Last weekend's elimination winners Tellitlikeitis, Mcwicked and Lyonssomewhere head an extremely competitive field of 10 for the $1 million Pepsi North America Cup, Saturday at Mohawk Racetrack.
The 31st edition of the world's richest pacing event, showcasing the finest three-year-olds on the continent, will go postward at 10:14 p.m. and will be shown live on TSN. A half-hour preview of the race will air on TSN GO from 9:30-10:00 pm ET, with the race set for TSN from 10:00 p.m. – 10:30 p.m. ET.
Post positions were drawn Tuesday at Mohawk, with Toronto Maple Leafs forward Dave Bolland as the guest drawmaster.
Last Saturday, three Cup eliminations were held to determine the field for the final. The three winners earned their connections the right to choose a post position before the balance of the field is drawn. Seventeen of the past 30 Cup winners also won their elimination.
Trainer Jimmy Takter, more renowned as a trotting conditioner for such stars as Moni Maker, Kadabra and Malabar Man, but who also directed filly pacers See You At Peelers and American Jewel to championship seasons, has two Cup entrants, Lyonssomewhere and Tellitlikeitis, who both won their elims in ultra-impressive fashion, who both will be solidly backed on Saturday night and who were the first two horses to select a post position.
The morning line favorite, at 3-1, is Tellitlikeitis (PP3), bred and owned by Lothlorien of Cheltenham, Ontario, who took his elim in a career best 1:48.4, blowing by heavily-favoured Hes Watching to win by two and one-quarter lengths in only his second start of the year. The regally bred son of 2009 Cup winner Well Said out of champion Kikikatie also won his season opener, a Pennsylvania Sires Stake, at Pocono Downs in May.
Lothlorien has shared ownership of three previous Cup winners – Well Said (2009), Rocknroll Hanover (2005) and Red River Hanover (2002). Takter has only started two previous Cup entrants, both in 2012, and finished second with Time To Roll.
Driver Brett Miller has two previous Cup drives, finishing second in 2010 with We Will See.
"He has wicked speed and he'll take you to where you want to go in the mile," said Miller. "I definitely wanted to sit in with him this week (in the elim) and it worked out very well that the two horses I wanted to follow were in front of me."
Lyonssomewhere (PP4, 4-1), owned by Geoffrey Lyons Mound of Burford, Ontario is undefeated in five starts. The son of 2008 Cup winner and Horse of the Year Somebeachsomewhere took his elim comfortably in 1:50.1 by one and three-quarter lengths in his first stakes appearance. He'll be driven by Corey Callahan, making only his second Cup drive after finishing fourth with Mr Wiggles in 2009.
"I like just about everything about him," said Takter, after the race. "Tonight was his first stakes appearance and that's very rare and he responded. He beat some really good horses. He's handy and he's the real deal. It's a long year and I wanted to have him fresh for this event and not too many starts."
Trainer Casie Coleman, who won the 2010 Cup with Sportswriter, sends out the 7-2 second choice Mcwicked (PP2), who recorded the fastest elim, winning by two lengths in 1:48.3. Owned by SSG Stables of North Boston, New York, Mcwicked, a son of 2002 Cup third place finisher Mcardle, is a five time winner in 14 outings with career earnings of $248,457. Driver Dave Miller has yet to win the Cup in 13 tries, but has twice been second, including last year with a 96-1 shot, Twilight Bonfire.
"He was absolutely awesome (in his elim)," said Coleman on Tuesday. "It was the fourth time I've raced him and every time he keeps getting better and better. I've been extremely impressed with him. He came out the elim great, he's sound, healthy, his blood is perfect. This horse, so far, knock on wood, he's given me no issues.
"It looks like there's a lot of speed in the race. My horse can race either way. I'd prefer him coming off a helmet but he's very versatile."
Hes Watching (PP7, 5-1), co-owned and trained by David Menary of Rockton, Ontario, finished second to Tellitlikeitis in his elim, but last year won all eight starts en route to a Dan Patch Award as the United States Trotting Association's top two-year-old colt pacer. Winner of a Somebeachsomewhere division on May 31 in a career best 1:49.3, the son of American Ideal will be driven by Tim Tetrick, who won the 2013 Cup with Captaintreacherous.
"I'm happy with (post) seven," said Menary on Tuesday. "It could have been a lot worse. We'll make the best of it. He can race any way. I don't think anybody is going to wire this field. (In the elim), our colt did a lot of work, a big second quarter, putting up big fractions, they raced the whole way. I think it was the toughest elim.
"Last year, he did all he could do, two world records, six track records, every-sized track, every which way. He's just a hulk of a little horse."
JK Endofanera (PP9, 10-1), trained by Ron Burke for owner-breeder 3 Brothers Stables of New York City, had a five-race win streak broken in his elim when finishing third as the 1-2 choice to Lyonssomewhere, while drifting out in the stretch. The son of Art Major is the field's leading money winner with $457,057, topped by his win last year in the Governor's Cup at the Meadowlands. He'll be driven by Brian Sears, who steered Rocknroll Hanover to victory in the 2005 Cup.
Last year's Breeders Crown champion, Luck Be Withyou (PP8, 12-1), was third to Tellitlikeitis in his elim, after finishing second to JK Endofanera in a Somebeachsomewhere division the week before in his seasonal debut. Trained by 72-year-old Bill Cass, with his first Cup entrant, for owner John Craig of North York, the son of Western Ideal will be driven by Ron Pierce, who has won two Cups, with Total Truth in 2006 and Well Said in 2009.
Lets Drink On It (PP5, 6-1), trained by Joe Seekman, is a seven-time winner in 16 starts and was third to Mcwicked in his elim. A son of Art Official, the only horse to defeat Somebeachsomewhere, he'll be piloted by 21-year-old Tyler Smith, who would become the youngest driver to win the Pepsi North America Cup.
Sometimes Said (PP10, 20-1), another son of 2009 Cup winner Well Said, finished second to Mcwicked last Saturday, the ninth time in 14 outings he's been the runner-up. Trained by Jim Campbell for owner Fashion Farms and driven by his Hall of Fame brother and record six-time Cup winner John Campbell, Sometimes Said was also second to Luck Be Withyou in last year's Breeders Crown. Campbell last won the Cup in 1999 with The Panderosa.
Beat The Drum (PP1, 20-1), a son of 2007 Cup winner Tell All, finished second as a 27-1 shot to Lyonssomewhere in his elim for trainer Staffan Lind. Yannick Gingras drives the three-time winner in 17 starts, the most outings by any Cup entrant this year.
Completing the field is Ideal Cowboy (PP6, 15-1), who finished fourth to Mcwicked in his elim but drew into the final. A driver has not yet been confirmed for the son of American Ideal, who is trained by Paul Fraley of Anndrovette fame.
In 2012, Thinking Out Loud set the stakes record of 1:47.4 at Mohawk, eclipsing the former mark of 1:48.1 established by Well Said in 2009 while Hall of Famer Bettors Delight has won the race by the largest margin, four and one-half lengths, in 2001.
Other winners of the Cup, which began in 1984 at Greenwood Raceway, include such champions as Jate Lobell (1987), Precious Bunny (1991), Presidential Ball (1993), Cams Card Shark (1994), Gallo Blue Chip (2000), Rocknroll Hanover (2005), Somebeachsomewhere (2008) and Captaintreacherous (2013).
The Cup was raced at Greenwood from 1984-93, followed by Woodbine from 1994-2006. It was held at Mohawk Racetrack for the first time in 2007. The shortest-priced winners, at $2.70, are Jate Lobell and Presidential Ball, while Goalie Jeff, in 1989, provided the highest win payoff, $93.60.
Horseplayers will get an added bonus on Pepsi North America Cup night when Mohawk will offer three Pick-4 wagers including an "All Stakes Pick-4."
The All Stakes Pick-4, with a $100,000 guaranteed pool, will run from Race 7 to 10 and will feature the Roses Are Red, Mohawk Gold Cup, Fan Hanover and conclude in Race 10 with the 31st Pepsi North America Cup.
Pepsi NA Cup Field
1 Beat The Drum
5 Let's Drink On It
6 Ideal Cowboy
7 He's Watching
8 Luck Be Withyou
9 JK Endofanera
10 Sometimes Said
AE Jet Airway