June 22 2010
Ten of the continent’s finest three-year-old pacers, headed by Rock N Roll Heaven and All Speed Hanover, will contest Saturday’s $1.5 million Pepsi North America Cup at Mohawk Racetrack.
Post time for the 27th edition of the Cup, the richest pacing event in the world, is 9:40 pm, with the winner earning $750,000. The Score will air a special one and one-half hour telecast nationally from 8:30 – 10:00 pm ET.
Post positions were drawn today at Mohawk, with P.K. Subban, rookie defenceman with the Montreal Canadiens of the National Hockey League, as guest drawmaster.
Last Saturday, three Cup eliminations were staged to determine the field for the final, with the connections of the winners earning the right to select their post positions first, before the balance of the field is drawn.
The top three finishers in each elimination qualified for the final, plus one fourth-place finisher drawn by lot. Fifteen of the past 26 Cup winners also won their eliminations.
Last year, Well Said, who went postward the second choice to Keep It Real, despite winning the fastest elimination, set a stakes, track and Canadian record of 1:48.1, dominating the Pepsi North America Cup at Mohawk by three and one-quarter lengths with an explosive stretch charge, en route to three-year-old Colt Pacer of the Year honours in Canada and the United States.
This year, Rock N Roll Heaven, who won the fastest elimination, edging Kyle Major by a nose in 1:48.4, with Sportswriter just a half length further back in a thrilling three-horse photo, is the 2-1 morning line choice from post three. The son of 2005 Cup winner Rocknroll Hanover is the field’s second-leading money winner with $875,386.
Trained by Bruce Saunders for owner Frank Bellino of Bronxville, New York, Rock N Roll Heaven, winner of the Berry’s Creek and New Jersey Sire Stakes earlier this year, was catch-driven in the elim by Tim Tetrick, who replaced an injured Dan Dube. However, on Saturday, he’ll be handled by record six-time Cup winner and Hall of Famer John Campbell, whose previous Cup wins came with Precious Bunny (1991), Cams Card Shark (1994), Davids Pass (1995), Arizona Jack (1996), Gothic Dream (1997) and The Panderosa (1999).
"He’s coming up to the race great," said Saunders. "I think he’ll be a lot better this week than last week, because he’s back on the program, his regular routine (rather than having to qualify during the week). He’s had his regular week. So I expect him to move forward. He’s a very versatile horse. He was good on the front end until he made a mistake in the Burlington. He’s never lost a race on the front end. Then, off of cover, he’s pretty vicious as well. So John (driver Campbell) will have a lot of options. Those two horses (Kyle Major and Sportswriter) put up big efforts, too (in the elim). I think he’s got a chance to be a really great horse but time will prove that to be the case."
All Speed Hanover, driven by Ron Pierce, who won his elimination in 1:49.4 by finding a seam between the pacesetters in mid-stretch, then comfortably holding off Delmarvalous by three-quarters of a length, is the second choice at 3-1 from post four. Last year, the son of 1994 Cup winner Cams Card Shark scored his biggest win in the Breeders Crown on October 24 at Woodbine, handing Sportswriter his only loss of the campaign, by a head in 1:52.
Trained by Michael Vanderkemp for co-owners Adam Victor and Son Stable of New York, NY and John Fielding of Toronto, All Speed Hanover earlier this month won his New Jersey Classic elim but lost the $500,000 final to BG’s Folly by a nose at the Meadowlands. Pierce is looking for a third Cup win, after victories with Total Truth in 2006 and Well Said in 2009.
"Ronnie (driver Pierce) kind of wanted to be on the outside of Rock N Roll Heaven if we could, so that’s where we are," said Vanderkemp. "There’s going to be a lot of pace in the final after seeing the draw. That (his elim) was the first time the horse had ever left out of the gate. He pretty much made three moves. It didn’t look good at the top of the stretch but he got through there and came home good. He’s coming up to the race well." …/2
Sportswriter (PP6, 4-1), trained by Casie Coleman, will also attract plenty of support, as the field’s leading money winner with $895,411. Last year’s champion two-year-old Colt Pacer in Canada and the United States indicated a return to form with a close third place finish to Rock N Roll Heaven in his elim.
Owned by Steve Calhoun of Chatham, West Wins Stable of Cambridge and Southwind Farm in New Jersey, the son of Artsplace took a career mark of 1:49.2 in last year’s $1 million Metro Pace, while also winning the Nassagaweya and Champlain, before his upset loss to All Speed Hanover in the season-ending Breeders Crown. Coleman trained last year’s Cup runner-up, Art Colony.
"He raced absolutely tremendous," said Coleman, about Sportswriter’s effort in his elimination. "He couldn’t have raced any better. The horse has been saddled with some serious foot issues the last few weeks. I put his steel shoes back on and ever since, he’s good again now. He’s back to the way he should be. Post six is awesome. I couldn’t be happier. We were in an open draw and that was absolutely perfect. It’s the highest winning post at Mohawk. He was back to being the ‘old’ Sportswriter’ last week but didn’t really get the best trip. He’s back to himself."
We Will See, who pulled off a 12-1 upset in the third elim, collaring One More Laugh on the line for a neck victory in a career best 1:49, is still considered an outsider, at 10-1 from post one. Driven by Brett Miller for trainer Cosmo (Sam) De Pinto, We Will See was winning his first race in five outings this year. The son of Western Hanover also finished third to One More Laugh in the Rooney final.
One More Laugh (PP8, 12-1), trained and co-owned by Ray Schnittker of Deweycheatumnhowe fame, won the $294,965 Rooney final at Yonkers on June 12 before finishing a neck behind We Will See as the odds-on choice in his elimination.
To be driven by Tim Tetrick, One More Laugh, a son of McArdle, won last year’s $800,000 Governor’s Cup at Chester on September 20, defeating Rock N Roll Heaven by one length.
Fred And Ginger (PP2, 12-1), trained by Ronald Burke, finished third to All Speed Hanover in his elimination and has not been worse than third in seven outings this year, including a victory in the $300,000 Hempt final at Pocono Downs, May 22. The son of Real Artist was also second to Rock N Roll Heaven in the Berrys Creek.
Kyle Major (PP9, 6-1), trained by Shawn Robinson for owner-breeder Robert Hamather of Exeter, Ontario, just missed winning his elim after cutting out blistering fractions, failing by a nose to Rock N Roll Heaven. Winner of a Burlington division on June 12, the son of Art Major will be driven by Jody Jamieson, who won the 2007 Pepsi North America Cup with favoured Tell All.
Delmarvalous (PP7, 12-1), to be driven by Brian Sears for trainer Brenda Teague, finished a closing second to All Speed Hanover last Saturday. Although winless in four outings this year, the son of Badlands Hanover has won eight of 15 career starts. Sears won the 2005 Cup with Rocknroll Hanover while Teague trained 2006 Cup winner Total Truth.
Piece Of The Rock (PP10, 25-1), trained and co-owned by Robert Young of Guelph, Ontario, finished third to We Will See in his elim after setting all the fractions. Fifth in the New Jersey Classic at the Meadowlands on June 12, the son of 2005 Cup winner Rocknroll Hanover will be handled by Paul MacDonell, who steered champion Somebeachsomewhere to a 2008 Cup win.
Completing the field is Art Professor (PP5, 25-1), a son of Art Major, trained and co-owned by Florida’s Steve Elliott, who conditioned last year’s Cup winner, Well Said. A winner in two of only seven lifetime starts, Art Professor finished fourth to We Will See in his elim but drew into the final. Yannick Gingras will drive.
Prior to Well Said’s performance last year, Red River Hanover held the Cup stakes record of 1:48.4, set in 2002 at Woodbine, while Hall of Famer Bettors Delight has won the race by the largest margin, four and one-half lengths, in 2001.
Other winners of the Cup, which began in 1984 at Greenwood Raceway, include such champions as Jate Lobell (1987), Precious Bunny (1991), Presidential Ball (1993), Cams Card Shark (1994), Gallo Blue Chip (2000), Rocknroll Hanover (2005), Somebeachsomewhere (2008) and Well Said (2009).
The Cup was raced at Greenwood from 1984-93, followed by Woodbine from 1994-2006. It was held at Mohawk Racetrack for the first time in 2007. The shortest-priced winners, at $2.70, are Jate Lobell and Presidential Ball, while Goalie Jeff, in 1989, provided the highest win payoff, $93.60.
The exceptional card on Saturday also includes the $666,000 Fan Hanover Stakes for three-year-old filly pacers, headed by Fancy Filly and Put On A Show, the $387,000 Goodtimes Stakes for three-year-old colt trotters, featuring elim winners JetBlue Volo, Text Me and Sing Jesse Sing and the $557,000 Elegantimage Stakes for three-year-old filly trotters, with Poof Shes Gone and Ultimate Cameron the headliners.
Post time for the first race is 7:10 pm ET.