Loud and clear in the North America Cup! That’s right, as predicted right here, Hall of Famer Bob McIntosh’s 3YO Ponder colt Thinking Out Loud roared by them all deep in the Mohawk stretch last night to produce a popular victory locally. In fact, in the final blog posted here prior to the race yesterday, both the winner and runner-up were given out as “Live Longshots." They combined for a $133 exacta last night.
It was the first Cup win for Hall of Famer McIntosh and driver Randy Waples, who worked out a great trip on cover for the victor before tipping widest deep in the stretch and getting up to pass Time to Roll and McIntosh’s other entrant Dapper Dude just before the wire. Sweet Lou, all but conceded the race by many based partially on his Canadian and track record 147.4 clocking in the eliminations tired late to finish 4th after disposing of early leader Warawee Needy who tired badly to finish last beaten 26 lengths after cutting a sizzling first ¼ of 25.1 snd big ½ of 52.4. On the replay it appeared driver Jody Jamieson was see-sawing on “Needy” to try to harness some of his wicked speed, but when they got down to the ¾ mile mark in 120.3, his goose was basically cooked. When they fanned out down the lane, It was thinking Out Loud and Waples, coming hardest with a 26.1 last quarter to grab the $750,000 winners’ share of the $1.5 million purse.
His 147.4 clocking was a Stakes record and equalled the track and Canadian record set by heavy favorite Sweet Lou in the eliminations last week. “Lou” appeared to have little excuse last night as he moved past winded early leader Warawee Needy on the home turn and it was his race to lose, so to speak. The victory was the first in 8 tries for exuberant driver Randy Waples, who is also the regular driver of local legend San Pail. Waples, never at a loss for words, was clearly elated.
"This is just an unbelievable feeling," said 46-year-old Milton reinsman Waples in front of the packed grandstand after the victory. "First off, all I can say is thank you everybody for coming to the North America Cup! We love you, we want to see you here every night, I can’t say enough about you. I love you! As for Bob, I just drove a horse for a guy that’s in every Hall of Fame in the world and he makes it so easy. His crew is unbelievable." But an even bigger story than Waples winning his first Cup was the popular Hall of Fame trainer McIntosh taking his initial Cup win, with a homebred no less. “I bought [his sire] Ponder as a yearling and campaigned him and he was just an iron tough horse. He was very fast," noted the 59-year-old horseman. "It makes it extra special tonight that we bred this horse, C S X, my cousin Al and myself. We raced his dam Los Angeles, she was a Camluck [mare], which is another strong connection to us, so it's extra special to win it with a homebred."
Thinking Out Loud wasn’t the only star on display last night, however. Several World Champions were strutting there stuff in the undercard on what was absolutely the best card of racing seen anywhere in 2012 so far. Perhaps the finest performance of the night was turned in by ultra-consistent 3-year-old American Ideal pacing filly American Jewel, who blasted right to the top in the Fan Hanover Stakes Final and led her foes on a merry chase en route to a World Record performance of 148.2. Clearly, the Jewel is back to her 2011 form after suffering a season-ending injury last summer.
Not to be outdone, top 3YO trotting filly Check Me Out stepped off a 152.1 mile in the Elegant Image Stakes Final which lowered the track and Canadian record by 3/5 of a second.. In a thrilling finish, the World Champ and driver Tim Tetrick just held off Maven and Yannick Gingras who were coming hard with a 27.1 last quarter. Check Me Out showed the heart of the champion that she is to keep trotting right to the wire and hold on for a popular win.
Beer Summit and driver Ron Pierce used a second-over trip to get the job done in the Goodtimes Final, pulling away late for a track record equalling 152.2 performance. "I had the horsepower. It helps to have a horse good enough to win the race," Pierce said following the victory. "But the trip worked out really well. I floated him out of their from the seven-hole and fell in the four-hole. I picked up some very good cover and pulled him off his cover's back just before we straightened up. Mike did his job, he had him up on his toes, and [Beer Summit] had plenty of trot to the wire."
The Armbro Flight Final was taken by Pembroke Heat Wave who deployed a first-over strategy to wear down 2011 ‘O Brien Award winner Frenchfrysnvinegar to pull away in the stretch and hold the closers at bay in a 154 clocking.
The Mohawk Gold Cup, which featured most of best aged pacing horses on the continent, produced a thrilling finish when We Will See, who took over the lead turning home was pursued by Betterthancheddar the entire length of the stretch as “Cheddar” unleashed a sizzling 26.0 last quarter in pursuit of the leaders. Alas, it was We Will See who barely held on for the 148.2 win for driver Pierce and trainer Sam Depinto.
Mohawk Racetrack and the Woodbine Entertainment Group lined up a sensational card last night and the packed house was treated to one stellar performance after the other. The night clearly belonged to McIntosh, Waples and the 2012 North America Cup winner Thinking Out Loud who produced his lifetime-best performance when it mattered most. What a night!