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Trot N.A. Cup Spring Book: #2

Published: April 25, 2020 7:00 pm ET

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Trot Insider continues to profile the horses predicted to be the top contenders for Canadian harness racing's richest prize, the 2020 Pepsi North America Cup.

This year's edition of the North America Cup was originally slated to be contested on Saturday, June 20 at Woodbine Mohawk Park. On Wednesday (April 15), Woodbine Entertainment CEO Jim Lawson announced the race would be postponed due to the global COVID-19 pandemic.

Prior to the viral outbreak, TROT Magazine compiled its annual ranking of the horses expected to be in contention for the 2020 Pepsi North America Cup.

Continuing the countdown, Tall Dark Stranger comes at #2 in TROT Magazine's 2020 Pepsi North America Cup Spring Book at odds of 3-1.

The regally-bred son of Bettors Delight - Precocious Beauty, Tall Dark Stranger was nearly undefeated in his two-year-old season. The half-brother to two-time Kentucky Sire Stake Champion Beautyonthebeach also hails from the family of 2010 North America Cup winner Sportswriter. Tall Dark Stranger banked $936,868 in his freshman year and earned major major victories in the Dream Maker, Ontario Sires Stakes Gold Divisions, Metro Pace, International Stallion at the Red Mile. His richest payday came in the $789,474 2019 Breeders Crown Final where he was placed first after suffering interference in the stretch. Tall Dark Stranger is campaigned by trainer Nancy Takter for Crawford Farms Racing, Marvin Katz, Caviart Farms and Howard Taylor.

Trainer Nancy Takter provided Trot Insider with an update on the Dan Patch and O'Brien Award winner.

Your thoughts on the COVID-19 situation and how are you and your stable coping with the pandemic?

“When things like this happen in the world, usually the chances of you knowing someone that it affected are small so I think that in New Jersey we see the numbers of deaths and people that have gotten sick but we actually know people that have gotten sick and have died and that puts things into a closer perspective.

“Everyone in my circle is doing good and staying healthy. It hasn't really affected us in the barn because obviously taking care of the horses is an essential job so everyone is trying to wash their hands, and social distance but everyone has their own sections and we have a private farm so we’re not really exposed to a lot of outside people. I explained to my staff when things got serious that as long as we stay healthy and everyone considers what they do on their own time we can continue to work. But, as far as our day to day nothing has really changed except that we’ve closed our farm to visitors.

“I think we could race in a responsible manner, we could spread everyone out and section off trainers. As terrible of a time as this is right now, I think it would be a good thing for harness racing because there is nothing else to watch or bet on so we would be able to bring back old fans.”

Where did he winter?

“After the Breeders Crown he came home to New Jersey and had about five weeks off where he was at a lay up farm; [2018 North America Cup winner] Captain Crunch also stayed there for a vacation from two to three.”

When did you start back?

“He came back the first week of December.”

What are the changes with him from two to three?

“He definitely grew up and filled out quite a bit. He put more muscle on over the winter, he got a lot of good conditioning over the winter and he's more mature. He was always an average size but now he is more filled out for sure.”

Where are you at with him?

“If things would have been normal he probably would have qualified towards the middle of April. He has so much foundation on him, he's been up to eight intervals on our straight track and he's not a horse that needs a lot of speed work to get up and ready, he's naturally gifted that way.

“At this point there's no backing off right now, it's just keeping him conditioned.”

What did his stakes schedule look like before and after the NA Cup?

“We were planning on two qualifiers and then finding a three-year-old open of some sort and he probably would have had one or two starts beforehand. It was hard to put a schedule together for him because he's Ontario-Sired and made a lot of money last year. He also has the Hempt and the Meadowlands Pace, Simcoe Stakes, he’s not eligible for the Adios but he also has Kentucky Sire Stakes and Ontario Sires Stakes and there are Red Mile stakes, Little Brown Jug and Breeders Crown.”

What is his biggest asset?

“He’s a winner.”

At what point last year did you think he was a horse that is a Grand Circuit caliber?

“We paid a lot of money for him as a yearling so we always hoped he would turn out to be that. But, I trained him at The Meadowlands myself prior to his first baby race and he trained there in [1]:53 and with a :26.2 last quarter and he did so completely effortlessly so at that point I knew he was special.”

Previous Spring Book Profiles:

Trot N.A. Cup Spring Book: #3
Trot N.A. Cup Spring Book: #4
Trot N.A. Cup Spring Book: #5
Trot N.A. Cup Spring Book: #6
Trot N.A. Cup Spring Book: #7
Trot N.A. Cup Spring Book: #8
Trot N.A. Cup Spring Book: #9
Trot N.A. Cup Spring Book: #10

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