Day At The Track

Lather Up's connections reflect on NA Cup

08:34 AM 21 Jun 2018 NZST
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Lather Up, harness racing
Lather Up and driver Montrell Teague crossing the wire in winning the Pepsi North America Cup
New Image Media photo

When owner Gary Iles reflects on Lather Up's win in last week's Pepsi North America Cup at Woodbine Mohawk Park, he cannot help but feel blessed. Iles and his wife Barbara watched their homebred colt overcome a number of obstacles and horses to reach the top of the 3-year-old pacing ranks with his win in the C$1 million race.

"There is one horse a year that gets to do this," Iles said. "I'm 79 years old; I thought I was running out of time. Thank God it worked out and I had my opportunity and we succeeded. I'm humbled by it. I'm humbled by the whole thing. We're very fortunate.

"There were 79 horses nominated (to the North America Cup) and 29 started and to think that out of that you end up being the best of the best. It's a wonderful situation. You have to be blessed."

Montrell Teague drove Lather Up, the 3-5 favorite, to victory for trainer Clyde Francis and the George Teague Jr. training stable. Montrell Teague and Francis finished second with Wiggle It Jiggleit, the 2-5 favorite, in the 2015 North America Cup.

"It made me want it more since I lost it with Wiggles," the 27-year-old Teague said. "It's a million-dollar race, the first million-dollar race I ever won, so to be added to that list and add that to my accomplishments, it feels great."

Added Francis, "We went up there with Wiggles and were the best going into the race, but anything can happen. It's horseracing. Going to the final (with Lather Up) I really thought we had a good shot at it. But I wasn't going to say anything before, just keep it to myself. When it was over, it was a great feeling."

Iles, Teague and Francis all were happy with Lather Up's trip in the North America Cup, which saw him get to the front in a :26.3 opening quarter, yield the top spot briefly to Done Well, and retake the lead prior to reaching the half-mile point in :54.1. From there, Lather Up led to three-quarters in 1:21.3 before winning by 3-1/4 lengths in 1:48.1.

"I got the trip that I didn't expect to get, but the trip that I wanted," Teague said.

"I was happy when (Done Well) came and Montrell retook and no one else came," Iles said. "I thought we had a shot at it then because I know (Lather Up) has that good speed coming home. That's the way it worked out. I'm just amazed he has that kick at the end. But you don't take it for granted until he crosses that wire because a lot can happen."

Said Francis, "When he moved him back to the front I thought he was in a good spot there because they were going to have to come after him. (At the top of the stretch) I was still pretty confident; Montrell hadn't urged him. When he popped the plugs, it was over. They weren't getting to him. Every start he raced, when they came off the turn and hit the lane he was ready to roll. Everything worked out well."

All that remained was a trip to the winner's circle, where the Iles were joined by family and friends.

"There were all those (camera) shutters going off and everyone saying, 'Look here, look here, look here.' It was quite amazing," Iles said. "It was a wonderful feeling. I was really thankful for the support we had.

"More than that, the horse is down in history. That's something quite exciting."

Lather Up will look to remain undefeated in 2018 Saturday when he competes in the third of three Max C. Hempt Memorial eliminations for 3-year-old male pacers at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono. Lather Up, who is 6-for-6 this season, is the 2-1 morning-line favorite in his elim, which also includes North America Cup runner-up Done Well.

The top three finishers from each elimination advance to the $500,000 Hempt final on June 30 at Pocono. Saturday's card also features eliminations for the Ben Franklin Pace for older male pacers, Earl Beal Jr. Memorial for 3-year-old trotters and James M. Lynch Memorial for 3-year-old female pacers.

"It's a tough field, a very tough field," Iles said about the Hempt. "I'm happy to be there. When you're doing this shipping, a lot of horses come down with some kind of sickness. Fortunately, it hasn't hit us. Hopefully, it doesn't hit anybody. But it's always a concern."

"I think he will be all right," Francis said. "He's in with a bunch of the same horses he raced (last) Saturday night. He trained good today and came out of it well. We're just hoping for the best."

Following the win in the North America Cup, Lather Up moved up to No. 2 in the sport's weekly rankings, trailing only 6-year-old female trotter Hannelore Hanover, the defending Horse of the Year in the U.S. and Canada. Lather Up was the only 3-year-old male pacer among the top 14 horses in the poll.

"It's still early," Teague said. "Mine looks the most exciting so far, but any of them can step up at any time. That was the first big race, but there are plenty more. You never know who is going to step up.

"But so far it's definitely fun. He's looking like the good horse we thought he was going to be. Even more."

For Saturday's complete Pocono entries, click here.

by Ken Weingartner, for the USTA

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