From Longtime N.A. Cup Fan To Two Cup Contenders

Brad McNinch, assistant trainer of Fulton and Its My Show
Published: June 15, 2023 09:00 pm EDT

Brad McNinch has a long history with the North America Cup. He'll try to add to that history by finally hoisting the prestigious trophy this Saturday (June 17) at Woodbine Mohawk Park, and that opportunity has never presented itself better.

McNinch, the husband of Linda Toscano, is the assistant trainer for Fulton and Its My Show, giving Team Toscano an outstanding 1-2 punch of two 2023 Pepsi North America Cup elimination winners. But McNinch — a Canadian-born native of Toronto, Ont. — and the North America Cup go back decades to the race's predecessor.

"It would be fantastic," McNinch readily admitted to Trot Insider when asked how it would feel to win this race, one of the few major Grand Circuit events that has eluded the Toscano-McNinch tandem. "I've watched every one of these. I watched it when it was the Queen City Pace at Greenwood back in the late '60s. It's the race we all wanted to be in and we all watched. When I worked for John Burns, we had a horse in the race by the name of Shipps Scorch. He had the rail, and he was a contender, but he didn't get a cheque. And we were all gutted; we thought he had a good shot. It means a lot [to be here], it definitely means a lot."

This time around, McNinch has more than a good shot. He's part of two elimination winners — one the fastest elim winner and current top choice on the Standardbred Canada web poll in Its My Show (PP2, Scott Zeron, 3-1) and the other was the second fastest elim winner who has never missed the top three in 13 career starts, that being Fulton (PP4, Dexter Dunn, 9-2).

"The colts raced very well," noted McNinch in a serious understatement. "They were ready for it. Its My Show I thought was as impressive as any of them. Racing from the rail at Mohawk, usually it's not as advantageous a spot especially because of a slanted gate. That usually kind of stops their momentum a little bit. But he got out of there very well and just kept going. He's been a pleasant surprise this year. 

"And Fulton you know, he got picked off last week [by Redwood Hanover in a Somebeachsomewhere division] and Dex was a little concerned about his bridle, so Linda changed his bridle and he was much better. They both did what they had to do."

Both colts stepped to new marks in their eliminations as well. Fulton (Heston Blue Chip - Bettor Be Steamin) was a 1:48.2 winner for Eric Cherry's Let It Ride Stables Inc. and Bottom Line Racing LLC. Two ticks better, Its My Show (Sweet Lou - Put On A Show) won in 1:48 winner for breeder - owners Richard & Joanne Young to stay perfect in five starts this year.

This year, Its My Show hasn't lost. Last year, he couldn't win. McNinch chalked up that change in form to a change in the horse's attention span after a trip to the veterinarian.

"Gelding him made all the difference in the world. After his last race in Lexington last year, Linda said 'take him out to Hunterton Farm and get him gelded right away' and that's what we did. And they did a great job recouping him, recovering from his gelding. He came back this year and we trained him down and he didn't seem any different or any better until he got into race. And he kind of realized that this is what he was meant to do. And it seems it's not a different horse to be around. He was always a nice horse, but the gelding just seemed to help his attitude."

Its My Show and Fulton will both require their best attitudes and best efforts to win the 2023 Pepsi North America Cup on Saturday. McNinch agreed — as is the consensus — that this year's edition of the race is one of the deepest in recent memory.

"I can look at that field and I don't see a horse that can't win. Usually when you have two eliminations and the top five make it, you usually got two or three in there that you can throw out completely. There's not a horse in there [on Saturday] that I don't think can win. And it's going to be a competitive race because all the winners think they can win. And all the horses that finished second all raced super, and they think they can win. And the two that drew in, Redwood [Hanover] beat us the week before and McIntosh's horse [Moment Is Here], his credentials speak for themselves. So I don't think there's a horse in there that cannot win."

Million-dollar purse aside, winning the 2023 Pepsi North America Cup would be extra special for McNinch and Toscano given that they've been right there with both colts since their first lessons and given the elusive aspect of this stake event for the stable thus far.

"Their whole lives have been with us, and it's just the fact that they got to this level...and this is as big a level as there is. This isn't just another million-dollar race. This is Canada's race. And it means a lot to me because I'm from Toronto, and it means a lot to Linda because she's never won one yet."

The full interview with McNinch from the 2023 Pepsi North America Cup post draw is available below.

To view Saturday’s harness racing entries, click one of the following links: Pepsi North America Cup Night -- Saturday Entries || North America Cup Card Program Pages (courtesy TrackIT).

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