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Palone Assesses 'Cup' Competition

Published: June 15, 2012 7:43 pm ET

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Dave Palone is pursuing two big numbers. But there's a full field of "very good" three-year-old pacers that he'll have to out-drive to reach those numbers sooner rather than later.

One is 15,181, which is the number of wins the reinsman needs to pass Herve Filion and become the career leader in victories in North American harness racing history. He needs just 39 triumphs to claim the No. 1 spot on the list. The other is $1.5 million, which is the purse for Saturday’s Pepsi North America Cup for three-year-old pacers at Mohawk Racetrack. Palone will drive morning line favourite Sweet Lou in the 29th edition of the event, which offers the world’s most lucrative reward of any race for pacers.

“I can’t really say the record for wins is priority No. 1,” Palone said. “Right now, my main focus is that three-year-old, Sweet Lou. That is focus No. 1. As long as I stay upright and take care of myself, the wins will come. I drive for enough good people that the wins just fall in place."

Palone inched closed to both career highlights when the Yankee Cruiser-Sweet Future colt captured his elimination for the North America Cup last Saturday by two and a quarter lengths over Warrawee Needy in a Canadian record of 1:47.4. The speedster is trained by Ron Burke for owners Burke Racing, Weaver Bruscemi LLC, Lawrence Karr and Phillip Collura.

"Sweet Lou has been an incredible horse for me. I don’t want to say anything stupid to jinx myself, but to this point he feels like a special horse. But there are very good colts in [the North America Cup] and I don’t want to take anything away from them. We’ve just got our fingers crossed that he shows up Saturday the way he’s been showing up.”

One of those colts is the other elimination winner Dapper Dude, who came from eight and a half lengths behind at the halfway point to edge Time To Roll by a head in 1:49.3 with John Campbell in the sulky. Palone has sat behind the Bob McIntosh trainee for two wins on the Pennsylvania Sire Stakes circuit last year.

“I had the opportunity to drive Dapper Dude last year and he was very impressive,” Palone said. “He won at The Meadows in [1]:51.2 on kind of an off day. He’s a super nice colt and he’s handier than most people think. Most people think he’s just one dimensional, but I think he can do anything he has to do, like all good horses can.”

The North America Cup also features Warrawee Needy, who was making his delayed (because of sickness) first start of the year in his elim. Last season, Warrawee Needy won nine of 12 races and $535,000 on his way to the O’Brien Award as Canada’s best two-year-old male pacer. Trainer Carl Jamieson and his son, Jody, teamed to win last year’s North America Cup with Up The Credit.

“I don’t think people are giving that colt enough credit,” Palone said. “Sweet Lou beat him, but I thought he raced well for coming off the scratched sick and it being his first start of the year. That’s an awful lot to ask of a colt.”

Time To Roll is the New Jersey Sire Stakes champion while fellow Cup finalist Pet Rock won the Art Rooney Pace two weeks ago. A Rocknroll Dance won the 2011 Governor’s Cup and Simply Business, who drew post 10 for the North America Cup, won last year’s Metro Pace from post nine.

Palone began highlighting the accomplishments of all the horses in the North America Cup field before giving up and saying simply, “They’re all very good.”

Here is a look at the field in post position order with drivers and morning line odds listed:

$1.5 Million Pepsi North America Cup
Post Position - Horse - Driver - Morning Line Odds
1 - Bettors Edge - Tim Tetrick - 30-1
2 - Dapper Dude - John Campbell - 8-1
3 - Time To Roll - Andy Miller - 12-1
4 - Sweet Lou - Dave Palone - 3-5
5 - Thinking Out Loud - Randy Waples - 12-1
6 - State Treasurer - David Miller - 20-1
7 - A Rocknroll Dance - Yannick Gingras - 10-1
8 - Warrawee Needy - Jody Jamieson - 9-2
9 - Pet Rock - Brian Sears - 15-1
10 - Simply Business - Ron Pierce - 25-1
AE1 - Easy Again – TBA

(With files from HRC)

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