The three-year-old pacers in Saturday’s $1 million North America Cup will enjoy centre stage at Woodbine Mohawk Park but the card’s supporting cast includes its share of star power too, such as No. 1-ranked Shartin N, returning Horse of the Year McWicked, and additional award winners Atlanta, Emoticon Hanover, Forbidden Trade, Hannelore Hanover, Jimmy Freight, Kissin In The Sand, Tall Drink Hanover, Warrawee Ubeaut, and Youaremycandygirl.
Shartin N, who has been the top-ranked horse in all three of this year’s Hambletonian Society/Breeders Crown polls, looks for her second consecutive win in the C$330,000 Roses Are Red Stakes. The six-year-old mare won a prep race at Mohawk last week by 1-3/4 lengths over Caviart Ally in 1:48.4. She is the 4-5 morning-line favourite, with Tim Tetrick driving for trainer Jim King Jr.
“She’s was better than ever,” King said. “Her job was very easy to her. We’re looking forward to Saturday, but we know how that works; anything can happen. But she sure does look the part.”
Shartin N won 19 of 24 races last year and became the first pacing mare to earn more than a million dollars in a season, banking $1.05 million, and received the Dan Patch Award for best older female pacer. She might be an even more complete performer this year.
“I think there are several things better about her,” King said. “She’s stronger and she’s much more intelligent. She’s more in tune with the program; everything is not a fight. She was so persistent last year about wanting things her own way, you had to be so careful. She’s just more educated to the way things need to be.
“Tim is the biggest factor. He’s gotten her to do the right things. He’s put a lot of thought into where she’s going and how to get her there. I just try to give him the best product I can, and he takes over from there.”
This season, Shartin N has won seven of eight races. Her victories include the Blue Chip Matchmaker final, Chip Noble Memorial, and Betsy Ross Invitational. In the Betsy Ross, Shartin N and pacesetter Caviart Ally battled side-by-side for the final three-eighths of a mile before Shartin N prevailed by a quarter-length. They paced the opening quarter in :25.2 and the third quarter in :26.1 on their way to a 1:49.2 mile.
“If that didn’t hurt (Shartin N’s) feelings, then I don’t know what it takes,” King said. “That’s got to be one of the all-time best things I’ve ever seen for a horse to do. Her and Caviart Ally had every right to pull up. They were going pretty good and to still have the will to finish the job, that’s quite a thing. You can’t take anything way from Caviart Ally, she’s doing some good work. If it wasn’t for Shartin, she would be getting the headlines.”
Caviart Ally, who has finished second to Shartin N five times in her career, is the 7-2 second choice in the Roses Are Red, which also includes Dan Patch Award winners Youaremycandygirl (2017) and Kissin In The Sand (2018) along with Blue Chip Matchmaker runner-up Bettor Joy N (also from the King stable).
Seven Hambletonian Stakes hopefuls are among the 3-year-old male trotters that will compete in the $247,000 Goodtimes. Two of them, Pilot Discretion and Forbidden Trade, were elimination winners last week. Pilot Discretion, 3-for-3 this year and unbeaten in five lifetime starts, is the 5-2 morning-line favourite. He won his elim by 3-1/2 lengths over Southwind Avenger in 1:52.
Forbidden Trade, an O’Brien Award winner last year, is the 7-2 third choice behind Swandre The Giant at 3-1. Forbidden Trade defeated Swandre The Giant by a neck in their elimination, with a time of 1:53.1.
“I think he’s getting tighter and tighter,” trainer Luc Blais said about Forbidden Trade, a colt who has a win and a second in two races this season after capturing seven of 11 starts in 2018. “He’s looking very good this week. You just hope he’s going to race big on Saturday. I’ve got a good feeling, that’s for sure.
“I think he is going better and better all the time. He’s got all the qualities to be a good horse. He’s a very calm horse, you can do what you want with him. He’s a very handy horse, very professional, very smart. He’s like an older horse, like an 8-year-old gelding. He’s not tough on himself. He’s a very cool horse.”
McWicked, who last season at the age of 7 became the oldest pacer ever named Horse of the Year, makes his second start of the year, and first since winning his seasonal debut May 19, in the $100,000 Mohawk Gold Cup Invitational. McWicked is the 7-5 morning-line favourite, with Brian Sears driving for trainer Casie Coleman. The field also includes O’Brien Award winner Jimmy Freight and Camluck Classic champ The Wall.
For his career, McWicked has won 35 of 94 lifetime races. He is on the verge of becoming only the fourth pacer in North American history to surpass $4 million in U.S. earnings.
“I’m really happy with him; all seems great,” Coleman said. “I wish he had another race, but the preferred hasn’t been filling at Mohawk. I trained him a big mile Saturday morning at Mohawk and he was awesome. He should be good to go.”
Hannelore Hanover, the 2017 Horse of the Year, goes for her fourth consecutive Armbro Flight Stakes title. The field also includes 2018 Trotter of the Year Atlanta and O’Brien Award winner Emoticon Hanover. Plunge Blue Chip was scratched from the $256,000 final, with also-eligible Dream Together joining the field.
Warrawee Ubeaut, a Dan Patch Award winner last year when she became the fastest two-year-old pacer in history, is the 9-5 morning-line favourite in the $454,000 Fan Hanover Stakes for three-year-old pacing fillies. Warrawee Ubeaut won her elimination in 1:49.1. Treacherous Reign, the other elim winner, in 1:50, is the 2-1 second choice. The field also includes O’Brien Award winner Tall Drink Hanover, who is 4-1.
The Cup card wagering menu will feature a $100,000 guaranteed Pick-5, $100,000 All-Stakes Pick-4 and the usual $50,000 Early Pick-4.
Post time for the first of 15 races on the Pepsi North America Cup card is 6:30 p.m. To view entries for Saturday's card, click on one of the following links:
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