Fear The Dragon Wins 2017 Pepsi North America Cup

Published: June 17, 2017 10:54 pm EDT

Following a stretch battle of the elimination winners, Fear The Dragon prevailed in 1:48.4 over slight favourite Huntsville with his stablemate Downbytheseaside finishing third in the $1 million Pepsi North America Cup on Saturday, June 17 at Mohawk Racetrack.

David Miller earned his second consecutive victory in the Cup driving the Dragon Again-Armbro Cinnamon colt for trainer Brian Brown and owner Bruce Trogdon of Emerald Highlands Farm.

Sports Column (Chris Christoforou) got the first call off the gate leaving from post five with Classic Pro (Trevor Henry) firing just to his outside. The latter cleared at the :25.2 quarter mark, but his lead was short-lived as Filibuster Hanover (Louis-Philippe Roy) rushed up from third with Downbytheseaside (Brian Sears) hot on his heels.

Downbytheseaside took over command down the backstretch, putting up a track record half-mile clocking of :52.1 and three-quarters in 1:19.3. Meanwhile, Huntsville advanced from mid-pack with Fear The Dragon tracking his cover from sixth as Filibuster Hanover broke stride in the pocket.

From there, the stretch duel developed with Downbytheseaside leading the way into the lane while Huntsville closed in and Fear The Dragon fanned wide. Huntsville and Fear The Dragon battled past Downbytheseaside in front of the grandstand and duked it out to the wire with Fear The Dragon persevering by three-quarters of a length in a career-best 1:48.4 mile.

"This is a great, great feeling," said 52-year-old New Jersey-based driver David Miller as he headed back to the winner's circle. "My horse was having a hard time keeping up [during the fast middle fractions]. He was gapping and I was chasing him and didn't really get within contention there until right at the head of the stretch and then he dug, he fought. Huntsville, he kept fighting and it was a battle right to the wire."

"I'm very proud of Downbytheseaside, Brian [Sears], [caretaker] Toni [Dale Hollar] -- they went a big mile today," noted Brown. "He went all the top fractions. David told me 'Dragon' was back there pacing as fast as he could go the whole way to keep up. It was incredible fractions and for that horse to still finish third and hang in there, I was very proud of him. Fear The Dragon, what can you say? He's tough, he just never gives up. David Miller, he's just always in the right place."

After 15 prior appearances in the Cup, the Hall of Fame reinsman won the Canadian classic for the first time in his career last year with Betting Line and reigned again in the 34th edition tonight for Brown.

It was the first time the Ohio-based Brown, 52, had a three-year-old colt in the North America Cup and the 1-3 finish in the final after winning two of the three eliminations left him at a loss for words when asked to describe the feeling.

"It's unexplainable," said Brown on winning the million-dollar race. "You'd have to ask the guys that win these races regularly. This is my first time. I don't know what to say. It's incredible that we're even here with two horses. To come away with a win, it's just something that's unexplainable."

The victory was also the first in the Cup for owner Trogdon, a longtime newspaper publisher who started building Emerald Highlands Farm in 1982. Emerald Highlands purchased the broodmare Armbro Cinnamon from the Peretti Farms dispersal at the Harrisburg Sale in 2013 for $15,000 in foal to Dragon Again and Fear The Dragon was born, raised and broke to jog at the Mount Vernon, Ohio farm.

Fear The Dragon paid $4.90 to win as the 9-5 second choice to 4-5 favourite Huntsville. Downbytheseaside finished three and three-quarter lengths behind in third at odds of 5-1. Completing the order of finish were: Classic Pro, Western Hill (Doug McNair), Sports Column, Miso Fast (Matt Kakaley), Filibuster Hanover, Ozone Blue Chip (Brett Miller), and Ocean Colony (Yannick Gingras).

During his freshman campaign, Fear The Dragon earned five wins, three second-place finishes and two thirds from 11 starts while banking $228,391. His success at two, including victories in the Pennsylvania Sire Stakes, Arden Stakes and Elevation, made him a top five contender to win the North America Cup heading into the season in Trot Magazine's annual Spring Book rankings.

Fear The Dragon is now undefeated in six starts this year with his seasonal earnings swelling to $597,453. He won his North America Cup elimination in 1:50 despite tripping on a head number in the stretch last weekend at Mohawk. Prior to that, he started his sophomore season in the Pennsylvania Sire Stakes earning two of three wins in sub-1:50 fashion.

Click here for complete coverage of the Pepsi North America Cup undercard, including recaps and replays of the $75,000 Cup Consolation, the $440,000 Fan Hanover Stakes (for three-year-old pacing fillies), $365,000 Roses Are Red Stakes (pacing mares), $253,000 Armbro Flight Stakes (trotting mares), $251,000 Goodtimes Stakes (three-year-old trotting colts), and $100,000 Mohawk Gold Cup (invitational pacers).

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