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The North America Cup Dark Horse?

Published: June 19, 2015 1:39 pm ET

Last Comment: June 19, 2015 3:57 pm ET | 1 Comment(s) | Jump to Comments

"Any luck at all in either race —- if he could have zigged when he zagged —- he would have won both of them. Instead of being 20-1, he could be 2-1."

One of the longest shots on the board heading into the 2015 Pepsi North America Cup, Penji Hanover (Art Major - Platinum Hanover) could be a dark horse that factors into the final equation. As a pacer that shows leaving from the outside of the starting gate, and late pace closing his miles, it's no wonder trainer Ben Wallace expects big things from his Cup contender.

"He's had a great week," Wallace told Trot Insider. "I know it's a cliche and we all say it but he has had a good week and we're anticipating a good performance. We drew bad but we'll overcome it."

That bad spot is Post 9, the same starting spot from which JK Endofanera won the 2014 Pepsi North America Cup. A repeat from the second outermost post will take some expert steering, and Wallace has Canada's reigning Driver of the Year -- Chris Christoforou -- to make those decisions.

"Every time I've asked him to go more he's had it," Christoforou said after Penji Hanover's North America Cup elim. "He got a two-hole trip again and didn't get out until real late, so I was real happy with him."

2015 North America Cup Elimination #2

"Chris made a tremendous professional move in the first turn last week when he closed the door and decided to take the two hole behind Go Daddy Go," said Wallace. "Everytime he's got off the cart, he said (Penji Hanover) was great and I think he fits the horse great. (Penji) tends to run in a little bit, and I told the owners I'm going to find the best left-hander I can find...and we got Christoforou."

The horse is a relatively new addition to the Wallace barn, being shipped to his care by trainer Paul Kelley for owners W Springtime Racing of Johnstown, New York.

“There is no better trainer in the industry than Ben Wallace,” Kelley told the Toronto Star. “I wanted to do right by the horse and the owners, and I have known Ben for a long time.”

"I've known Paul Kelley for quite a while. We had dinner in Florida this Winter and got associated again, and I guess he pulled my name out of a hat when he needed somebody up here," Wallace joked on Tuesday at the N.A. Cup draw.

"I researched the horse a little bit, and he's a very finely-bred horse. He's in magnificent shape and he's an outstanding-looking animal," he continued. "My first impression was he's got the physical parts, it's whether he's got the internal parts. We went to work on him and he's raced like he has both parts, so we're excited about him."

Wallace thought his chances of making the final from his elim were "very good" and his colt didn't disappoint.

"I thought he was outstanding. I've raced him twice now and he hasn't been tired either one. He got kind of caught in both times and we're happy about that...he will be tired this Saturday, I can tell you that. We drew bad, and he'll be getting raced this Saturday."

Despite his long odds, Penji Hanover drew a fair amount of media attention leading up to the N.A. Cup with feature stories in both the Toronto Star and the Guelph Mercury. Wallace's confidence in the horse speaks volumes to why Penji Hanover could be deserving of more ink in the future.

"He doesn't have a negative right now. I'm being quite honest. He does not have a negative," Wallace told The Mercury. "He's athletic. He's willing. He was a $120,000 yearling so, obviously, he's got pedigree on his side, too. He's got everything. As we speak right now, he doesn't have a flaw."

With a mantle that boasts some of the sport's top honours, including a campaign that won him Trainer of the Year honours with Horse of the Year and pacing Triple Crown winner Blissfull Hall, one trophy that has eluded the Milton, Ont. resident is the North America Cup.

"I'd be overwhelmed," said Wallace of winning the N.A. Cup. "It's nice to be a part of it, it's greater to be involved with a horse like this. In anyone's career, it's a real honour."

To view the entries for Saturday's card at Mohawk or a free program for Mohawk’s Saturday card, courtesy of TrackIT, click on one of the following links: Saturday Entries -- Saturday Program Pages.

The Pepsi North America Cup is the centerpiece of Mohawk’s fantastic Saturday card of racing that will also feature the $479,000 final of the Fan Hanover Stakes (which will showcase three-year-old pacing fillies), the $350,000 final of the Roses Are Red (pacing mares), the $272,000 final of the Armbro Flight (trotting mares), the $233,000 final of the Goodtimes Stakes (three-year-old trotting colts), the $100,000 Mohawk Gold Cup (invitational pacers) and the $75,000 North America Cup consolation.

TSN1 will televise the Cup final on Saturday. The race will also be featured on Sirius XM satellite radio during an edition of the ‘Saturday Night at the Races’ series. First-race post time for Mohawk’s Saturday card of racing is 6:30 p.m. The NA Cup has been slotted as Race 12 on the 15-dash card and has an approximate post time of 10:40 p.m.

June 19, 2015 - 3:57 pmGo get them BEN, a little bit

Go get them BEN, a little bit for you, a whole lot for the owners, a little bit for the late Peter Seaman who spoke very highly of you, GOOD LUCK.


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