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Trot N.A. Cup Spring Book: #2

Published: April 12, 2019 11:35 am ET

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The countdown to the 2019 Pepsi North America Cup is on, with Trot Insider profiling the horses predicted to be the top contenders for Canadian harness racing's richest prize.

At 9-2, Captain Crunch comes in at #2 in TROT Magazine's 2019 Pepsi North America Cup Spring Book.

A son of Captaintreacherous - Sweet Paprika, Captain Crunch won six of 10 races as a two-year-old and earned $628,642. His triumphs included the $600,000 Breeders Crown, $469,300 Governor’s Cup and a division of the International Stallion Stake at The Red Mile in which he took his lifetime mark of 1:49.1. During his freshman campaign Captain Crunch and owned by 3 Brothers Stables (Alan, Ron and Steve Katz), Christina Takter, Norman & Robert Aerenson’s Rojan Stables, and Judy & Buck Chaffee’s Caviart Farms.

Trot Insider discussed the Dan Patch Award winner with the talented colt's trainer, Nancy Johansson.

Where did he winter?

"He went to East Coast Equine Farm in Chesterfield, N.J."

When did you start back with him?

"January 15."

Where are you at with him now?

"He trained super [at the Meadowlands this past Saturday]; went a fast back half with a fast last quarter in his own under no urging. Couldn’t have asked for him to train better. Couple more weeks and he will be ready to qualify."

Any noticeable changes in him from two to three?

"He was a really big two-year-old. Really what I needed this winter was for him to fill out a little bit, which he did. He put on a lot more muscle and he filled out quite a bit. It’s always an advantage to have some fight to your three-year-olds; they have a tough campaign, especially the three-year-old colts...I think they have like eight weeks in a row with half-a-million dollar races.

"He really did fill out nice. But the maturity going from a boy to a man is what we needed from him and he hit that very well; I’m very happy with that. As far as attitude, he’s always had a good attitude; he’s a very smart colt [and] very easy to be around. He does everything that we ask of him...he’s very cooperative in that way. There wasn’t really much that needed to improve in his actual attitude. Obviously you’re not going to have a two-year-old pacing colt of the year with a crappy attitude."

He seemed to have a very gentlemanly attitude for a stud horse.

"He’s very nice and gentle, and he’s smart. He knows when he can push his limits a little bit and he knows when he needs to behave...that comes with his natural intelligence. Obviously he’s all boy, too, and we have to walk him onto the track with his halter on and chain over his nose because he sometimes wants to be a little full of it. But I like to see that in colts; I like for them to have a little bit of energy to them. But like I said, he’s smart enough to know that when Ella’s around or [he needs] to behave, he does.

That’s a credit to him as an individual, right?

"Yeah, he’s got a lot of class. It’s kind of like he has the spotlight on him all the time...he knows that. Good horses tend to know when they’re in the spotlight and they thrive off of it, and people do too."

What will his early schedule look like leading up to the Pepsi North America Cup?

"I’m really not sure how I’m going to put his schedule together. He’s got two Pennsylvania Sire Stakes, so I’d like to have two starts into him. He’s definitely going to have two qualifiers prior to any racing. So he’ll go up an train on Saturday [April 6] and we’ll probably give him a week off after the training mile. Then he’ll qualify twice and then he has the sire stake...there’s one that comes up at [Harrah’s Philadelphia] and there’s one at Pocono. That’s kind of the game plan for him for now.

"I would’ve loved to keep him on the bigger track going to the North America Cup, but it’s hard when you’ve made $600,000 and won how many races...there’s not really any non-winners classes that fit for him. So we have to do the best we can [and] hopefully we can get two races and two qualifiers before the eliminations for the North America Cup."

Is it more of a preference to try and keep him on the bigger track?

"The thing is when you race on a bigger track, there’s less room for other people’s errors. You usually get 10-horse fields but post positions mean a lot less [and] it’s easier to get down [and] can probably work out a better trip on the bigger track. But he does very well on a five-eighths track. He’s raced at Pocono before so that doesn’t bother me. Obviously Pennsylvania Sire Stakes are very tough races...they’re always very competitive. I watched Kissin In The Sand race from the nine hole there twice last year and would hate to start his season off racing from the nine hole in competitive fields. Hopefully we can go to the Poconos and draw well for once. But that’s the only reason I think it would be better to be on the mile. As for the horse, he’s such a big individual that I don’t think it really matters."

What's his schedule like after the North America Cup?

"I hate to look too far ahead in anything because it’s horse racing and it doesn’t always work out, but he has the Hempt right after the North America Cup and immediately after that is the Meadowlands Pace. Obviously you have three of the biggest stakes races of the year [that] come up very early in the season back to back so you have to play it smart. How he performs in the North America Cup will give us an indication on where to go next but right now the North America Cup is our goal and once we accomplish that we’ll get ready for the next battle.

Is there anything that he’s not eligible to?

"He’s pretty much staked to everything. We did leave him out of one of the stakes at Hoosier but that’s because he has a lot going up to then. He’s in every major stake...he’s has the Simcoe, Kentucky, he’s staked to the Jug and to Breeders Crown, so there are plenty of dances for us to go to. The thing mostly with three-year-olds is that you can’t make every dance: you have to make sure that when you’re going into a race you’re going into it in full form because it’s such a grueling schedule. Plus I would like to have a horse come Breeders Crown time, so we’ll play it by ear [and] let the horse dictate. He was very lightly-raced last year which will probably play a little bit to our favour. I don’t think we saw anything near his bottom last year. I mean he finished his last race of the year in the absolute pouring rain at the Meadowlands and what’d he go, [1]:50.3? He finished the season very strong, very healthy, so we’re going to aim for the North America Cup for now and go from there."

At what point last year did you think this horse was North America Cup material?

"We knew very early that he was very talented; that’s why we took our time with him and made sure we did everything right. He won his first baby race with a back half in :55 and then in his second baby race he won in [1]:52, so he showed very high ability right from the start."

What's his biggest asset/strength?

"He doesn’t get tired very easily, [he’s] very good-gaited and he’s very smart and handy. I think Scott [Zeron] can do pretty much whatever he needs to do with him when he needs to do it...he never has to fight the horse. And I think being manageable is a very good trait for a racehorse to have."

Do you have a favourite race of his from 2018?

"Obviously [when] you win the Governor’s Cup [or] a Breeders Crown, they’re very special races. [But] when he won in Lexington, it was actually an unbelievable performance because he was not healthy when we left Canada after the Metro elimination. We had two training miles in him in three weeks and I entered him because we obviously needed to race him...he was well at that point; he trained really well those two times. I was a little nervous [since] obviously you’re going out against two-year-old colts that had been racing and performing well at that point, and he missed the previous week of Grand Circuit at Red Mile. And for him to go out there off of a layoff and be a fifth off the world record, only special horses can do that. I would’ve actually loved to see him tight in that race or even if he would’ve got racing room a little earlier because he was locked in coming down the stretch. He’s just an unbelievable athlete and I think [that race] says a lot about him as an individual...that he was able to bounce back from something like that. A lot of times when stuff like that happens in a racing season you shut down the horse down for the year and you’re done, but he came back to win the Breeders Crown and the Governor’s Cup after that."

Can we also get an update on your Ontario-sired North America Cup-eligible colt, Caviart Rockland?

"He's actually coming back very nice. He was super in the beginning of last year, he won a couple of OSS and really fast...I think when he won he was the fastest colt in North America at the time. He's coming back super.

"I was a little disappointed with him last year that he didn't develop as much as I would have liked. If I'm going to find him an excuse, he drew awful last year, he had a lot of bad posts and I think it just wore him down. So I hope with some maturity he might keep a little more fight in him this year, but he's definitely physically grown up a ton from last year and he's training very well too. I'm super-happy with all three right now."

Where does the North America Cup sit on the bucket list of races you've get to win?

"It's interesting, with all the stakes races my dad won the North America Cup and the Meadowlands Pace are the only two that escaped him. It would be great if I could win a North America Cup for our family because I think we deserve to have one," laughed Johansson. "It's always nice to go to Canada, the track treats us great, the fans are great, people are nice so to go there and be part of that event is something we aim for every year."

Previous North America Cup Spring Book Profiles:

North America Cup Spring Book - #3
North America Cup Spring Book - #4
North America Cup Spring Book - #5
North America Cup Spring Book - #6
North America Cup Spring Book - #7
North America Cup Spring Book - #8
North America Cup Spring Book - #9
North America Cup Spring Book - #10

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