Million-dollar NA Cups, the beginning

by Bob Heyden

In 1987, in its fourth edition, the North America Cup went for seven figures, a first for Canada in any race. Here’s a brief look at the first seven million-dollar NA Cups.

1. In 1987 Jate Lobell ($2.70) stepped on Canadian soil for the first time and held off Frugal Gourmet (33-1). The fractions were :27.3, :55, 1:23.2 and 1:52.3. Rare Review (9-1) was third with second-choice Laag (5-1) fourth. It was the sports 26th million-dollar test. None of the 12 participants from the 25th million-dollar race, the 1986 Governor’s Cup won by Redskin, made the trip to the Cup.

2. The 1988 Cup featured Sylvain Filion’s dad Yves taking it all the way with Runnymede Lobell in 1:54.4. Exclusive Cam (125-1) was third. He was from the very first sophomore crop of two-time HOY Cam Fella. It was just an eight-horse field with Squirter second and 8-5 second choice Camtastic last. Bayama Farms sent out the winner from post 4.

A big shout out to Albert Albert, Chris Boring’s son of Abercrombie. Even though he was just seventh here, he was the only starter who appeared in the prior million-dollar test (third from post 12 in the 1987 $1,422,500 Woodrow Wilson) as well as the very next million-dollar test, the 1988 Meadowlands Pace where he finished fourth.

In 2024 Sylvain hopes to duplicate his dad’s victory, similar to the Ron Waples (Presidential Ball) Randy Waples (Thinking Out Loud) daily double.

3. In 1989, Goalie Jeff ($93.60) and Steve Condren won over favored Kentucky Spur and Richard Stillings (the only non-Canadian born driver in the field) in 1:53 2. Goalie Jeff, the third longest shot in the field, won from post 8 and went on from there to dominate the division. Sire Cam Fella scored for the first time. The date was June 24 and the margin a mere head.

4. In 1990, Apaches Fame scored as the second choice ($5.80) while favored Beach Towel (HOY) disliked the going and wound up last. Mark Johnathan was second, Road Machine third, Jake And Elwood fourth, with the last check to Shipps Schnoops. The 1989 2YO champion Till We Meet Again was eighth. The top six drivers were all born in Canada.

5. In 1991 Cam Fella sired his second NA Cup winner and first HOY with Precious Bunny. Since Artsplace was not there, John Campbell handled this winner — the first of three in a four-year span for trainer Bill Robinson — and the first of an astounding six NA Cups in just the 1990s for Campbell. Precious Bunny, who was just 1-for-14 at 2, started from post 1. Second money went to longshot Start The Fire over Die Laughing with the final two earners Coktail Talk and Stand And Deliver. The top four in the wagering garnered the top four checks. Precious Bunny paid $3.70. Time for the mile was 1:53 flat.

6. In 1992, Rod Allen would later win the Meadowlands Pace with Carlsbad Cam, but could only manage fourth in the Cup as the 4-5 favorite. Safely Kept, with first-time driver Mike Lachance at the controls, roared out of the pocket to score going away and paying $63.70. Western Hanover was second best. He’d gain a measure of revenge seven years later when his son The Panderosa dominated. Third money went to Kingsbridge and Ray Schnittker gathered in the final check with No Twister.

7. In 1993, subbing for Jack Moiseyev who injured his back earlier that day at Freehold, Ron Waples makes the most of the opportunity with Presidential Ball and scores in 1:51 flat, with The Starting Gate second, Life Sign third, Beastmaster fourth and Pacific Sunshine fifth. Not getting anything was Riyadh, whose very next start would turn out to be the first ever sub 1:50 Meadowlands Pace elim (1:49.4).


In 1984, the North America Cup won by Legal Notice went for $357,900.

• The 2017 Meadowlands Pace won by Huntsville went for $738,550, 40 years after Escort got it rolling for $212,500.

• The 1966 Hambletonian went for $122,540 with Kerry Way beating the boys after a sterling 1926 debut of $73,451 on the table.

• The 2011 Hambletonian Oaks was the seventh of eight years of a guaranteed $750,000, 40 years after just $31,500 was on the table in 1971.

• The Cane Pace of 1995 was won by Mattgilla Gorilla for $384,375 compared to a debut 1955 pot of $71,040 won by Quick Chief.

• Dave Palone gathered in his first Triple Crown winner in the 1996 Messenger with Go For Grins for $333,086 as compared to the $71,500 Belle Acton went for beating the boys as the Messenger rolled out in 1956. (Note: Billy Haughton took the first Cane and Messenger but wasn’t in the first Jug in 1946).

• Speaking of the Little Brown Jug, Barberry Spur took the winner’s share of $407,684 in 1986 — two straight for Bill O’Donnell — 40 years after $35,358 was on the table in 1946 as the first of the three Triple Crown legs for pacers got underway.

• The Jugette started in 1971 for $30,414 and vaulted to $292,350 when Idyllic got the cheese in 2011.

• The Yonkers Trot started at $73,840 with Scott Frost sweeping the entire table in 1955, then CR Kay Suzie overwhelmed her male counterparts for $276,564 in 1995.

• Finally, the Maple Leaf Trot started out as a mere $5,000 event in 1950 but exploded to $293,250 by 1990 for repeat winner No Sex Please.