Taking stock of North America Cup sleepers

by Brett Sturman

Last month’s edition of Trot magazine featured the Spring Book, a listing of all horses eligible at that time for June’s Pepsi North America Cup, along with odds to project a rating. I like the idea of a Spring Book, or Winter Book as The Meadowlands does for the Meadowlands Pace, but have wondered for a few years now in the age of legalized sports wagering, why actual wagering isn’t offered for these events throughout the winter and spring months. But even if the event is essentially non-wagering until the Pepsi North America Cup eliminations formally take place less than one month from now, here’s a look at what could be some contenders flying under the radar starting with their longest chances, based on Trot’s Spring Book odds.

Gung Ho (80-1): Having faced some of the sport’s top freshmen last year at 2, he’s come back well so far at 3. In his second start back, he two-moved to the lead from post 8 to win confidently from there in 1:51. Fellow North America Cup-eligible horse Brue Hanover (80-1) secured the pocket in that race but gradually backed away from the spot in the later stages. It’s also worth noting that Gung Ho was second in his first race of the year to the Anthony Beaton-trained Redwood Hanover (75-1), who went on to be a well-closing fourth in a fast Pennsylvania Sires Stakes race after winning two races to kick off his year in Canada.

It’s My Show (80-1): He’s run his record to two-for-two this year with a win two nights ago, where he and Blue Hunt (45-1) put in a great stretch duel at The Meadowlands while being well clear of all others. Winning that race off the perfect pocket trip with a :25.4 final quarter, it came on the heels of a race where he beat a horse by the name of Command the race prior, which is notable because Command came back to explode past Ants Marching (42-1) in his next-out race. Equally impressive in that race two nights ago was Blue Hunt, second in last year’s 1:49.3 Kindergarten final, who was fast-finishing second to Caviart Scotland when making his seasonal debut two back in the Paul Revere at Plainridge.

Stormalong (65-1): A Governor’s Cup elimination winner last year at odds of 14-1 where he took his mark of 1:51.2, he lost by five lengths in that 1:49.2 final to El Rey (5-1). But he won in what was a loaded qualifier from last week at The Meadowlands, where he impressively bested a field of NA Cup eligibles. In that race, he patiently sat third and then followed the move El Rey made from second to confront race leader Kopi Luwak (50-1). Once urged, Stormalong was able to get by a similarly-urged El Rey by a neck, and it was a length back to 1:49.2 winner from last year, Kopi Luwak. In that same qualifier, Save America (20-1), one of the best 2-year-olds from early in the season last year, was closing noticeably well.

Christchurch (60-1): I remember that October race at the Red Mile last year when he made a big three-wide move into fast fractions and raced well through the stretch in trying to hold off El Rey in a fast 1:49.3 mile. He’s come back this year to win both qualifiers so far, the most recent of which came by close to seven lengths in 1:51.3; would have been someone worth taking a flyer on potentially.

Write Me A Rose (60-1): A winner in his second start of the year at the end of April at Woodbine Mohawk, he sat fourth of battling leaders before making a well-timed move to win comfortably enough in 1:51.2. In that same race, Moment Is Here (40-1) followed that move and closed to the inside to be second in what was his first start of the year. He was further flattered when $200,000 and Ontario Sires Stakes winner from last year Moment Is Here came back to win next out in 1:50.2 while battling to hold off older horses.

Voukefalas (28-1): Perhaps getting into some of the more known contenders, the best Lazarus colt in New Jersey and one of the better 3-year-olds period, Voukefalas impressed last week in an New Jersey Sire Stakes leg in his season debut. A 1:50 winner last year at 2, he once again beat his familiar nemesis Handlelikeaporsche (16-1) after a stress-free trip on the front end in what were both their first races as 3-year-olds. He closed that race with a final quarter of :26, and that was following up from last quarters of :25.2 and :24.4 in his prior return qualifiers. Those two rivals raced again last night (May 13) in another NJSS leg.

Bamboozler (24-1): It appears Bamboozler has gone from trainer John Butenschoen to Virgil Morgan, Jr. in between his 2 and 3-year-old seasons, and he couldn’t have been more impressive in winning his PASS race last week at The Meadows. Bamboozler was second last year in the $400,000 Kentucky Championship Series to Confederate (4-1) and after impressive return qualifiers this spring at Miami Valley, he went right to the front in his race last week and kept all comers at bay, including last year’s $233,970 Kindergarten Final winner Loubet (10-1), who posed only a mild threat from the pocket. As referenced earlier, Redwood Hanover (75-1) had late pace to offer in that same race.

As for other notables, Fulton (11-1) impressed in season’s debut last week when winning a PASS at The Meadows. A winner at 3-5, he capitalized on a good trip, where the same couldn’t be said for either Lyon’s Surfing (30-1) or Tip Top Cat (65-1), who both were severely shuffled out of the race after leading 1-2 earlier on in the mile.

Last year’s Breeders Crown winner Ammo (12-1) beat Confederate nearly two weeks ago in a qualifier at Chester, and then followed that up when he won with a vengeance in 1:51.2 at the same track in his first start of the year a few days ago.

The reigning 2-year-old O’Brien and Dan Patch winner Stockade Seelster (6-1) qualified Friday at Woodbine Mohawk to win by nearly eight lengths over Ace Of Aces (28-1) in 1:51, with a last quarter of :26.1.