Doug McNair will be making his North America Cup driving debut and trainer Casie Coleman will be looking for her second Cup triumph when they send out Ontario Sired pacers Magnum J and morning line favourite Betting Line, respectively, in the $1 million race.
Casie Coleman said she isn’t the least surprised there are two Ontario Sired horses in Saturday’s (June 18) $1 million Pepsi North America Cup at Mohawk Racetrack, including her trainee Betting Line, the 5-2 morning line favourite, and Magnum J trained by Gregg McNair.
“We’ve got great stallions, we’ve got great broodmares. We’ve got a really good program,” Coleman said of the Ontario Sires Stakes program. “Here we are with two Ontario Sired horses in the final of the $1 million North America Cup —- two out of 10 with all those Somebeachsomewheres and other American sires that are very, very expensive...Hopefully, they show themselves well and people are wanting to buy Ontario Sired more.”
Betting Line, a son of Bettors Delight out of Heathers Western, won the faster of the two NA Cup eliminations on Saturday, June 11 with a 1:49.1 victory that was three-quarters-of-a-length better than Lyons Snyder. Winning the elimination gave Coleman the right to pick her post for the final. She selected the post three on behalf of driver David Miller and her fellow owners Ross Warriner, Christine Calhoun and Mac Nichol, all from Ontario. They purchased Betting Line for $60,000 at the Standardbred Horse Sales Company’s 2014 yearling sale in Harrisburg, PA.
Coleman, a resident of Cambridge, Ont., won the 2010 Pepsi North America Cup with Sportswriter, now a leading stallion in Ontario that stands at Tara Hills Stud in Port Perry, Ont.
“I’m lucky enough that I’ve been in enough of these big races now that it’s just another race,” she said when asked about the pressure a trainer feels the week of a big race. “Obviously, it’s a million-dollar race, so it’s a big one and we want to make sure we don’t mess anything up, but it’s the same daily routine that we always go through.”
Coleman said Betting Line, the winner of his Ontario Sires Stakes (OSS) Super Final a year ago, is primed and ready for Saturday’s $1 million final.
“He had a really good week,” she said Thursday. “I trained him on Tuesday a couple of trips. He trained great and I went into the vet after he trained and everything looked really good. Blood was good and he’s sharp, sound and healthy. Everything seems A1 right now.”
Magnum J will have a tougher assignment for the father-son training and driving team of Gregg and Doug McNair of Guelph, Ont. The son of Big Jim out of Jamirotoy will start from post 10 in the 10-horse field. Doug will be making his North America Cup driving debut.
“First or last it’s going to be a good experience,” Doug said.
Even though the pressure’s off having the outside post, Doug said he would “rather have had the pressure of having the one or two or three hole...than to have to come from the outside. But, I guess, it’s only where you’re starting from.”
Magnum J was purchased for $10,000 by Gregg McNair and Hanover, Ont. residents Tony Lawrence and William Brown at the 2014 Forest City Yearling Sale in London, Ont. In 2015, the gelding won one of the premier events for Ontario Sired horses when he captured the $200,000 Battle of Waterloo at Grand River Raceway in Elora, Ont. The pacer was saddled with the seven-hole in that race and Doug said Magnum J has been particularly unlucky with post positions. In Magnum J’s last two starts, Doug has had to craft money-winning trips from far outside starting spots. Magnum J was fourth in his $75,000 Somebeachsomewhere division at Mohawk on June 4 from the 10-hole. A week ago, he started in the closed from eighth at the top of the stretch to be fourth in his $50,000 NA Cup elimination.
“He couldn’t race any better than he did the last two starts. He came home in :25.4 one day and he was probably six, seven wide in the stretch. Then last week he came home in :26.2 into a big, strong headwind,” Doug said.
As for working out a winning strategy in the $1 million final, Doug said he’ll have to see how things unfold off the gate.
“He can leave as fast as you want him to leave, but going for a million dollars you know they won’t leave you alone on the front end. Everything is different behind the gate. It would be nice to get away at the back and have them go big fractions, but sometimes that’s not the way it goes either. Play it by ear and hopefully we get lucky,” he said. “It’s just a bad post. He’s as good as any horse in there, I think.”
Regardless, Doug said he’s determined to make his first NA Cup drive a good experience.
“I’ve got a bunch of my buddies coming out to watch. I still have a lot of high school buddies around. They don’t understand racing, but they’ll have fun being there. The race is on TSN2 and (Magnum J) is in the race. You’ve got no shot if you’re not in it. It’s the 10-hole, but it’s better than being also eligible.”
Doug said he’s also looking forward to driving Ontario Sired four-year-old pacing mare Solar Sister (Mach Three—Cabrini Hanover) in the $370,000 Roses Are Red final for owners and breeders David Willmot of King City and Clay Horner of Toronto, Ont. Solar Sister won her Roses Are Red elimination on Saturday (June 11).
“She’s been really good, but that’s a tough race. There’s some good mares in there, but I got lucky and won it last year (with Lady Shadow) so it would be nice two years in a row,” Doug said.
As for Coleman, she said she is relishing Betting Line’s success even more after deciding to downsize her stable.
“Right now these smaller numbers are working for me. I’m actually making more money on my bottom line with smaller numbers. It’s a lot less stress, less staff, fewer owners and fewer horses. I’m really enjoying how I’m doing it now,” she said, adding she will enjoy herself even more if Betting Line wins the big one on Saturday.
“Now he just needs the trip to work out and we’ll see if we can get out picture taken,” she said.
The Pepsi North America Cup is the centerpiece of Mohawk’s fantastic Saturday card of racing that will also feature the $438,000 final of the Fan Hanover Stakes (which will showcase three-year-old pacing fillies), the $370,000 final of the Roses Are Red (pacing mares), the $267,000 final of the Armbro Flight (trotting mares), the $268,000 final of the Goodtimes Stakes (three-year-old trotting colts), and the $100,000 Mohawk Gold Cup (invitational pacers).
TSN2 will televise the Cup final live on Saturday. 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.
Mohawk will offer three Pick-4 wagers Saturday, including an All Stakes Pick-4 with a $100,000 guaranteed pool, comprising Races 9 through 12 and featuring the Roses Are Red, Mohawk Gold Cup, Fan Hanover and Pepsi North America Cup.
(with files from Ontario Racing)