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Trot N.A. Cup Spring Book: #10

Published: April 3, 2019 11:28 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 20-1, Melodies Major kicks off the countdown, coming at #10 in TROT Magazine's 2019 Pepsi North America Cup Spring Book.

Owned by Martin Scharf of Lawrence, N.Y. and trained by Mark Ford, Melodies Major (Art Major - Hilarious) posted a 6-2-0 record from nine freshman starts while earning $222,683 and taking a mark of 1:51.3 at Vernon Downs. Of those six wins, three established new track records (Monticello, Buffalo and Batavia). Ford, who captured the 2000 North America Cup for Scharf with Gallo Blue Chip, provided Trot Insider with an update on the pacing colt ahead of his sophomore campaign.

Melodies Major raced solely on the New York circuit last year. Tell us about him and his rookie season.

"He was a nice colt last year. For all that he accomplished, he had a few setbacks; he battled sickness the whole year last year. He started out very good and it seemed like he got better throughout the every start was better than the last.

"He had a couple of hiccups. He had a race at Saratoga where he was 1-5 and didn’t finish very well. Usually when you see horses that do that, they don’t bounce back [but] he did. He had a week or two and sort of got over whatever was ailing him. In the NYSS Final he got a horrible trip but scoped eight out of 10 being sick after we were done. He was only eligible to stuff in New York [and] we had to stop with him early. He’s come back big and beautiful so I’m cautiously optimistic. He didn’t race anywhere outside of New York last year but we’re going to give him a chance. It’s entirely up to him."

Where did he winter and when did you start back with him?

"He spent October until the first of the year back [with James Avritt] at Avritt’s Farm...beautiful place in Kentucky. He came to us in the middle of January and has been with us ever since.

"Jim did a phenomenal job with him. He doesn’t necessarily take turnouts but he did it sort of as a favour for us [since] we bought him from him. I already noticed his yearlings looked great, and now that we had him there he came back looking like a show horse."

Where are you at with him now?

"We’ve been at 2:10 with him a couple of times here at my farm. He won’t take long to get ready. He's not far away."

When will you aim to qualify him and what will his early schedule look like leading up to the Pepsi North America Cup?

"I have a rough timeline. He’ll probably [qualify] the 21st of April, in that third week. I don’t know what direction we’re going to go...we’ve got plenty of places to race him but we’ll see how he qualifies and play our cards as they’re dealt." Those options include NYSS events, the Somebeachsomewhere and the Art Rooney.

He shows a lot of impressive miles on smaller tracks.

"This colt set the track record at Monticello, he set the track record at Buffalo and at Batavia as easily as a horse can do it.... We took him to Vernon and he just took him right back and came third over to win right in the handholds. The only disappointment I had was I didn’t get to race him at Lexington last year. I really think that the big track will step him up. I’m always wondering what he would have been but I’m looking forward to racing him on the bigger track."

What does his tentative schedule look like after the North America Cup?

"I love it when people call up, I say ‘I’ve got a colt, he’s staked to everything.’ He’s got a full-dance card; he’s got several different options. We supplemented him to the Meadowlands Pace, we paid him into the North America Cup [and] we supplemented him to the Rooney and the Messenger. It wasn’t like we wanted to, we had to. He’s not eligible to the Jug or the Adios but he has a full, full dance card and I hope he can go with some of the better ones."

The Little Brown Jug would be an option if he won the Messenger?

"I’ve raced a lot of 100-1 shots [at Delaware] and one 1-9 shot. I was always praying that I had another chance. I sure would like to have one more chance at it."

What's his biggest asset/strength?

"He’s a professional racehorse. He did everything we asked of him and he got better and smarter every start last year. He had a couple of hiccups—but every time he walked onto the track he was a very smart horse and I think he has the ability to step up and go with the better ones. It’s been a long time since we’ve had anything remotely of his caliber and I’m trying not to get too excited."

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

"It’s such a big, big step from two to three. As speedy as the two-year-olds are, the speed means very little of anything. He won in [1]:51.3 at Vernon and it didn’t put him in the top 20 two-year-olds and that’s amazing. Not many years ago if you had a colt that went in [1]:52 or [1]:53 then you had a real contender for the next year. And now he won in [1]:51 and he’s not even mentioned. I’m not saying he’s top five or anything but I’m just hoping he can go with those."

Is he your only North America Cup-eligible colt this year?

"He’s the only one I’ve had in a few years. It’s been 19 years since we won it and the game has changed so much since then. It’s amazing; it’s been a lifetime since we’ve been there. I sure would be thankful if we can be a little competitive anyway."

You're one of the few that can say they've won it.

"We don’t appreciate how tough it is [to get to the North America Cup] until you look back and see all those ups and downs. Horses like this are very hard to come by."

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