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2017 North America Cup Entries

Betting Line winning the 2016 North America Cup.

Date: 06/13/2017

The 34th running of the Pepsi North America Cup at Mohawk, one of the most important races on the continent for three year old pacers, will be run Saturday night June 18. Sponsored by Pepsi since 2001 and with a purse of $1 million (Canadian) it is the richest harness race in Canada and a key prep for the Pacing Triple Crown.

Honorary drawmaster Matt Martin (right), a Toronto Maple Leafs left winger, with Mohawk racing secretary Scott McKelvie.
First run in 1984 at Greenwood Raceway, the race has featured a who's who of pacing history, with such winners as Jate Lobell, Precious Bunny, Gallo Blue Chip, Cam's Card Shark and Somebeachsomewhere. The late Cam Fella won the race in 1982 (when it was still called the Queen City Pace), and went on to sire four North America Cup winners: Goalie Jeff, Precious Bunny, Presidential Ball and Cam's Card Shark. 1987 winner Jate Lobell went on to sire three winners of his own: Safely Kept, David's Pass, and Gothic Dream. Last year's winner was Betting Line as the 11-10 favorite, setting a new Canadian record of 1:47 4/5.

The honorary drawmaster traditionally has been a local hockey personality, and this year is no exception as Toronto Maple Leafs 4th line left winger Matt Martin was invited to randomly draw the names while racing secretary Scott McKelvie drew the post positions in the usual double-blind system. The native of Windsor, Ontario was drafted by the New York Islanders in 2008, and as an unrestricted free agent in 2016, was signed by the Toronto Maple Leafs for 4 years and $10 million. He was introduced to the sport of horse racing by his girlfriend while with the Islanders, and had just returned from a trip to New York to attend the Belmont Stakes. He has a reputation as an enforcer and a grinder, and said his toughest opponent in a fight is Boston Bruins captain Zdeno Chara, one of the biggest players in the NHL at 6 ft 9 and 250 pounds.

WEG President and CEO Jim Lawson (right) with Honourary Drawmaster Matt Martin.
Woodbine Entertainment Group's President and CEO Jim Lawson, in his welcome speech, took the opportunity to drop two big news stories. First, Woodbine's corporate logo has been changed to one that includes a racing oval encircling a "W" and a star. The second, much more important announcement, was that $10 million in new investments will be made at Mohawk over the next year, with an updated dining room, but also that the track would host harness racing year-round starting in 2018. He said, “The future is very bright for Standardbred racing and entertainment on this site. With the long-term gaming lease in place and with the OLG expected to name a new gaming service provider soon, it’s a very exciting time to be a racing fan and be involved in the sport. Standardbred horsepeople are a significant part of the fabric of this community and will soon be able to race 12 months of the year here.” Standardbred racing at Woodbine in Toronto would end after the 2017-18 winter meet. Along with the switch to year-round racing, in order to make better use of the Woodbine brand, Mohawk will be renamed Woodbine at Mohawk Park. Lawson added, “We look forward to welcoming fans to Woodbine at Mohawk Park for world–class harness racing and to experience the new entertainment uses that will become part of the many offerings at Mohawk Park.The fan experience is outstanding, with great sightlines and fan proximity to the racing action, but this investment will take it to an entirely new level.”

Honourary Drawmaster Matt Martin with the trophy and draw board
Unlike in thoroughbred racing, almost all harness races are run at a mile and entry into the finals of major stakes races involves eliminations the week before. For the North America Cup, three elimination races were run on Saturday, June 10th, and were won by Downbytheseaside, Huntsville, Fear the Dragon. These victories gave their connections the right to select their post positions first, while the rest of the field was drawn at random. The top 3 finishers in each elimination race plus one 4th place finisher drawn by lot, moved on to the final.

Trainer Brian Brown won two of the three eliminations. Downbytheseaside was drawn first, and Brown chose post 2 for the 3-1 third choice on the morning line. He comes into the Cup off wins in the Pennsylvania Sires Stakes at the Meadows and the Art Rooney Pace at Yonkers. New driver Brian Sears gets the call on Saturday night. Huntsville, the fastest elimination winner, was drawn second, and trainer Ray Schnittker (represented by his assistant Jessica Dowse) chose post 3 for the 8-5 favorite, who will have Tim Tetrick in the bike. He comes here off a Pennsylvania Sires Stakes win at Harrah's Philadelphia. Fear the Dragon chose third and Brown put the 2-1 second choice in post 4 with driver Dave Miller, who is the regular driver for both Fear the Dragon and Downbytheseaside. Before coming to Mohawk he won Pennsylvania Sires Stakes at Meadows, Pocono, and Philadelphia.

The race is the 12th on Saturday and goes to post at 10:40pm ET. It will be shown on TSN3 and TSN5 in Canada from 10-11pm, or you can watch it online at the Woodbine website. The North America Cup is part of an excellent card of racing with five additional stakes races, including the $440,000 Fan Hanover, the distaff counterpart to the Cup. You can view the full card of entries here. Below are the entries for the 2017 Pepsi North America Cup:

1Ocean ColonyYannick GingrasJimmy Takter10-1
2DownbytheseasideBrian SearsBrian Brown3-1
3HuntsvilleTim TetrickRay Schnittker8-5
4Fear The DragonDavid MillerBrian Brown2-1
5Sports ColumnChris ChristoforouBlake MacIntosh25-1
6Classic ProTrevor HenryDr. Ian Moore20-1
7Ozone Blue ChipBrett MillerRon Coyne25-1
8Filibuster HanoverLouis Philippe RoyRon Burke15-1
9Western HillDoug McNairTony Alagna20-1
10Miso FastMatt KakaleyRon Burke20-1

The North America Cup Trophy
More North America Cup info:

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