Early season Pepsi North America Cup favorite Hes Watching (pictured) rebounded with a sub-1:50 victory in the Somebeachsomewhere Stakes while JK Endofanera and Always B Miki captured the other two divisions during a stakes-packed card of harness racing Saturday night at Mohawk Racetrack.
Mohawk hosted three $75,000 divisions of the Somebeachsomewhere Stakes, which serve as final tune-up for many horses competing in next week's Pepsi North America Cup eliminations.
Making his Canadian debut, heavy favorite JK Endofanera kicked off the Somebeachsomewhere Stakes for three-year-old pacing colts and geldings with a 1:50 victory over Luck Be Withyou. Undefeated early in his sophomore year, JK Endofanera earned his third straight stakes victory with Brian Sears aboard for trainer Ron Burke and the New York-based 3 Brothers Stables. He paid $2.20 to win.
Last year's Breeders Crown champion Luck Be Withyou (Ron Pierce) fired across the track to establish the early lead from the outside post seven through a :26.3 opening quarter. As the colts entered the backstretch, Sears made his move sending JK Endofanera to the lead from third. The 1-5 favourite reached the half in :55 before Marco De Vie (Randy Waples) began to advance first over from fifth and flushed out Luck Be Withyou nearing the 1:23.1 three-quarters mark. However, JK Endofanera kept his rivals at bay as he stormed home in :26.4 for the one length victory. Luck Be Withyou followed in second with Marco De Vie finishing over six lengths back in third.
"It was pretty soft fractions -- just getting a feel for the competition," commented Sears in a post-race interview. "Everybody else was just kind of looking to see how everybody fares in the few heats that we have tonight.
"He's a big strong colt, he can be a little bully. We've been trying to teach him a few things this year, but he was very manageable tonight and I was really happy with him."
The Art Major-Presidential Lady colt, winner of the Simpson Stakes and Pocono Cup already this year, was never worse than second in his seven freshman starts, banking $371,850 in purses and racking up trophies in the Elevation Stakes and Governor's Cup.
Favorite Always B Miki also won his first Canadian start in the Somebeachsomewhere Stakes with a matching 1:50 career-best mile.
Driver Corey Callahan floated Always B Miki off the gate from post four and cleared to command over the hard-leaving post seven starter Somestarsomewhere (Brian Sears) at the :27.1 first quarter mark. Once in control, the 3-5 favourite never looked back, rolling by the half in :55.2 and three-quarters in 1:23.3 while McWicked (David Miller) advance first over from fifth flushing Somestarsomewhere out of the pocket. However, Somestarsomewhere lost ground in the stretch while Always B Miki drew away with a :26.2 final frame to win by two lengths. McWicked closed well for second while Silverhill Shadow (Jody Jamieson) rallied off cover to finish third five and a half lengths behind.
Always B Miki paid $3.40 to win. A Reynolds Stakes champion this year, the Always A Virgin-Artstopper colt entered tonight's race off a narrow second-place finish in a 1:48.4 mile at The Meadowlands from off-the-pace.
"It worked out," noted trainer Joe Holloway in the winner's circle. "The horse is very versatile, it just didn't work out last week and we needed to race him to make sure he was good enough to come here. Corey took me on my word and raced him hard, but he was very good tonight."
At two, Always A Miki earned top three finishes in nine of his 12 starts (two wins) and banked $135,384 while racing mostly in the Indiana Sire Stakes.
When asked how Always A Miki compares to his sire, a horse also campaigned by Holloway, the conditioner noted some similarities. "Just that they got so much bigger and stronger from two to three," he said. "They're both very good-looking horses and they got a lot stronger."
After suffering his first career loss in last week's Art Rooney elimination, He's Watching rebounded with a big 1:49.3 victory in the final division for local trainer David Menary.
Catch-driver Jody Jamieson sent Hes Watching to the lead from post five and carved out fractions of :27.3, :55.3, and 1:23 and kicked home in :26.3 for the career-best victory with first over challenger and 4-5 favorite Lets Drink On It (Tyler Smith) coming in second, nearly four lengths behind and Melmerby Beach (Paul MacDonell) rounding out the top three finishers 10 length back. He paid $7.70 to win as the 5-2 third choice.
"Like I said to Dave going out, if he's good he'll show it and if he's not he won't," said Jamieson of his expectations heading into the race. "I was pretty confident and Dave was confident. He put the confidence in me that the horse was going to be good and he was pretty large.
"He was so relaxed [at the three-quarters]. A half in :55.3 is walking around there for these kind of horses. He came to me and he dug in and I yelled at him a little bit, but the horse is a pro. He's back."
"I threw a set of shin boots on him to protect him and just try to keep him quiet tonight," said Menary regarding the changes made with the horse this week. "Last week was a series of bad events, small track. He didn't go big fractions tonight, but it was a big track and he was able to go to the front. That's the way I wanted things to go. It's not going to be easy every week, there's a deep group of horses, but I've got a lot of confidence in him and so far so good. We're back on track and we're just going to have to start a new streak."
Hes Watching went undefeated in eight New York Sire Stakes during his freshman campaign to bank close to $300,000 in purses and earn U.S. divisional honours. He is the early season 5-1 Spring Book favourite for the Pepsi North America Cup.
The American Ideal-Barberhood colt is owned by Menary Racing Inc. along with Brad Gray of Dundas, Ont., Michael Guerriero of Puslinch, Ont. and Pennsylvania's Muscara Racing Trust. (Standardbred Canada)