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 6-1, Dan Patch and O'Brien Award winner Stockade Seelster comes in at #3 on the countdown in TROT Magazine's 2023 Pepsi North America Cup Spring Book.
The son of State Treasurer had a stellar year for owners Paul & Sally MacDonald and trainer Dr. Ian Moore, finishing with eight wins in 11 tries and bankrolling $917,470. He was a perfect five-for-five in the provincial program, capped off with a win in the Ontario Sires Stakes Super Final. His biggest payday came from his win in the $900,000 Metro Pace.
The 2022 winner of the O'Brien Award of Horsemanship, Moore knows that it won't be easy winning the North America Cup after knocking off the top colts at two in the Metro. He looks to add Stockade Seelster to a rare group of world class pacers that includes the likes of Presidential Ball, Gothic Dream, Rocknroll Hanover, Somebeachsomewhere, Sportswriter, Captaintreacherous, Betting Line and Tall Dark Stranger as colts that have captured both the Metro and the North America Cup.
"You know there's going to be some three-year-olds that come out of the woodwork this year. It could be some three-year-old did not race as a two-year-old or raced very little as a two-year-old. The primary example of one of those would be Shadow Play. He was an okay two-year-old, I won in 1:57 with him at Mohawk, and that was his record at two. And then he made $1.5 million as a three-year-old...It's certainly not going to be a cakewalk. But he wants to race horses and he's very tough that way."
Where did Stockade Seelster go after the Breeders Crown and when did you bring him back in?
"He came down here [to Florida] with us. We always turn our horses out here...We have nice paddocks we can turn them out in, I can keep an eye on them and feed them what I want to feed them.
"He had full feed all winter to give him the opportunity to grow and develop. He was turned out from the first of November until about the 20th of January."
What are the differences in him between two and three?
"He grew taller late in the fall and he grew a little bit taller since he's been here. And now he's starting to fill out; he's got a nice chest on him where he used to be a bit slim before. He's thickened up in his rear end and he's thickened up in his front end now. And he seems to have matured so much...he seems to have gotten over that wanting to fight the driver and trainer deal.
"I sat in the hole for the first time myself and I even had the holders back like the real drivers, so I am hoping to carry that mentality through with him that he needs to work with us, not against us."
Talk about that latest qualifier, a 1:50.2 effort over the one-mile oval at Southern Oaks Training Center.
"Very pleased; he's ready to go. Jog Wednesday [April 26], ship Monday [May 1] and get ready for the SBOA [on May 12 at Woodbine Mohawk Park]."
And then the plan is to race in the Somebeachsomewhere as well?
"And then hopefully the one after it."
And what about after the North America Cup? He didn't leave Ontario last year. Do you have more U.S. stakes at least in mind for him this year?
"He's paid up to stakes in the U.S., including the Meadowlands Pace and the Hempt. He's well-staked. I left some of them out because of the OSS Super Final or whatever but hopefully we are going to be good enough to travel somewhere with him this year."
And at what point last year did you think that this was a horse that you'd have to make those decisions on Grand Circuit staking as a three-year-old?
"I never think that far ahead was a two-year-old. I just go week to week with them, knowing that we can stop anytime, or we keep on going for the next one. I just try to manage and do the best we can and hope at the end of the year that we're still going to be able to come back with a nice solid three-year-old."
Are there any stablemates to Stockade Seelster that are North America Cup-eligible?
"Just Watchmaker. He's a tough little animal; I'm hopeful for him too."
The North America Cup has eluded you thus far. How good would it feel to add that trophy to your mantle?
"That would be one that we would love to have for sure. Anybody would love to have that. A million-dollar race in your own country and hometown, basically? Sure! I mean, why not? I'm just joining the crowd on that one; that would be one for the ages, for sure."
Previous 2023 TROT Magazine Pepsi North America Cup Spring Book profiles: