• A North America Cup Contest Or Conquering?

    POSTED Jun 13, 2012
    It’s a big weekend based mostly on the most expensive event in harness racing. The undercard and the co-features around the tracks this weekend make for promising play (covered in this blog and at our exclusive Hambletonian Trail and Hambletonian Society complementing the TwinSpires platform).

    But all eyes are on Mohawk this Saturday, June 16.

    The $1.5-million North America Cup for 2012 is a curiosity as well as a spectacle for a few reasons, each arguably sound.  

    The likes of Sweet Lou have not been seen over the past few years. As fast as pacers win, Sweet Lou has been among the fastest and he came back at three with a speedy vengeance, winning both of his miles in less than 1:50. We never put speed at a premium but when any horse is superior solely on speed, we take notice.

    Though Sweet Lou has out-paced the rivals he will meet in the 29th edition of this lucrative event for soph-colt pacers, the season is young and the others are still maturing, some in ways that are yet to be revealed. Here is the field in post-position order:

    $1.5-million Pepsi North America Cup

    1-Bettors Edge
    2-Dapper Dude
    3-Time To Roll
    4-Sweet Lou
    5-Thinking Out Loud
    6-State Treasurer
    7-A Rocknroll Dance
    8-Warrawee Needy
    9-Pet Rock
    10-Simply Business

    The elim winners, Sweet Lou and Dapper Dan, got first dibs on chooing post positions. Sweet Lou’s trainer Ron Burke said he chose post 4 because “it gives us a chance to do whatever he wants to do.” Burke refers to the colt, not driver Dave Palone.

    The most revealing thing Burke said recently was that although he was happy with Sweet Lou’s win last week (1:47.4 with three-quarters in a flaming 1:20.1 after going first up to take the lead by a :53 half), one thing bothered him. He said, “There were horses right behind him.”

    Sweet Lou has blown away fields but last week looked a bit sluggish as Warrawee Needy attempted to gain on him late. Sweet Lou was tested a bit getting the top by the half but he worked a bit to ward off the late challenge.

    Also, Burke said the colt had “a little virus” but it cleared up. Stress and a recent, though harmless sickness, place some doubts in the minds of smart handicappers. Make no mistake that neither of these items are enough to count on Sweet Lou burning out come the race. He could be beaten on the pure improvement of others; certainly there are signs that need attention.

    The aforementioned Warrawee Needy qualified with a sub-1:50 mile but scratched from the Upper Canada Cup before the elim, where he was all out for Jody Jamieson (who drove last year’s winner, Up The Credit). He should be given some points for almost pacing down Sweet Lou in his first race of the season.

    Dapper Dude was 9-1 in his winning elim and he saved plenty of ground to do it. Staying out of trouble and well off the pace, John Campbell (who has been in the driver’s seat for a record seven “Cup” victors) steered a classic third-over, slingshot journey to defeat the top five public choices in that mile.

    A Rocknroll Dance has been Sweet Lou’s nemesis since their frosh campaigns. He got to the final. He was in a different elim and as the public choice finished fifth, just the spot he needed to make it into the final. That result came from a grueling first-over trip that found him in severe traffic for his stretch drive. He wound up beating second-choice Michael’s Power, who surprised most by not making the top five in his elim.

    Pet Rock is getting better with every start while not getting the proper public respect. We gave him to you in the Art Rooney and even in a short field he won as an outsider. He was third in his elim, steady but not gaining in his final half.  

    One or two arguments for Thinking Out Loud have surfaced but they include a scenario that promises a perfect trip. No one can predict that case, which could also be true for Bettors Edge, Time To Roll and State Treasurer. 

    Simply Business has only one way to win, racing exactly as he did when we nailed him in last year’s Metro Pace at 20-1. Speed has to burn the better foes to a crisp so that Simply Business can win five or six wide, closing as the only one left with any energy. It is not a likely scenario.

    All of this leaves us with an enigma within a puzzle within a mystery based upon the performance of Sweet Lou. With an easy swoop to the lead within the first half or perhaps even to the top from the start and keeping his speed engine clean through four quarters, if there is more in his tank than he has already shown he could win this in a record sub-1:47.  

    "There has never been a doubt in my mind that he could pace as fast as we saw him go [in his elim] Saturday. I don’t think we’ve seen yet how fast he can go,” Burke said. “That’s maybe his best quality, his ability to recover immediately. Two minutes after he’s off the track you never would know he’d been on the track. I think there are horses that can go with him but his ability to shut himself down and be at rest will separate him from other horses.”

    In the scenario where Sweet Lou doesn’t fire on all cylanders, beware of the prices for A Rocknroll Dance, who should clearly race better than his elim; and Pet Rock, who, all things being equal, should get the best trip. These upset scenarios are the best we feel can happen.

    Mares Mania

    The $376,000 Armbro Flight on the Cup card features Action-Broadway, who is looking to shock the final field and the fans again after a 20-1 upset last year and a 69-1 victory last week. China Pearls is the likely choice but Action-Broadway and Cleopatre Duharas each have a great shot to beat her.

    Action-Broadway did not get an ideal trip last week, was far off the pace, had excess cover and still won at the wire. She can overcome the worst trips and prevail successfully. This race could be one of the best in her career.

    Cleopatre Duharas shocked in her eliminaton, finishing third as a rank 50-1 outsider. The mare (that was our choice last week) will be looking to close as long as she can stay flat. She makes some miscues here and there but is a sharp trotter who was on the Hambletonian Trail last year. She has matured in the sophomore transition and will be looking to do the same thing Action-Broadway did last year, win at a big price.

    Fillies ‘Fan’

    Also on tap Cup night is the $642,000 Fan Hanover final for soph-filly trotters. American Jewel will be looking to give trainer Jimmy Takter back-to-back Fan Hanover wins. Stamped as the likely favorite, she is a front-pacing type but as a younger filly she could go too fast at the wrong time. Two other fillies, which are our selections, will be seeking to make her work for the money.

    Angel Scent was able to clear the front in her elimination to come up slightly short in the end. She gets major post relief this week and won’t have to work so hard to get the top.

    Also in the mix is Pirouette Hanover. She challenged Angel Scent for the front and cleared but lost the lead to a closing Romantic Moment (which was our choice). She should be able to get a pocket trip and swing out late for the spoil.

     Gold Cup

     The free for all pacers get their time to shine in the $100,000 Mohawk Gold Cup on Saturday. As usual, it is a wide-open affair for this division of older pacing males. River Shark and Aracache Hanover look to be able to mark their spot as the top pacer to beat in this year’s battle royale.

    Aracache Hanover returns to his home track. He has done his best mainly in Canada. In fact, he beat Foiled Again in his Molson elimination but went insane fraction in the final to burn out. This horse is a speed demon and it’s very likely that he doesn’t ship well, suggesting why he could prevail in the Bettor’s Delight or the Graduate. He may be able to cut the fractions and let loose in the stretch to show us what he’s really got on his home turf.

    The other horse that will be fierce is River Shark. The six-year-old Mark Ford trainee seems to have hit his top form this year. He can go a first-over mile and still win. He’s been racing in top conditions this year and has a victory in an Invitational at the Meadowlands, where he beat the morning-line favorite We Will See. He will likely be a healthy overlay in this race.

    ‘Trail’ Mix

    Saturday night at Mohawk includes some Hambo eligibles on the warpath for big bucks in the $530,000 Elegant Image Final for the gals and the $351,000 Goodtimes for the guys. Check out the stories on those and Pocono’s Earl Beale, Jr. Memorial elims at our exclusive Hambletonian Trail blog page. All of the stakes featuring eligibles are archived in story form at the Hambletonian Society pages.

    Bookmark those pages, visit them regularly through the spring-summer schedule, aiming for the first Saturday in August.

    Harness at Hoosier Park is going great guns and so can you when you play the Thursday night programs. TwinSpires players earn 10 TSC Elite Points for all wagers they make on those programs. Also, the Pick 4 features a guaranteed $5,000 pool (races four throuth seven). Post is 5:30 EST.

    Cal Exotic

    Race 9 through Race 12 make up June 15’s no-takeout Pick 4. Let’s look at some of our contenders for a small ticket that could present a big return.

    Leg 1
    (8) Total Up won so big last week that it is hard to believe he could bounce, even from the 8 hole.

    Leg 2
    (7) Jess Or No had a tough start dueling and still went on to take the race into his win column. (9) Cherry Tree Nicole stormed from the 10 hole and went very wide to make a go at the leader but took only the fifth spot. She is a good overlay for this ticket.

    Leg 3
    (1) Barona Destiny was gaining with a strong outside move but could not sustain the pace and deserves a shot here. (7) Vantage stunk up the track as the choice; we’ll ignore that and go with ‘er again.

    Leg 4
    (5) Blissfull Winds was third, backed well, and could fire better in this one. (8) Heartland Express won with a strong brush and may need it again from post 8.

    Ray Cotolo contributed to this edition.

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