Youth Movement In 'Cup' Final

Published: June 13, 2014 02:44 pm EDT

“I kept saying when I was 30 I was hoping to be there, but to be there at 21 is a dream come true and an unbelievable feeling.”

Tyler Smith has been setting records forever. Mind you, for him, all of 21 years old, it hasn’t been too long. But Saturday at Mohawk Racetrack, he’ll attempt to break another, major one, as the youngest driver to win the Pepsi North America Cup.

The Pepsi North America Cup, Canada’s biggest standardbred horse race, carries a purse of $1 million.

Smith, a native of Washington Court House, Ohio will make his 'Cup' debut leaving from post five with the 6-1 upset-minded Lets Drink On It for trainer Joe Seekman.

The young reinsman has been driving in races since before he was a teenager. When he was 12, Smith became the youngest driver to record a sub-2:00 victory during a matinee event at the Delaware County Fairgrounds. Smith continued to race at county fairs until he turned 18 and was able to get his pari-mutuel license.

In only a few short seasons as a full-time driver, Smith has become a top driver in the U.S. Midwest and at the age of 20, broke Doug McNair’s record for youngest driver to reach 1,000 wins.

Smith admits he wanted to break McNair’s record, but he is also out to prove to trainers he is committed and willing to put in the work.

“When I was young I wanted to be the youngest to reach 1,000 (wins),” said Smith. “I think the main thing is just show up to work every night, whether you want to be there or not, even those rainy nights. One good thing about myself, I’m always there.”

That hard work has undoubtedly paid off for Smith as trainer Joe Seekman has handed the lines to Lets Drink On It over to Smith for the colt’s three-year-old season.

The duo got off to a hot start, winning their first two races this season including a Pennsylvania Sires Stakes event at Pocono. Smith then made his Canadian driving debut with Lets Drink On It in the Somebeachsomewhere Stakes and finished in second.

Last week in the Pepsi North America Cup elimination, the pair finished third to make the rich final. While Lets Drink On It made it to the final, Smith believes had he not had to pace such a quick third quarter they could’ve finished better.

“The last three weeks at Pocono, the Somebeachsomewhere and last week I’ve had to go :26 with him (in) the third quarter,” said Smith. “All those times, and the way it set up last week, I had to move him and I didn’t want to be first over through the last turn. I thought my best shot would be trying to clear him and he did, but he had to pace so hard in the third quarter and it took a toll on him. It’s not that he didn’t keep pacing through the wire, but if I could’ve got that :27 third quarter instead of :26 I think he’d have been right there with them.”

Lets Drink On It drew post five for the Cup final, a spot Smith was thrilled to receive. “It helped out that I drew a perfect spot, the five-hole is a perfect spot and actually I was thinking if he won the elimination and I got to pick my post, I was wanting to pick the five-hole so it kind of worked out good that way.”

Smith also noted that with horses like Hes Watching, Luck Be Withyou and J K Endofanera to his outside, early speed will likely be a factor and he may be able to work out the right trip and get the big mile he believes Lets Drink On It is ripe for.

“It’s better this week. It’s setting up that it looks like I’m going to be able to find a helmet, but I told Joe (Seekman) this colt is one trip away from doing something special.”

The big stage and bright lights of the Pepsi North America Cup would likely bring a ton of nerves for a young driver, but anxiety doesn’t appear to be a factor for Smith as he wants to be in big money races. While goal number one is to win the Pepsi North America Cup on Saturday night, Smith will be fulfilling a dream by competing in one of the sport’s biggest events.

Currently the youngest driver to capture the Cup is Trevor Ritchie, who steered Quite A Sensation to victory in the 1986 edition at 30-years-old.

“I strive to drive in the big races. I’ve always been that way ever since I was 18,” said Smith. “I’d rather be going in Sires Stakes finals. I’d rather be in the big races. For some reason I strive on that.”

$1 Million Pepsi North America Cup
(Post – Horse – Driver – Morning Line Odds)

1 – Beat The Drum – Yannick Gingras – 20-1
2 – McWicked – David Miller - 7-2
3 – Tellitlikeitis – Brett Miller - 3-1
4 – Lyonssomewhere – Corey Callahan - 4-1
5 – Lets Drink On It – Tyler Smith - 6-1
6 – Ideal Cowboy – Scott Zeron - 15-1
7 – Hes Watching – Tim Tetrick - 5-1
8 – Luck Be Withyou – Ron Pierce - 12-1
9 – JK Endofanera – Brian Sears - 10-1
10 – Sometimes Said – John Campbell - 20-1
AE – Jet Airway – Scott Zeron

For a free, printable program page of Mohawk’s Saturday card (courtesy of TrackIT), click here.


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