Every year some of North America's best three-year-old harness racing pacers come together and compete for one race; The Pepsi North America Cup! For on this night; records are broken, victories are celebrated and the price of glory is high! And where the list of champions grows and grows...
This night is one of harness racing’s most anticipated events. It’s the event of the year that top trainers, owners, drivers, and fans alike come together to watch history being made!
You can feel the atmosphere of the grandstand change as the crowds begin to file in with spectators young and old; first time enthusiasts and experienced pros, as they all wait to catch a glimpse of the harness racing’s superstars.
The races are always more intense on this night, and you can feel it as the trumpets blare and the race is called to post. The horses don’t know that it’s a bigger night; all that they know is that they are here to win! And the driver’s feel the pressure; because they know what glory lies beyond the finish line.
The horse’s line up behind the gate, all of them ready to take one of the many champion titles to on the card.
The gate lets the horses (and drivers) go, my heart begins to pound in time with the horse’s hooves hitting the dusty track. I undo my seatbelt, getting ready to stand up when they turn for home! I don’t want to miss a second of the action. But for now I’m on the edge of my seat. I watch the horses race past me, I’m in awe. I tune everything else out. At the same time, I’m also watching the fractions go up on the toteboard.
As they come off the turn I know the time has come! I grip the rail, the blood rushing through my body. I look to my mom, and she knows that means I’m going to be standing up. I stand up as my eyes are locked on the stretch. I fight the urge to sit; my legs begin to shake, but I tell myself I’m not going to sit until they cross the wire. I grip the rail tighter. I begin to scream louder than I have all of the race as they draw near. My lungs begin to feel dry because I’m screaming so loud.
The horses make a final graceful dash for the wire; all of them wanting to be number one; with one trying to outstretch the other. My concentration only breaks when I hear the announcer say with great excitement “...and that’s a new track record!
After the winner returns to the Winner’s Circle. I watch attentively as the blanket is draped over him like the cape of a king. I watch as the winning connections hold the trophy high with pride and joy, as the cameras click and flash away!
No matter how many North America Cups I attend, the same magic, wonder, and awe still exists; it never gets old and never will! Each year the horses get faster and faster, but the fierce competition remands the same.
I have actually had the honor of being in the 2011 North America Cup Winner’s Circle. It was such an amazing experience, and one of which I will never forget.
It all started a week before at the eliminations. I was along the rail when a gentleman came up to me and said “Sydney, if my horse wins next week, you can come out and have your picture taken.” I was so honored and excited.
Then a few minutes later another gentlemen came up to me and said “No, no Sydney; if my horse wins next week, you make sure come out and get your picture taken with my horse!”
Now I was even more excited! Now I wanted to know who was going to win the final! Was I going to have the honor of being in the Winner’s Circle? All of these questions would be answered next week. But next week seemed so far away.
As I sat along the rail dreaming of next week, another gentleman named Carl Jamieson came up to me and said “ Sydney, don’t listen to those two” (referring to the gentlemen I had just been speaking to.) “When my horse wins next week make sure you come out for your picture!”
So now I had three invites to the Winner’s Circle! Now I was really looking forward to the final! I could hardly wait to see who would be crowned the 2011 champion!
A week later the final of the 2011 North America Cup was here! It was a beautiful summer evening and there was a warm breeze blowing through; and the air was buzzing with excitement. As everyone pondered the same thought, who will win the 2011 North America Cup?
The entire night I was looking forward to that one race- The North America Cup! Would I have the honor of being in the Winner’s Circle? If so who would it be with? These were all the questions floating through my mind. But before I could find out any of the answers, someone had to win the North America Cup!
The race was making my heart pound faster than it ever had before! The anticipation and excitement was growing with every turn they passed. I was also cheering for three horses at the same time; which as I learned that day is easier said than done. I had my seat belt undone, ready to stand when the horses rounded the final turn.
As they turned for home I was practically jumping up and down. One of the horses I could go to the Winner’s Circle with was going to win! Up The Credit would be crowned the 2011 winner of the North America Cup!
I quickly sat back down in my chair, buckled my seat belt the fastest I ever have, and my dad and I ran to the gate of Winner’s Circle waiting for Jody Jamieson to turn Up The Credit into the Winner’s Circle! Once there I met Carl Jamieson, I wished him a big congratulations on his win and gave him a hug! And then we all packed into the Winner’s Circle; all overjoyed with the evenings events!
After the majority of pictures had been taken, Carl Jamieson came over to me and said “Sydney! Here hold it, and we’ll take a picture!” I replied “No, but thank you!” I was so nervous and I did not want to drop the North America Cup! So Carl (Jamieson) held it on my lap, and we had our picture taken holding the North America Cup! It was a pretty amazing feeling. And to this day that picture hangs on the wall in my living room...
After I was back at my spot on the rail, Jody ( Jamieson) was walking back to the paddock signing autographs, as he walked by me I stuck my hand through the bars in the rail and said “ congratulations Mr. Jamieson!” He stopped, shook my hand, and said to the gentleman standing beside my mom and me, “Can I borrow your marker?” The gentleman agreed. My mom turned to grab our program for him to sign. Jody (Jamieson) said “that’s okay! I can do better then that!” He took off his North America Cup baseball cap, signed it, and placed it on my head; and he continued to walk back to the paddock.
I was in shock; I couldn’t believe what had just happened. I lowered my head and the tears began to fall, not because I was upset, but because I was so genuinely touched but what Jody Jamieson had done!
For the rest of the night I wore that hat with such pride! I will forever treasure that hat. In fact that night I slept with it like a teddy bear! And I kept waking up because I didn’t want to lose it!
Today, that baseball cap hangs on a rack above my bed. And every night before I fall asleep, I look up at that very special baseball cap. And it brings me to that very special night and all the lasting memories that were created...
This story is a collection of only a few of the memories I have from the North America Cup! Each year new memories are created; all of which I will always hold near and dear to my heart!
Sydney Weaver is 14 years old and resides in Acton, Ontario, Canada. She has been involved with harness racing for years, grooms horses, jogs them on the track, co-owns a racehorse and has already won major youth writing awards. Sydney also has Cerebral Palsy, but has never let her disability hold her back from achieving her goals.