Woodward Stakes Day
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Pebble Beach winning the 2022 North America Cup.
The 40th running of the Pepsi North America Cup at Woodbine Mohawk Park, one of the most important races on the continent for three-year-old pacers, will be run Saturday night June 17. 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. Not only is this the 40th anniversary of the North America Cup, but this is also the 60th anniversary for the track, which opened on April 26, 1963 as the 5/8 mile Mohawk Raceway. The track was expanded in 1998 to its current 7/8 mile layout, and the casino debuted in 1999.
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 Pebble Beach, with Todd McCarthy in the bike for trainer Noel Daley.
Current Woodbine CEO Jim Lawson, who will leave in November, and incoming CEO Michael Copeland were both at the draw.
Woodbine Entertainment Group's CEO Jim Lawson took to the podium to not only welcome horsemen and media to the 40th Cup but also to recognize Central Ontario Standardbred Association president (and Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame member) Bill O'Donnell for his efforts to keep racing alive during the pandemic years and the ensuing recovery which continues. "As I look at this field for Saturday night, it is clear it is a global race," said Lawson. "We've attracted the best horses in North America. This race has built itself into one of the best three-year-old events in Standardbred racing." He spoke about the decision to move harness racing to Mohawk year-round, which has proven successful. In previous years Mohawk hosted racing during the spring and fall while Woodbine in Toronto (and before 1993, Greenwood Racetrack) hosted during the winter and summer months. Lawson mentioned this would be his last North America Cup draw as he announced his retirement, with new CEO Michael Copeland taking over on October 1. Like Lawson, Copeland comes from the Canadian Football League where he was the president and CEO of both the Toronto Argonauts club (2015-18) and the league (2006-15), and his father-in-law is the late Nick DeToro who was an owner-trainer at Woodbine.
James MacDonald, Michael Russo, Anthony Beaton, Richard Young, and Brad McNinch pose with the trophy after the draw.
Trainer Linda Toscano won two of the eliminations. Fulton drew post 4 and will have regular driver Dexter Dunn. Brad McNinch, Toscano's husband and assistant said, "It was easy to change the bridle, it was the way he raced that night," said assistant trainer, Toscano's husband, Brad McNinch. "Dex gave him a good trip, he came first up, he was happy with that. He fights horses off. He'll fight a horse off coming from behind, he'll fight a horse off if he's chasing him." The bay son of Heston Blue Chip, bred by Best Bet Stables in Florida and owned by Let It Ride Stables and Bottom Line Racing LLC, is 9-2-2 from 13 starts, including a 3-1-0 mark in four 2023 starts.
Randy Waples (right) interviews Linda Toscano's assistant trainer and husband Brad McNinch after her elimination winners Fulton drew post 4 and Its My Show drew post 2.
Confederate was the prohibitive 1-9 favorite winning his elimination and drew post 3 in the final as the 5-2 morning line favorite. "He was very, very good," said winning driver Tim Tetrick. "Nobody was really leaving so I thought I'd take control. I don't like doing it, but I didn't want him to have to work too hard on the second half chasing somebody, so it worked out good." Now 7-1-1 from nine starts, Confederate, trained by Brett Pelling, will go after his biggest win to date on a stakes-laden Saturday card on June 17 at Mohawk. "He's a cool little guy, he does his job, he likes to work," said Tetrick. "He's always out there playing, goofing off. He likes to win races, so I'm really liking him."
Christchurch is the other elimination winner, and gets post 3 as the 6-1 fourth choice Trainer Nancy Takter, who also trained Christchurch's mother Darlinonthebeach said, "She came very early on in my career and I had a lot of success with her. I actually took care of her myself throughout most of her racing career, so she is definitely a very special horse to me. To have her first foal and have him in the NA Cup final is an awesome feeling. You see how big he is, he's huge. Last year, we just took our time with him, taught him how to race a little bit. He has a great set of lungs, a great gait, so he has all the tools to be great."
The race is the 11th on Saturday and goes to post at 10:41pm ET. It will be shown on TSN3 in Canada from 10-11pm, or you can watch it online at the Woodbine Mohawk Park website. The North America Cup is part of an excellent card of racing with five additional stakes races, including the $420,000 Fan Hanover, the distaff counterpart to the Cup for 3-year-old fillies as well as the $250,000 Goodtimes, the trotting equivalent. You can view the full card of entries here. Below are the entries for the 2023 Pepsi North America Cup:
|1||Moment Is Here||Daniel Dube||Rob McIntosh||20-1|
|2||Its My Show||Scott Zeron||Linda Toscano||3-1|
|3||Christchurch||Todd McCarthy||Nancy Takter||6-1|
|4||Fulton||Dexter Dunn||Linda Toscano||9-2|
|5||Confederate(L)||Tim Tetrick||Brett Pelling||5-2|
|6||Voukefalas||Jordan Stratton||Michael Russo||5-1|
|7||Lyons Surfing||Andrew McCarthy||Jim King||20-1|
|8||Redwood Hanover||James MacDonald||Anthony Beaton||12-1|
|9||Save America(L)||Yannick Gingras||Nancy Takter||15-1|
|10||Ammo||David Miller||Joe Holloway||15-1|
|AE||Hungry Angel Boy||Todd McCarthy||Tony Alagna||20-1|
The North America Cup Trophy
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