With the date of the 2023 Pepsi North America Cup less than two months away, Trot Insider will profile some of the race's top contenders as horses ready to compete for one of Canadian harness racing's biggest prizes.
At 11-1, Fulton comes in at #5 on the countdown in TROT Magazine's 2023 Pepsi North America Cup Spring Book.
"The horse made $260,000, with virtually no stakes payments and, you know, hopefully we're coming back with a fresh horse," said the colt's breeder and co-owner Eric Cherry. Indeed, Fulton (Heston Blue Chip - Bettor Be Steamin) concluded his rookie season with a 1:49.4 world record-equalling mile in the Keystone Classic at The Meadows. That was the sixth win of the season for Fulton, who also won the Pennsylvania Sire Stakes Championship and Liberty Bell to post a 6-1-2 summary from nine starts for owners Let It Ride Stables Inc. & Bottom Line Racing LLC of Boca Raton, Fl. and trainer Linda Toscano.
"I have many different trainers, but Linda's done a great job," noted Cherry. "I love having horses in her barn, and I love the relationship and the communication."
Trot Insider connected with Cherry to discuss the talented colt.
Talk about the decision to shut down Fulton after his 1:49.4 mile at The Meadows.
"It's easier to be smart in February at stake time than it is at entry time. So basically what I do, it's a combination of big picture of wanting my horses to race their whole career, and not just two-year-olds, but also it's really more fundamentally our staking system...for me to stake all my horses, so about 51, 52 yearlings, it doesn't make sense to stake them to most of the races to not even knowing if they're going to be showing up.
"So this way, what I do with most of my two-year-olds, with rare exceptions, is I stake them to the Sire Stakes, and a few others, and pretty much shut them down at the end of September or early October."
Any notable changes in him from two to three?
"So far, we're really happy with his progress. In his first qualifier, we let the hopples out four inches from last year. And that was probably one inch too much. So we went ahead and we adjusted this week with a couple of new changes. And we're very, very happy with his qualifier.
"If you watched him, he was much better in the second one, just because of the adjustments between two and three. He's a sound horse, has no issues. He's grown and it was actually the first time that he was ever on a mile track."
As you say he's qualified twice. What's the early schedule looking like before the North America Cup?
"We're going to be going to the [Pennsylvania] Sire Stakes and then to the North America Cup.
"There are three [PASS events], so I'm not sure. Two or three, we'll play it by ear. My guess is because of the points there's a good chance we'll go to all of them, but we'll play it by ear."
And then to the to the point of staking, how different and how much more liberally did you stake him as a three-year-old?
"We pretty much staked him to everything, within reason. And we have no problem supplementing. Like the Meadowlands Pace, we supplemented him to the Meadowlands Pace even though it was, I think $7,500. It was still cheaper for me to supplement the ones that deserve it than keeping everything eligible. I think I saved about just under $5,000 even though I paid a supplement."
At what point last year did you think this horse was North America Cup material?
"We knew all winter he was good. Not great. I don't really ask my trainers how they're doing, I just say 'tell me if they're doing something bad.' To me, you really don't know until the gate swings. And it's about who wants to win, and not about who's faster.
"I was very happy watching the baby races. And then after his first pari-mutuel and then his second pari-mutuel, I was super excited."
Talk a bit about how special his colt is given your connection to the sire, Heston Blue Chip.
"Everybody knows that I put a lot behind my belief in Heston Blue Chip and I bred a lot of mares to him. I believe in the horse, and they're starting to show."
[Fulton] just never disappointed. Six wins and nine starts with a second and two thirds. He had four different drivers last four races and he basically never threw in a clunker....If you watch his last race and the PASS final, two or three times at each mile it looked like a horse is going to challenge him...and the drivers speak to him, and he'd just open up.
"His lung capacity, and his heart or whatever you want to call it, I think is just huge.
Is that the defining factor of what makes him such as solid competitor?
"I'll tell you at the end of this year. It's a combination of everything, really. As a two-year-old, I thought he was the total package. We'll see if it continues."
As someone who hasn't won this race before, how does it feel to have a horse that appears to have a legit shot at the North America Cup?
"A few years back when we had Tattoo Artist, we thought we had an outside chance but the truth we were hoping and it worked out that we were second behind Tall Dark Stranger...Obviously, it would be thrilling. It's one of the highlights of the year. And it would be something that would not only put Fulton on the map, but I think it would help the sire as well, so on many levels it would be great.
"When you breed them, and you own the sire and the dam, it makes it that much more thrilling."
Previous 2023 TROT Magazine Pepsi North America Cup Spring Book profiles: