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Road To The NA Cup - Week 1

Published: July 16, 2020 1:42 pm ET

Last Comment: July 16, 2020 8:02 pm ET | 1 Comment(s) | Jump to Comments

The 37th edition of the Pepsi North America Cup is now six weeks away and the stakes season is heating up for three-year-old pacers.

The saying 'good things come to those who wait' will ring very true for the connections of this year’s Pepsi North America Cup winner. The $1 million race for three-year-old pacers was originally scheduled for June 20, but will now take place on Saturday, August 29 at Woodbine Mohawk Park.

The Pepsi North America Cup is traditionally the first major race for sophomore pacers, with most of the eligible horses making just a few starts prior to the eliminations.

The late-August date certainly changes the ‘Road to the Pepsi North America Cup,’ which will head through the Meadowlands Racetrack this Saturday for the 2020 Meadowlands Pace.

The continuation of sires stakes and more Grand Circuit events will fill the schedule in the coming weeks, building more excitement for the potential showdowns in Campbellville on August 29. A total of 65 three-year-old pacers remain eligible to the 'Cup.'

Below is the initial ‘Road to the Pepsi North America Cup’ top-ten rankings, which will be updated weekly leading up to the eliminations, which are scheduled for Saturday, August 22.

To view the full list of eligible horses to the Pepsi North America Cup and all Woodbine stakes, click here.

Tall Dark Stranger and driver Yannick Gingras, pictured winning the 2019 Metro Pace at Woodbine Mohawk Park.


1. Tall Dark Stranger
Owner(s): Crawford Farms Racing, Marvin Katz, Caviart Farms, Howard Taylor
Trainer: Nancy Takter
Driver: Yannick Gingras

Last year’s Metro Pace, Breeders Crown, O’Brien Award and Dan Patch Award winner has looked superb through two starts this season and enters the Meadowlands Pace as the morning line favourite. Took a mark of 1:47.4 in his season debut, the fastest mile this season by a three-year-old. He’s the big dog and he looks poised to rule the yard all season.

2. Papi Rob Hanover
Owner(s): David McDuffee
Trainer: Brett Pelling
Driver: David Miller

The start of his three-year-old season hasn’t gone completely as planned, thanks to terrible post position luck. Landed Post 10 in his first two starts, but charged home strongly each time to finish second and third, respectively. But this weekend is the first major dance, the one that really counts and he would shock nobody with a winning effort from Post 9.

3. Tattoo Artist
Owner(s): Frank Cannon, Let It Ride Stables
Trainer: Dr. Ian Moore
Driver: Louis Philippe Roy

Last year’s Ontario Sires Stakes champion is currently riding a three-race win streak, with each victory a bigger statement than the last. He’s gone down the road in all three, including a dazzling 1:48.2 victory in his most recent, which just missed the all-time OSS record by one fifth of a second. Ontario’s best will be ready to protect home turf.

4. Allywag Hanover
Owner(s): Allywag Stable
Trainer: Brett Pelling
Driver: David Miller/Tim Tetrick

Showed a couple glimpses of major talent as a rookie, but never reached the top. That has changed this season. Now racing for Brett Pelling, he’s looked incredible while posting three wins in three starts. Appears poised to give the top-two ranked horses a run in the Meadowlands Pace.

5. Capt Midnight
Owner(s): Marvin Katz, Kenneth Jacobs, Brad Grant, Capt Midnight Racing
Trainer: Tony Alagna
Driver: Andrew McCarthy

A rare bad night almost cost him a chance at the Meadowlands Pace, but he’ll draw in as the also eligible with a stablemate bowing out for a different route. Following a steady and strong rookie campaign, he came back with a wicked performance in his season debut. Can’t be overlooked.

6. Beaumond Hanover
Owner(s): Jack Darling Stables
Trainer: Jack Darling
Driver: Jody Jamieson

Posted a 1:49.4 score in his season debut and most recently took an OSS Gold division dominantly in 1:49.1. Squeezed in between were a couple narrow defeats. He’s never raced badly and is showing that he’s Grand Circuit material. Burst onto the scene late last season in dominating fashion and is showing that those blowout wins had nothing to do with the company he was facing. He’s the real deal.

7. Elver Hanover
Owner(s): Burke Racing Stable, Dr. Bridgette Jablonsky, Jason Melillo, JandT Silva Purnel & Libb
Trainer: Ron Burke
Driver: Chris Page

Perfect 10 for 10 and the fastest two-year-old pacer in history. Not a bad introduction for the Ohio superstar. Has only ventured away from Ohio for two starts, as he scored back-to-back Grand Circuit victories last fall at the Red Mile. Won his season debut in an Ohio Sires Stakes and intrigue is high to see if he can keep the streak going and where he’ll stack up against Grand Circuit rivals.

8. Captain Kirk
Owner(s): Brittany Farms, Marvin Katz, Brad Grant, Captain Kirk Racing
Trainer: Tony Alagna
Driver: Dexter Dunn/Joe Bongiorno

Posted a strong runner-up finish in the Meadowlands Pace elimination, where he charged home in :25.2. Went 1 for 9 as a rookie, but was right there in most starts and just got a little lost in the shadow of his stablemates and the top-ranked horse on this list. Strong qualifiers and two good starts this season have him looking like a player.

9. Captain Barbossa
Owner(s): Alagnafrankinthegym Stabl, Robert LeBlanc, David Anderson
Trainer: Tony Alagna
Driver: Andrew McCarthy/Brian Sears

Likely didn’t get the credit he deserved for a solid two-year-old campaign. Grand Circuit winner, three wins and 10 top-three finishes from 14 starts last year. Has comeback at three and caught the attention of many, which is notable considering he has yet to win in three starts. Came up half a length short to Allywag Hanover two races ago in a 1:48 mile and then closed well in his Meadowlands Pace elimination to finish fourth. Both races he paced home in :25.3.

10. Groovy Joe
Owner(s): Hutt Racing Stable, Blake MacIntosh, Ozzie MacKay, Hoofbid Racing
Trainer: Blake MacIntosh
Driver: Matt Kakaley/James MacDonald

Was a model of consistency at two, as he won seven of his 10 races and finished second in the other three starts. Raced primarily in the New York Sire Stakes, where he finished second in the state championship. The start of his season didn’t go exactly as connections would hope, but the ability was clearly there. He showed that ability in his most recent outing when he scored an outstanding 1:48.4 victory in a New York Sire Stakes event.

Honourable Mention (alphabetical order):

Beach Blanket Book
Owner(s): Hutt Racing Stable, Mac and Heim Stables
Trainer: Blake MacIntosh
Driver: Doug McNair

Catch The Fire
Owner(s): CT Stables
Trainer: John Ackley
Driver: Mike Wilder

Chief Mate
Owner(s): Brittany Farms, Marvin Katz, Brad Grant, Captain Kirk Racing
Trainer: Tony Alagna
Driver: George Napolitano/Scott Zeron

Indictable Hanover
Owner(s): West Wins Stable, John Fielding, Mac Nichol
Trainer: Casie Coleman-Herlihy
Driver: Bob McClure

Roll With Jr
Owner(s): Pollack Racing, Jeff Cullipher
Trainer: Jeff Cullipher
Driver: Corey Callahan/Tim Tetrick/John De Long/Sam Widger/Doug McNair

(Woodbine Mohawk Park)

July 16, 2020 - 8:02 pmFour of the top 10 horses,

Mike Mobley SAID...

Four of the top 10 horses, Tall Dark Stranger, Allywag Hanover, Captain Barbossa, and Groovy Joe, have made all final sustaining payments to The Messenger Stake. If eliminations for The Messenger are needed, they'll be held on Cup night, August 29, so there's no guarantee that any of these horses will even be competing in The NAC. If you're an owner, which is more important: winning The NAC or winning The Triple Crown? In 2020, unless eliminations aren't needed for The Messenger, you can't do both.

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