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NA Cup Drivers On Alagna Trio

Published: August 28, 2020 6:17 pm ET

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After winning one million-dollar race earlier this month, trainer Tony Alagna is hoping a Canadian driver can give him a sweep of harness racing's million-dollar sophomore stakes with a win in Saturday's 2020 Pepsi North America Cup at Woodbine Mohawk Park.

Alagna is no stranger to success in the Pepsi North America Cup, winning the 2013 edition with the great Captaintreacherous. In 2019, the first crop of Captaintreacherous turned three and his son Captain Crunch gave him his first sire credit as a North America Cup winner.

In the 2020 edition of the Pepsi North America Cup there are four sons of Captaintreacherous, leading the way on the sire side. Three of those sons of Captaintreacherous hail from the Alagna stable -- elimination winner Captain Kirk, second-place finisher Capt Midnight and last week's fastest closer Captain Barbossa.

Captain Kirk, Capt Midnight and Captain Barbossa

Trot Insider (SC) caught up with the three drivers of these standout sophomores in advance of Saturday's $1 million Pepsi North America Cup.

Jody Jamieson, driver of Captain Kirk (PP3, 3-1)

SC: A different outcome than you had envisioned driving Captain Kirk on Saturday, a horse you didn't qualify for the Final. What were your thoughts on how he raced last week?

JJ: I thought he raced huge. To be first up for the distance that was first up...he was allowed to go at his own pace but to be screaming through the line like he was after being first up all that time, I thought it was very, very telling of what kind of horse he is.

SC: Post three on Saturday; thoughts on the draw and how you are coming into the Final.

JJ: I think the horse is as good as he can be coming into it; I don't know for sure as I haven't talked to anybody but I'm sure it will be all systems go when we hit the track.

SC: Tall Dark Stranger will most likely be the post time favourite but there are those that feel he can be beat. Do you agree?

JJ: I hope he's beatable just from the fact that I'm in the race! I hope I can beat him...he got a pretty cheap half in his elimination. He was out a way to get there but, still, it was a pretty cheap half. Then he came his own back half huge and fought off some horses. I don't know why they think he's beatable but I'm going to hope that he is.

SC: As a two-time North America Cup winner, how would it feel to add a third Cup to your collection?

JJ: This one would be pretty cool; I've never picked up a horse in the North America Cup after the draw so it's a pretty nice feeling and I really think we've got a shot. If we get the job done it would be right up there with some of the best races I've ever won.

I think the way the race is going to set up, Bob (McClure, who picked off Captain Kirk for Tattoo Artist) made a really good decison -- and I imagine it was a real hard one too to book off an elim winner -- but, like I said, I'm just happy to be in the catbird seat.

SC: You've got Bet On Becky in a division of the Eternal Camnation on Saturday...who else are you most looking forward to driving on the North America Cup undercard?

JJ: I think Lady Lou's got a real good shot in the Fan Hanover. I've never won the Fan Hanover before, and I got to pick her up last week and I'm really excited about her. I'm excited about Sintra, he's just in an open race but I'm still excited to drive him.

James MacDonald, driver of Captain Barbossa (PP9, 15-1)

SC: The way your month started it seemed like there was a good chance we wouldn't be talking to you about North America Cup night.

JM: I'm very blessed to have not been hurt any worse than I was.

SC: How's everything feeling since returning last Saturday?

JM: Feels great, I've been very lucky. In the bike, I feel terrific and I haven't had any ill effects from the accident so it's all systems go.

SC: And all systems go right into the North America Cup card where you pick up a very live drive with Captain Barbossa. How did that come about?

JM: Donna [Lee, assistant trainer] messaged me about driving him. I talked to Louis [Philippe Roy] after the race and I know Louis was thrilled with how he raced in the elimination, he just didn't get any room. He had lots of pace though. I expect him to be very good, the nine hole hurts but if everything goes our way on Saturday night I wouldn't be shocked if he got a good chunk or all of it.

The horse is coming into the race in good form and last week didn't hurt him at all, that's for sure. I expect a good effort from him.

SC: First million-dollar drive for you this Saturday. How does it feel to be going for a million bucks, especially given the way August 2020 started for you?

JM: I was obviously pretty disappointed when I got hurt -- not just for the sole reason that I got hurt but the timing of it all. It's not just being back in time for the North America Cup it's being back in time so people know you're there to get the right horse. A lot of factors go into picking up a drive like that. When I got hurt I was down in the dumps but it was always my goal...I'd heard stories about people coming back from collarbones quick. I worked hard with the right people and I was able to come back as quick as possible.

I'm excited to be back and to be in the North America Cup is pretty special. I'm going to take it all in and hopefully come out in the winner's circle.

SC: You've got a number of stakes drives on Saturday. Which of those horses you most looking forward to driving on the North America Cup undercard?

JM: I'm always looking to sit behind [Roses Are Red contender] So Much More. She's just such a good story and a great little mare. She deserves everything she's got so far this year, a great group of people behind her so it's good to see people like that have success. I'm really hoping for some luck with her and give them what would likely be the biggest win of their career.

Doug McNair, driver of Capt Midnight (PP5, 9-2)

SC: Congrats on getting two horses qualified for the North America Cup Final. A tough decision to have to choose between the two, I'm sure.

DM: For sure. I think Capt Midnight's just a little more advanced speed-wise than the colt of my dad's. He's gone those fast miles so he's got the experience for sure.

SC: Before we discuss Capt Midnight, perhaps a quick comment on Mayhem Hanover and his effort.

DM: He's definitely a real nice horse. He kept getting better last year at the end of the year, won the Grassroots Final and then was top five in the Breeders Crown. He's a real nice colt.

Sometimes you just don't know what to expect, he'll do the odd thing you're just not ready for. He wouldn't go to the gate one day in the Gold and I thought it cost him a lot of money because I thought he'd be first or second. He ended up getting away fourth and coming first over [and finishing fourth].

It looks like the trip [on Saturday] could set up to get him a good piece of it. I wouldn't count him out.

SC: Of course you hope your trip works out better and you get a bigger piece.

DM: My horse will get a different trip than him, for sure.

Capt Midnight (outside) finishes second to Tall Dark Stranger (covered, bottom head) in his 2020 Pepsi North America Cup elim

SC: Talk about Capt Midnight's effort on Saturday. Do you think if the stretch was a little longer you'd have picked off Tall Dark Stranger?

DM: I was getting to him halfway down the lane. That [Tall Dark Stranger] just knows how to win. He just kept sticking his head seemed like if we went a little further I might have beat him but I might not have either. He knows how to win.

It's all going to come down to the trip. I don't think you'll see Yannick [Gingras, driver of Tall Dark Stranger] stroll his way to the lead like he did last week, or go around once and win the race. There's going to be a lot more action and it's going to be an exciting race.

SC: What would a North America Cup title mean to you?

DM: I've watched them all since I was young. It would be a good feather in my cap. I'm not saying there's nothing else you'd want to win for the rest of your life but it's definitely up there. We'll play it by ear and hopefully have some luck.

SC: You have a full dance card on Saturday night; is there a horse on the undercard you're really looking forward to driving?

DM: I've got the horse that's probably going to be 2-5 in the Fan Hanover, Party Girl Hill. I'm looking forward to driving her. She raced well...first time driving her, I'm used to her now and hopefully I can keep her undefeated streak alive.

SC: North America Cup night is a night that everyone looks forward to but there's going to be a different sort of ambiance without the normal crowd there.

DM: You're right there. We're going to miss the fans we usually's usually a really fun night because there's always a big crowd. We're definitely going to miss that.

The 2020 Pepsi North America Cup headlines a stakes-filled card this Saturday at Woodbine Mohawk Park that also includes the $400,000 Fan Hanover, $290,000 Roses Are Red, $220,000 Armbro Flight, $234,058 Nassagaweya (two divisions) and $214,645 Eternal Camnation (three divisions) for what is surely the most star-studded card of harness racing on the Canadian calendar so far this season.

$1,000,000 Pepsi North America Cup
1. Mayhem Hanover (Randy Waples / Gregg McNair) 20-1
2. Moneyman Hill (Jonathan Drury / Carmen Auciello) 20-1
3. Captain Kirk (Jody Jamieson / Tony Alagna) 3-1
4. Tall Dark Stranger (Yannick Gingras / Nancy Takter) 7-5
5. Capt Midnight (Doug McNair / Tony Alagna) 9-2
6. Denali Seelster (Trevor Henry / Dr. Ian Moore) 20-1
7. Tattoo Artist (Bob McClure / Dr. Ian Moore) 8-1
8. Allywag Hanover (Louis-Philippe Roy / Brett Pelling) 4-1
9. Captain Barbossa (James MacDonald / Tony Alagna) 15-1
10. Odds On Osiris (Sylvain Filion / Melanie Wrenn) 10-1

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