Harness racing's brightest stars were out in full-force on Saturday evening at Mohawk Racetrack and put on a fantastic show of record-setting performances during the Pepsi North America Cup undercard.
O'Brien Award winner Check Me Out kicked off the stakes action on Cup night with a 1:52.1 record-setting victory in the $530,000 Elegantimage Stakes for three-year-old trotting fillies.
Valdonna (Ron Pierce) fired off the gate from post eight to establish the early lead over Lovely Vacation (Randy Waples), who eventually made a break in stride around the first turn. Win Missy B (Brian Sears) inherited the pocket spot with elimination winner Check Me Out and Tim Tetrick settling into third.
Valdonna led the way to the first quarter in :27.3 before Win Missy B swept to command during the second panel and hit the half in :56.2. As the fillies raced to three-quarters in 1:24.2, Tetrick made his move sending 3-5 favourite Check Me Out first over with the other elimination winner, Maven (Yannick Gingras), catching her cover while Valdonna made a break to her inside and drifted into the safety lane.
Check Me Out struck the front down the stretch and held off the quick-closing Maven in a photo finish. Win Missy B finished third. The 1:52.1 winning time lowered Action Broadway and Cross Of Lorraine's track and Canadian record by three-fifths of a second.
“I wanted to make sure I got away close and I thought there might be a little more speed than there was, but the front two were setting up the pace and that forced my hand,” said Tetrick of his racing strategy. “I was going to move to the front, but Brian beat me to the front and then I was stuck first over, but what saved the trip was around the last turn I got to get back in behind him for a little bit to braven my filly back up and she just trotted one heck of a last quarter to win the race in a very tight photo.
“I knew it was really tight,” he added. “My filly kept fighting all the way to the wire. I give Maven tons of credit, she fought tooth and nail and it was a great horse race all the way down the lane.”
Check Me Out paid $3.10 to win. The Donato Hanover-Illusion Bi filly earned millionaire status as her lifetime earnings soared to $1,236,801. She is owned by trainer Ray Schnittker and Charles Iannazzo of New York.
Beer Summit rallied home off second over cover to capture the $351,000 Goodtimes Trot for three-year-old colts and geldings in a 1:52.2 track-record equalling performance.
Gym Tan Laundry (Jack Moiseyev) fired across the track from post nine at long odds of 161-1 and set up shop on the front end during a :27.1 opening quarter with 36-1 Prayer Session (David Magee) settling into the pocket spot over Il Mago (Trevor Ritchie) and the Ron Pierce-driven Beer Summit.
Il Mago began his first over attack during the second panel with Beer Summit getting a perfect second over tow past the half in :56.1. Il Mago applied pressure to Gym Tan Laundry as they raced to three-quarters in 1:24, but the leader rebuffed that rival as they rounded the final turn.
Down the stretch, Pierce cut Beer Summit loose while Prayer Session split horses racing three-across with another three colts closing on the far outside for a blanket finish. Beer Summit edged ahead to score the 1:52.2 victory, matching the divisional track record held by Majestic Son and Lucky Chucky. Prayer Session nosed out Gym Tan Laundry for second.
"I thought we had one of the best horses and we just needed a trip," commented trainer Mike Vanderkemp after the victory.
"I had the horsepower. It helps to have a horse good enough to win the race," agreed Pierce. "But the trip worked out really well. I floated him out of their from the seven-hole and fell in the four-hole. I picked up some very good cover and pulled him off his cover's back just before we straightened up. Mike did his job, he had him up on his toes, and [Beer Summit] had plenty of trot to the wire."
Beer Summit, a runner-up in his elimination last week, paid $19.20 for the mild 8-1 upset. The Cantab Hall-Prime Mistress colt is owned by Sharlene Vanderkemp and Mirva Bogucki of New Jersey, along with the J And T Silva Stables LLC of New York. His career earnings now stand at $310,009.
After sharing the victory in her Armbro Flight Stakes elimination for aged trotting mares last weekend with O'Brien Award winner China Pearls, Pembroke Heat Wave claimed sole ownership of the stakes trophy.
Frenchfrysnvinegar (Jody Jamieson) motored off the gate from post nine in the $376,000 final and established an early two length lead over favourite China Pearls (Randy Waples) and Pembroke Heat Wave, with catch-driver Brian Sears in the sulky, during the :27.2 first opening quarter. The other elimination winner, Action Broadway (Doug McNair), and Jersey As (Tim Tetrick) broke stride before the race resulting a pari-mutuel refund on both mares.
As Frenchfrysnvinegar stole a second quarter breather to the half in :57.4, Pembroke Heat Wave launched her attack and applied heavy pressure as the mares headed into the final turn. Frenchfrysnvinegar hit three-quarters in 1:26.2, but Pembroke Heat Wave edged out in front down the stretch. The 5-1 fourth choice then held off the second over Cedar Dove (Ron Pierce) to win in 1:54 flat while China Pearls slipped between horses to finish close behind in third.
"I definitely gave the program a good look over and I knew that I fit in there real well," said Sears, who picked up the drive after Doug McNair opted to steer his other elimination winner. "I didn't go in with any set game plan, I was just looking to not gun out of there too hard, but get in the best spot I possibly could. With Action Broadway making a break, I didn't have to use her too hard and got away third. I thought she would be strong enough to pull first over and she was and I was able to get it done."
Pembroke Heat Wave paid $11.50 to win. The six-year-old Like A Prayer-Super Earl mare, who has banked $414,141 to date, is trained by Guelph conditioner Gregg McNair for owner-breeder William Varney of Maine.
O'Brien Award winner American Jewel cleared to command at the opening quarter mark and never looked back as she paced her way into the world record books with a dazzling 1:48.2 triumph in the $642,000 Fan Hanover Stakes for three-year-old pacing fillies on Pepsi North America Cup night Saturday evening at Mohawk Racetrack.
Elimination winner Romantic Moment (Yannick Gingras) established the early lead from post four, but the Tim Tetrick-driven American Jewel had her sights set on the front and worked her way to the top during the :26.2 first quarter.
Once she cleared to command, the 4-5 favourite, also an elimination winner, rolled by middle fractions of :55 and 1:21.3. Down the stretch, Romantic Moment pulled the pocket, but came up a length short. Big McDeal (Jody Jamieson) followed from the three-hole to show.
Americal Jewel's 1:48.2 clocking lowered the world record for three-year-old pacing fillies by two-fifths of a second. The former mark was held by Dancinwiththestarz and Strike An Attitude.
"She's a very talented filly," said Tetrick in a post-race interview. "If it wasn't for the injury that she had last year I think she would have maybe went on and had a Breeders Crown and ended the rest of the season on a great note. But she's come back strong. She's such a talented filly and has high speed and can carry it for a long, long way so it's just a pleasure to get to drive her."
American Jewel paid $3.20 to win. The homebred American Ideal-Trim Hanover miss also joined the millionaire's club as her lifetime earnings climbed to $1,016,313 for trainer Jimmy Takter and owner Brittany Farms.
Driven by Ron Pierce, double millionaire pacer We Will See survived a first over trip and held off favourite Betterthancheddar to wrap up the stakes action on Saturday night with a 1:48.2 triumph in the $100,000 Mohawk Gold Cup Invitational.
Golden Receiver (Brian Sears), River Shark (Jody Jamieson) and We Will See were caught in a three-horse tussle for the early lead off the gate with River Shark eventually clearing ahead of Golden Receiver just past the scorching :25.2 first quarter mark. Meanwhile, We Will See took back to fourth as Atochia (Yannick Gingras) filled the three-hole.
Refusing to sit a pocket trip, Golden Receiver forged to the front during the second panel and hit the half in :54.1 while We Will See moved underway with Bigtime Ball (Paul MacDonell) and Betterthancheddar following his cover.
We Will See applied heavy pressure as they raced to three-quarters in 1:21.4 and wore down Golden Receiver as they turned for home. Betterthancheddar was launched off cover and unleashed a :26-second final frame to make it into the win photo, but We Will See held on by a nose. Atochia finished two lengths behind in third.
"He's starting to get into his form and everything went good," commented trainer Sam DePinto in the winner's circle. "He had to come first up, but he likes that kind of a trip. Betterthancheddar raced super, he followed us I think the whole way and it was pretty close.
"They're all good horses, you can't take nothing away from any of them," he said when asked about his biggest competition in the race. "If I had to put my finger on anybody it would be Betterthancheddar and Mark Harder's horse Golden Receiver. I thought those two were probably the toughest ones in the race. I would have liked to work out a trip behind them, but it didn't work out that way. But we still got the job done. He did what he had to do. He's a tough horse, he knows how to win."
We Will See paid $7.10 to win as the 5-2 third choice. The five-year-old Western Hanover-Aberdakara pacer, who was the 2010 Pepsi North America Cup runner-up behind Sportswriter, is owned by Shannon DePinto and Earl Smith of New Jersey, along with the J And T Silva Stables LLC.
Also on the card, 2010 Pepsi North America Cup Consolation runner-up OK Commander converted a pocket trip into a 1:50 victory in the weekly $38,000 Preferred Pace for the father-son duo of trainer Gregg McNair and driver Doug McNair. The five-year-old Art Major-Double Creme pacer, owned by New Yorkers William Switala and James Martin, wore down even-money choice Fred And Ginger (Dave Palone) for the half-length victory with a :25.4 final frame. He paid $5.70 to win as the second choice in the field.
For coverage of the featured $1.5 million Pepsi North America Cup, click here.
- Entries - Saturday's overnight sheet
- Results - Saturday's racing results
- Program Pages - past performance program page for each race, courtesy of TrackIT
- News - all the previews and recaps leading up to Canadian harness racing's richest prize
- Stats & Figures - WEG's Mike Hamilton provides a wealth of interesting North America Cup statistics
- Live Video - watch the races here live starting at 7:10 p.m.