Pepsi North America Cup Night stakes analysis
by Brett Sturman
A fantastic undercard at Woodbine Mohawk Park this Saturday (June 17) supports one of the more wide-open North America Cups in memory. Picking up the action with the first stakes race of the night in race 5, here is how I see the best card to date this year going.
RACE 5, $210,000 ARMBRO FLIGHT FINAL
At age 7, Refined is two years older than anyone else in this relatively young field of female trotters. After winning back-to-back opens at Scioto to kick off her season, she got the perfect prep in her elimination here last week. Not used at all until the final quarter when she came off the inside, went into the stretch wide and sprinted with a :26.3 final quarter to just miss against the favorite. That favorite, Raised By Lindy, never faced an anxious moment in that front-end win and is sure to face more pressure now. I heard a whisper or two that Bella Bellini may have not come back as strong this year, but that was seemingly put to rest with her 1:51.3 elimination win last week. It did come off the most perfect of trips where she didn’t even have to tip from the pocket until mid-stretch, but she was powerful once given her cue. That was a good try from Adare Castle last week despite being overtaken and her win the week prior was solid. Warrawee Xenia looked like she may have been brushing early for the lead in her elimination but ended up parked first-over and raced evenly from that point on.
Picks: Refined, Bella Bellini, Adare Castle
RACE 6, $75,000 NORTH AMERICA CUP CONSOLATION
El Rey is one that I had a sneaky feeling about heading into his elimination last week and he closed strongly into Fulton’s 1:48.2 win after being well out of it, 10 lengths down at the half. He’d have an outside chance even if he were in the final, so for me last year’s Governor’s Cup champion would be the one to beat in the consolation. The 2-year-old champion Stockade Seelster is the obvious other contender and has the rail advantage too. His elimination was solid though he couldn’t salvage at least a second-place finish despite a two-hole ride right in behind the race winner. Write Me A Rose sprung the upset on Stockade Seelster three back and then had no-shot trips in his next two including last week’s elimination; might see a return back to early speed coming now. Ace Of Aces could be an interesting play as a presumed longshot; was quick off the gate for a moment last week before a powerful trio from the inside forced him to settle for an early spot in fourth.
Picks: El Rey, Ace of Aces, Stockade Seelster
RACE 7, $250,000 GOODTIMES FINAL
Southwind Coors launched a move in his elimination from pretty far off the pace and put a solid stretch scare as a double-digit longshot into the heavily favored race winner who already had first run. That race from Southwind Coors came on the heels of a crushing win prior against lesser, and two back gave it a great try first over against another of the contenders in here; deserves respect. Last year’s Breeders Crown champion Gainers Hanover will deserve favoritism, though he was surprised in his first start back this year and then as mentioned, held on by a neck last week in a race he probably should have won a little more comfortably. Hasty Bid had it all his own way on the front end in his elimination, taking that field through the half mile in a time of :57.2. Despite the slow second panel of 30 seconds, he didn’t have much fight to offer when Warrawee Yang came calling from the pocket to go right on by and win by a couple of open lengths in the end. In that same race, the well-supported Ghostly Casper didn’t have much go his way whatsoever and despite that closed with a wide rally and was flying. Tuscan Prince ran into a field last week that he couldn’t wire though he did set a good clip.
Picks: Southwind Coors, Ghostly Casper, Gaines Hanover
RACE 8, $100,000 MOHAWK GOLD CUP INVITATIONAL
There was a load more action than expected in last week’s FFA, which essentially served as a prep for this invitational. The 1:46 winner from last year’s Allerage Farms Open Pace and one of two horses to beat Bulldog Hanover last year, Allywag Hanover returned to the races for the first time since last November and I’m sure was harder used than I thought he was going to be. After fighting hard to the lead before clearing and then yielding through a :53.3 half mile, he finished fourth by two lengths. Speed should be coming again, but it’ll be interesting to see how far he can advance early from post 9. Billy Clyde lost a heartbreaker last week in what was another sharp try up top. There’s no doubt he’ll be protecting the inside position. Nautical Hanover delivered a career best mile last week at odds of 14-1 and was so good that it may not have been a fluke. He rushed up first-over from seventh before having a horse come out from third that didn’t really do him any favors, came wide around that horse and sustained that rally all the way through; impressive. Linedrive Hanover — the other horse to beat Bulldog Hanover last year — was right there rallying alongside with Nautical Hanover last week in what was just his first start back on the season. I’d let the odds guide me on Abuckabett Hanover. He has three qualifiers and one race, a fairly wicked 1:48.3 win with a last quarter of :25.3. There’s a load of talent in here though and I think something in the area of 5-1 would be fair to take a chance with. Tattoo Artist may have gained some confidence with that fast win against lesser competition six days ago. Wheels On Fire was driven aggressively last week.
Picks: Allywag Hanover, Nautical Hanover, Linedrive Hanover
RACE 9, $305,000 ROSES ARE RED FINAL
Treacherous Dragon looked as good as ever last week in her elimination, powering to a career best mile of 1:48.3. In that race, she two-moved to the lead, did so through fast fractions and never let up. Dunn gets the return call following that. Nothing to knock either from fellow elimination winner Grace Hill who retook early from the pocket and won as pleased. Though, for what it’s worth, her win was almost two full seconds slower than Treacherous Dragon. Nonetheless she moved to an unbeaten four-for-four on the year. Silver Label sat and wasn’t able to shake loose until mid-stretch in that fast race from Treacherous Dragon; split late to just snag second to the inside of Kobe’s Gigi. Amazing Dream left and secured the pocket in her elimination against Grace Hill but never threatened for the top spot. So Much More was well supported in her elimination where she came first over at about the five eighths but never really could latch onto the leader; making her third start back following the prior month off.
Picks: Treacherous Dragon, Grace Hill, Silver Label
RACE 10, $420,000 FAN HANOVER FINAL
Here’s the long-awaited showdown between super fillies Sylvia Hanover and Twin B Joe Fresh, with maybe a couple others who shouldn’t be fully discounted either. Champion Sylvia Hanover kept her winning ways intact through her elimination, and she earned that win by pacing a third panel split of :26.3 while first over to a tough competitor to her inside. Despite that, she gradually assumed control through the stretch to win going away. In that same elimination, Beach Cowgirl gave her a tussle and held notably well for second. That was the first time in her career that last year’s PASS champion Beach Cowgirl tasted defeat. In the other elimination, Twin B Joe Fresh came back from that prior Meadowlands race that never made any sense for her and roared to a powerful elimination win in 1:49. In that race, she paced an identical third quarter of :26.3 as the other elimination went, and in that process created separation from last year’s Three Diamonds winner Zanatta. Somehow, Charleston was sent off at odds of over 20-1 last week. In that race, she saved ground, angled once into the stretch and was flying late. Would need a few things to go her way but she can win. NJSS champion Ucandoit Blue Chip was coming late with Charleston and wasn’t far away either in the end.
Picks: Sylvia Hanover, Charleston, Twin B Joe Fresh
RACE 11, $1,000,000 PEPSI NORTH AMERICA CUP FINAL
This 40th edition of the North America Cup is perhaps one of the widest open races this stake has ever seen where a plausible case could be made for every horse in here. And to that point with the way the eliminations had to be structured, every finalist in here is deserving. What a turnaround from ages 2 to 3 for It’s My Show. He’s beaten a bunch of good ones along the way so far this season and then made a few good ones look ordinary in his elimination win last week. He has the post edge on all his main rivals and is a top tier contender. I didn’t know what to expect from Voukefalas last week taking on competition outside of New Jersey, but what a race that was. After a rare early miscue, Stratton was able to gather him back together, work out a cover trip and was closing in all the time to just miss by a head. Going back to his qualifiers in April, last week’s individual clocking of 1:48.4 marked Voukefalas’ sixth straight race he has gone faster than his race immediately prior. Confederate jogged as expected in his elimination as the 1-9 favorite and beat older rivals two back with a final quarter of :25.4 in his first start back. He launched a massive rally here last year in the Breeders Crown to just miss and a win here would more than avenge that defeat. Fulton posted the fastest elimination win time last week when he scored in 1:48.2. He did so while zipping through fast fractions and fending off well met rivals; would have to think a similar speed strategy is coming again. Redwood Hanover was one that I liked last week and ultimately the post position and trip was too much to overcome. He is fortunate though to draw into the final and even with another outside post, could be there — this time as a longshot — if things break his way. Ammo shocked here last year as a massive upset winner in the Breeders Crown from post 9 and now would need to repeat a similar trick, this time from post 10. He would for sure have attracted more attention with an inside post than he will now. Christchurch did well for himself to win his elimination last week; loses Dunn now but picks up Todd McCarthy. Lyons Surfing has done really well for himself in his last pair to hang in there against monsters despite first over trips. Save America is sharp but would need some Gingras magic from out here. Moment Is Here can save ground from the inside and see what happens late.
Picks: It’s My Show, Redwood Hanover, Confederate