Harness Top 3-Year-Olds Take Center Stage

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Ted Black

June 12th, 2015

One week after thoroughbred racing fans and even sports fans in general celebrated the end of the 37-year Triple Crown drought when American Pharoah captured the Belmont Stakes by five lengths to become the first horse since Affirmed to turn the trick, standardbred racing fans will have the chance to see the top three-year-old colt pacers compete in three eliminations of the North America Cup at Mohawk Raceway in Canada on Saturday night.

As expected the North America Cup eliminations attracted the best sophomore pacers on the continent and fittingly, the best ones drew into separate divisions and will likely clash in next Saturday's $1 million final. Among the starters tomorrow will be the top two three-year-old pacers in the land and their eventual showdown next weekend could be the first of several pivotal meetings that will eventually weigh heavily in divisional honors and horse of the year.

In the first North America Cup elim, Wiggle It Jiggleit (Montrell Teague), the top rated horse of either age or gait in the weekly National Top 10 poll compiled by the United States Trotting Association, will look to keep his perfect record in tact when he leaves from post five. A gelded son of Mr Wiggles owned and trained by George Teague, Jr. of Rainbow Blue fame, Wiggle It Jiggleit has won all nine of his starts this year and all 10 of his career outings. He won the $75,000 Indiana Sire Stakes final at Hoosier Park in his most recent outing and he had previously scorched the Harrington half-mile oval in 1:49 on May 11.

Just to his inside is Hurrikane Ali (Yannick Gingras), a Rocknroll Hanover colt trained by John McDermott. Hurrikane Ali looked like a budding star while capturing a pair of New Jersey Sire stakes elims at the Meadowlands, but then proved no match for Artspeak in the $100,000 final. He will look to regain his winning ways on Saturday, although he does draw in against the nation's top pacer.

Then just to 'Wiggle's outside is Yankee Bounty (Corey Callahan), a gelded son of Yankee Cruiser trained by Ron Burke. At times last summer and fall, Yankee Bounty looked like the best freshman pacer in the land while winning 8 of 10 starts and earning nearly $330,000. But this year the Maryland-bred pacer has yet to win in four starts and he was seventh after a tough, first over journey against Pennsylvania Sire Stakes foes at the Meadows in his most recent outing. He still have plenty of ability, but this looks like a tough spot for him to regain his winning ways.

Then nearing the midway point of the card in the second North America Cup elim, In The Arsenal (Brian Sears) will look to continue the fast start to his campaign when he leaves from post seven. Fresh off a determined victory in the $300,000 Art Rooney Memorial final at Yonkers, In The Arsenal has won all three of his starts this year for trainer Kelvin Harrison and sports 11 wins from 14 lifetime starts. He should be the 6-5 favorite in this event, but his narrow recent wins mean that he is hardly a cinch.

In fact, the two colts that drew inside, Go Daddy Go (John Campbell) and Penji Hanover (Chris Christoforu) will prove legitimate threats. Both Go Daddy Go and Penji Hanover finished second in separate divisions of the Somebeachsomewhere Stakes last weekend over this oval. Allbeef N Nobull (David Miller), who beat Yankee Bounty in a PASS split at Harrah's Philadelphia two starts back, finished fourth in the same division that Go Daddy Go finished second. Dudes The Man (Corey Callahan), a Somebeachsomewhere division winner last weekend, will start from post eight.

Then two races later in the third North America Cup elim, all eyes will be on Artspeak (Scott Zeron), last year's champion two-year-old colt pacer who will leave from post seven. A winner of both of his starts this year and 10 of 12 lifetime, Artspeak will be the odds-on favorite in this split and could wrestle favoritism from Wiggle It Jiggleit next weekend in the $1 million final although 'Wiggle' is currently the top rated horse in the land while Artspeak sits at no. three on the list.

This division came up deeper than the other two, but the presence of Artspeak will make it tougher for them to make the final. Wakizashi Hanover (Tim Tetrick) has the rail and arrives having spent much of his career facing PASS foes. Betting Exchange (David Miller) was a good second to entrymate In The Arsenal in the Rooney final and merits respect in this spot. Split The House (Randall Waples) has won all four of his starts this year after being unraced last season as a freshman, but certainly gets the acid test in this spot. Traceur Hanover (Mario Baillageron) posted a 5-3-1 slate and $425,000 bankroll from 14 starts last year, while Pierce Hanover (Jody Jamieson) has won both of his starts this year against overnight rivals, but was scratched sick out of his Somebeachsomewhere division last week.

The North America Cup elims take center stage on a night when the sport's reigning horse of the year, JK She'salady (Tim Tetrick), returns to the scene of her career best performance when she goes postward in the first of two elims for the Fan Hanover. A winner of all 13 of her starts, including a perfect 12 for 12 campaign last season that enabled her to garner champion two-year-old filly pacer and horse of the year - pacer of the year actually went to Sweet Lou in a bizarre result of the voting - JK She'salady won her seasonal debut against New York Sires Stakes foes at Tioga Downs on May 25 and then won a qualifier at the Meadowlands in 1:51.3 last weekend in a tuneup for this event.

Several of her rivals, however, do have respectable credentials. Bettor Be Steppin (Callahan) has won three of four starts this year and 7 of 16 career tries for trainer Joe Holloway. Sassa Hanover (Gingras) was second to JK She'salady three times last year, but did win 9 of 13 starts and bank nearly $500,000 for Burke. Wrangler Music (Sylvain Filion) has ample gate speed and will be looking to attain her first score of the season. Serious Filly (Trace Tetrick) has won four of five tries this year and 6 of 9 lifetime, while The Show Returns (Campbell) arrives following a 40-1 shocker in the NJSS final.

A full field of 10 sophomore pacing fillies will go postward in the second Fan Hanover elim, which immediately follows the first one. Granted, there are now fillies with the same credentials or reputation as JK She'salady in the second split, but Solar Sister (Doug McNair) appears to be a rising star. The daughter of Mach Three has won all four of her starts this year for trainer Gregg McNair , including three straight tallies against Ontario Sire Stakes foes.

Drawing toward the inside is morning line favorite, Happiness (Gingras), who finished fourth in the NJSS final won by The Show Returns last out. This Burke trainee has won 5 of 10 career starts, but still has plenty to prove. Better Said (Tim Tetrick) has raced well in a limited career thus far, while Moonlit Dance (James McDonald) owns a 3-4-1 slate and two straight wins. Lindys Old Lady (Zeron) has won two of three starts this year, but will leave from post 10 on Saturday.