Grand Circuit victories last fall at The Red Mile. Won his season debut in an Ohio Sires Stakes and intrigue is high to see if he can keep the streak going and where he’ll stack up against Grand Circuit rivals.

  1. Captain Kirk
    Owner(s): Brittany Farms, Marvin Katz, Brad Grant & Captain Kirk Racing
    Trainer: Tony Alagna
    Driver: Dexter Dunn/Joe Bongiorno

Posted a strong runner-up finish in the Meadowlands Pace elimination, charging home in :25.2. Went 1 for 9 as a rookie, but was right there in most starts and just got a little lost in the shadow of his stablemates and the top-ranked horse on this list. Strong qualifiers and two good starts this season have him looking like a player.

  1. Captain Barbossa
    Owner(s): Alagnafrankinthegym Stabl, Robert LeBlanc & David Anderson
    Trainer: Tony Alagna
    Driver: Andrew McCarthy/Brian Sears

Likely didn’t get the credit he deserved for a solid two-year-old campaign. Grand Circuit winner, three-wins and 10 top-three finishes in 14 starts last year. Has comeback at three and caught the attention of many, which is notable considering he has yet to win in three starts. Came up half a length short to Allywag Hanover two-back in a 1:48 mile and then closed well in his Meadowlands Pace elimination to finish fourth. Both races he paced home in :25.3.

  1. Groovy Joe
    Owner(s): Hutt Racing Stable, Blake MacIntosh, Ozzie MacKay & Hoofbid Racing
    Trainer: Blake MacIntosh
    Driver: Matt Kakaley/James MacDonald

Was a model of consistency at two, winning seven of 10 and finishing second in the other three starts. Raced primarily in the New York Sires Stakes, finishing second in the State Championship. The start of his season didn’t go exactly as connections would hope, but the ability was clearly there and he tapped into it in his most recent outing, scoring an outstanding 1:48.4 victory in a New York Sires Stakes event.

Honourable Mention (alphabetical order):

Beach Blanket Book
Owner(s): Hutt Racing Stable & Mac and Heim Stables
Trainer: Blake MacIntosh
Driver: Doug McNair

Catch The Fire
Owner(s): Ct Stables
Trainer: John Ackley
Driver: Mike Wilder

Chief Mate
Owner(s): Brittany Farms, Marvin Katz, Brad Grant & Captain Kirk Racing
Trainer: Tony Alagna
Driver: George Napolitano/Scott Zeron

Indictable Hanover
Owner(s): West Wins Stable, John Fielding & Mac Nichol
Trainer: Casie Coleman-Herlihy
Driver: Bob McClure

Roll With Jr
Owner(s): Pollack Racing & Jeff Cullipher
Trainer: Jeff Cullipher
Driver: Corey Callahan/Tim Tetrick/John De Long/Sam Widger/Doug McNair

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