Favorites dominate in North America Cup elims
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Harness racing's finest three-year-old pacing colts and geldings faced off Saturday at Mohawk to contest three $50,000 eliminations to determine the starters for the $1-million Pepsi North America Cup on June 17.
Winning was a breeze for Downbytheseaside and driver David Miller in the first elimination.
Downbytheseaside got away fifth as Sports Column marched his way to the early lead, pacing past the first quarter in :27. Into the backstretch, LawrencetownBeach, who was fourth on the rail, was first to make a bid for the front. Downbytheseaside followed. LawrencetownBeach took command before the midway point, but a looming Downbytheseaside snatched the lead at the half in :54.4. Once the Brian Brown trainee cleared, he started to pull away from his seven rivals.
Ultimately, no one could catch the 1-9 favorite. He cruised by the three-quarter pole in 1:21.4 and crossed the wire first by two lengths in 1:50.4. Western Hill and Sports Column rallied for second and third respectively.
"I don't think he was at his best tonight for whatever reason. I've seen him better," said Miller. "[The wind] could be playing a factor. You're leaving into it and you're finishing into it and it might have something to do with it.
"He was a pretty solid horse last year and got better as the year went on, which is unusual," Miller said. "He came back this year and we can't be happier with him. Just tonight, I wouldn't say he was at his best."
Downbytheseaside remains unbeaten as a three-year-old with four victories from four outings. He notched his 12th lifetime victory in 17 starts. With the win, the son of Somebeachsomewhere and Sprig Hanover lifts his career earnings to $858,616 for owners Country Club Acres Inc, Joe Sbrocco, Richard Lombardo and Diamond Creek Racing.
Downbytheseaside paid $2.10 to win and place, combining with Western Hill ($8.40) for a $19.80 (4-3) exactor. A 4-3-7 (Sports Column) triactor was worth $254.60, while a $1 superfecta [4-3-7-5 (Some Attitude)] returned $670.55. There was no show wagering.
Huntsville, who has never been worse than second in his career, added another victory to his record with a 1:49.1 score in the second North America Cup elimination.
Huntsville and driver Tim Tetrick dropped into fourth as Classic Pro, Ozone Blue Chip and NormandyBeach battled three-wide into the first turn. Ozone Blue Chip drop back to third while NormandyBeach drove on for the lead, leaving Classic Pro to take the pocket spot. Just after NormandyBeach posted the opening quarter in :26.3, Huntsville was on the move first up. The 1-9 favourite brushed to the front and held command past the half in :55.2 and three-quarters in 1:22.1.
Into the stretch, Huntsville was untouchable adding distance between himself and the rest of the field. The sophomore scored by four and a quarter lengths en route to the winner's circle. Classic Pro surged to finish second and Ozone Blue Chip was third.
"It looked like it was easy enough and he caught a nice division and he raced really well," said trainer Ray Schnittker. "It was a good mile. Probably in the afternoon or something like that it would be a :48 and a piece mile, I would think.
"He's a very fast colt," he added. "He's a great big colt so hopefully he just keeps getting better as the year goes on. You never know though."
Huntsville scored his third triumph of the season from four outings and 10th career victory. With the win, the son of Somebeachsomewhere and Wild West Show increases his career earnings to $801,263 for trainer Ray Schnittker, who shares ownership with Theodore Gewertz, Charles Iannazzo, and Steven Arnold.
Huntsville paid $2.10 to win and place, combining with Classic Pro ($11.50) for a $39.70 (2-4) exactor. A 2-4-5 (Ozone Blue Chip) triactor was worth $214, while a $1 superfecta [2-4-5-8 (Miso Fast)] returned $951.20. There was no show wagering.
Driver Dave Miller and trainer Brain Brown teamed up to win their second 'Cup' tilt in the third and final elimination. Fear The Dragon, who is now five-for-five this season, overcame a break in stride to scorch his foes in 1:50.
When the gate wings folded, Miller pointed Fear The Dragon towards the three-hole while Ocean Colony was taken to the front and HurricaneBeach took the two-hole spot. After Ocean Colony posted a :27.2 opening panel, Fear The Dragon was given the signal it was time to make a move. Launching a first-over attack on the leader, Fear The Dragon surged to the lead before the half.
The 1-5 bettor's choice held command past the mid-way point in :55, which is when an eager Ocean Colony made his bid for the front. The 9-2 third choice couldn't catch up to his front-stepping foe but added pressure as they passed the three-quarters in 1:22.
In deep stretch, Fear The Dragon opened up on pack, but the colt jumped over a fallen head number and broke stride. Miller was able to get Fear The Dragon pacing again just steps before crossing the wire. Filibuster Hanover rallied for second and Ocean Colon dropped back to third.
"If you watch leaving the gate, Yannick's horse (Ocean Colony) lost his head number as he was crossing over," said Miller. "I didn't even think of it. My horse stepped over it."
"I was real happy with him," he added. "He was just cruising along there. I asked him a little bit. He is a little lazy at times. I was real happy with him. He was real comfortable."
With the win, the son of Dragon Again and Armbro Cinnamon is captured his 10th career victory and lifts his career earnings to $325,844 for Emerald Highlands Farm.
Fear The Dragon paid $2.70 and $2,10, combining with Filibuster Hanover ($5.80) for a $21.70 (7-3) exactor. A 7-3-6 (Ocean Colony) triactor was worth $44.50, while a $1 superfecta [7-3-6-2 (Miso Fast)] returned $56.10. There was no show wagering.
The top three finishers from each elimination along with Miso Fast, who was the fourth-place finisher to draw into the final, will compete in the $1 million final on Saturday, June 17 at Mohawk. The connections of the elimination winner may select their post positions for the final, which will take place at a press conference held on Tuesday, June 13 at Mohawk. Toronto Maple Leafs winger Matt Martin will be the guest drawmaster for Canada's richest Standardbred race. -WEG Communications