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In 2014, Christopher Nicol purchased a harness racing yearling named Beast Mode for $5,000. That same year, a $3,000 bargain named He's Watching proved to be a tough contender in the Pepsi North America Cup before going on to set an all-age world record later that season.  Beast Mode will look to pose a similar threat this year, starting in Saturday’s North America Cup eliminations at Mohawk Racetrack. “He was sick during the sale and nobody was really interested in him because of it. He had a leg issue too at the time but it’s all good now,” said trainer Robert Reid. “Everything cleared up and he seemed like a solid horse.” Despite lacking flash at the sale, his pedigree was enough to take a shot on. A short-lived racing career led to a new occupation for Gaias Gold in the breeding shed, with Beast Mode her first foal. Full brother to Gaias Gold is the widely-loved Golden Receiver, who banked over $2.2 million and a record of 1:48. Trained down for his two-year-old season by David Taff, he hit the board only once in seven starts with a third place finish in a New York Sires Stakes event at Saratoga. Though the son of Rock N Roll Heaven showed flashes of speed last year, he is hiding his talent no longer heading into the Cup eliminations. Starting from Robert Reid’s barn for his sophomore season, he made a surprisingly early return to the races at the end of January with an easy-going qualifier over Flamboro Downs. Beast Mode kicked his year off with a win over the half-mile oval a week later, setting the tone for what would become a 5-1-1 campaign from eight starts so far.  “He’s always had the speed but he was just too crazy, we had to find a way to gain some control. He had some issues with his mouth and feet and a couple other things but he just wanted to go,” said Reid. “If you couldn’t get to the front, he didn’t know how to sit in the hole and would climb over other horses. “When I got him, we gave him time off and brought him back the right way. Never leaving, sitting behind a horse until the end of the mile and he caught on in terms of learning how to sit in a hole. I was there working in the barn, grooming him through last year and all that so I took over this season.” Though most of his competition only returned to the races last month, Reid believes the early start is no disadvantage. Initially a devoted front-runner with little interest in anything else, it took time to teach the sophomore pacer a new way of racing. “The extra starts have helped him come into his own and grow a little bit. We schooled him a couple times before starting him this year and we figured we might as well give him a shot. He’s learned how to relax after leaving the gate and in the mile. He’s just started getting better every week, mentally and in terms of speed.” His progress is evident not only to his connections, but in his lines as well. With a mark of 1:51.4 taken over Mohawk last month, he comes into the elimination off a sharp 1:50.3 mile which earned him a game runner-up finish on June 2. “There’s a few tough ones in the elimination, if he can do what he’s doing now, he can get the right trip and go with them. A few starts back when he went in 1:51.4, Sylvain said he could go in 49. I hope he can go with them just the same.” Beast Mode will face off against O’Brien Award winner Control the Moment, American invader Check Six from the Burke barn and Lyons Snyder who all pose a strong threat. Leaving from post five, he will team up with Trevor Henry in the fifth race on the card.  “I hope he lives up to what he’s shown us, everyone hopes their horse doesn’t throw a clunker in the race,” said Reid with a laugh. “He has enough speed he can get positioned well; he’s stronger the rest of the mile in a hole. Now it’s up to him to show us what he’s got.”  Beast Mode will start in the first of two North America Cup eliminations featured on the Saturday night card at Mohawk Racetrack, which also includes the Roses are Red and Fan Hanover Stakes. The first race goes to post at 7:30 p.m. Here are the full fields for the Pepsi North America Cup eliminations. PP/Horse/Driver/Trainer 1st Elimination 1. Highlandbeachycove by Somebeachsomewhere (Scott Zeron - Tony Alagna) 2. Check Six by Somebeachsomewhere (Yannick Gingras - Ron Burke) 3. Control The Moment by Well Said (Randy Waples - Brad Maxwell) 4. Lyons Snyder by Well Said (Sylvain Filion - Mark Silva) 5. Beast Mode by Rock N Roll Heaven (Sylvain Filion - Robert Reid) 6. Betting Line by Bettor's Delight (David Miller - Casie Coleman) 7. Im Some Graduate by Somebeachsomewhere (John Campbell - Tom Cancelliere) 8. Ideal Rocky by Rocknroll Hanover (Corey Callahan - John Butenschoen) 9. Racing Hill by Roll With Joe (Brett Miller - Tony Alagna) 2nd Elimination 1. Nocturnal Bluechip by Bettor's Delight (Paul MacDonell - Mark Steacy) 2. Boston Red Rocks by Rocknroll Hanover (Tim Tetrick - Steve Elliott) 3. Brookdale Sonny by Bettor's Delight (Mike Saftic - Dr. Ian Moore) 4. Nvestment Bluechip by Shadow Play (Jody Jamieson - Dave Menary) 5. Michaels Victory by Rocknroll Hanover (Sylvain Filion - Mark Silva) 6. Big Top Hanover by Western Ideal (Yannick Gingras - Ron Burke) 7. Manhattan Beach by Somebeachsomewhere (Yannick Gingras - Ron Burke) 8. American Passport by American Ideal (Scott Zeron - Tony Alagna) 9. Magnum J  by Big Jim (Doug McNair - Gregg McNair) Hannah Beckett for WEG Communications  

Many eyes were on Control The Moment in his harness racing season debut last week and although he didn’t win, the son of Well Said certainly made some noise. The Brad Maxwell trainee paced a mile in 1:49 with a :26 final-quarter in his season debut to finish second to Lyons Snyder in a division of the Somebeachsomewhere. If it’s possible to make a statement without winning, Control The Moment certainly put the sophomore division on notice with his big effort right out of the gate. “He raced extremely well,” said driver Randy Waples. “But I mean that was only his first start of the year and he’s going to need a couple of starts before he is right on his game.” Control The Moment not at the top of his game is very good, which could strike some fear into his competition for when he reaches his top level. “That’s the kind of horse he is, he’s able to do that kind of stuff,” Waples said about the impressive season debut. “So I was pretty happy with him.” However, the son of Well Said is on a tight schedule to reach his ‘A’ game with the Pepsi North America Cup eliminations Saturday night. Waples is hopeful Control The Moment’s pure talent will carry him through the next few weeks. “He doesn’t have much time left so I’m hoping the natural athleticism shows up and he starts winning races in the next week or two.” Last year’s O’Brien Award winner and Metro Pace champion will need to be ready for a fight in Saturday’s Cup elimination. Control The Moment drew into arguably the tougher of two eliminations against the likes of Lyons Snyder, Betting Line and Check Six. “It is a tough division, but if he is what he is supposed to be then he’s going to have to face them at some point anyways,” noted Waples. “I just figure he’s one of the tough ones as well.” Control The Moment has a favourable starting spot in post-three for the Cup elimination. The top five finishers from each elimination will advance to the $1 million Pepsi North America Cup final. Needing to be in the top five to qualify for final is less pressure than being top three, as in recent years, but Waples believes the impact of only two eliminations is felt in the draw for the final. “Even with the two divisions if you don’t win and you don’t get to pick your post, there is only really going to be two good posts gone, probably the two or three, the three or the four,” said Waples. “So that is going to leave lots of opportunities to maybe get lucky and draw a good post.” Control The Moment enters the Cup eliminations with an impressive career resume of eight wins in 10 starts and earnings of over $480,000. The talented son of Well Said recently acquired a new group of owners, as Tara Hills Stud Ltd. purchased a piece of the O’Brien Award winner. The Maxwell trainee will look to bring Cup success to the newly formed Control The Moment Stable starting with Saturday’s elimination. Here are the full fields for the Pepsi North America Cup eliminations. PP/Horse/Driver/Trainer 1st Elimination 1. Highlandbeachycove by Somebeachsomewhere (Scott Zeron - Tony Alagna) 2. Check Six by Somebeachsomewhere (Yannick Gingras - Ron Burke) 3. Control The Moment by Well Said (Randy Waples - Brad Maxwell) 4. Lyons Snyder by Well Said (Sylvain Filion - Mark Silva) 5. Beast Mode by Rock N Roll Heaven (Sylvain Filion - Robert Reid) 6. Betting Line by Bettor's Delight (David Miller - Casie Coleman) 7. Im Some Graduate by Somebeachsomewhere (John Campbell - Tom Cancelliere) 8. Ideal Rocky by Rocknroll Hanover (Corey Callahan - John Butenschoen) 9. Racing Hill by Roll With Joe (Brett Miller - Tony Alagna) 2nd Elimination 1. Nocturnal Bluechip by Bettor's Delight (Paul MacDonell - Mark Steacy) 2. Boston Red Rocks by Rocknroll Hanover (Tim Tetrick - Steve Elliott) 3. Brookdale Sonny by Bettor's Delight (Mike Saftic - Dr. Ian Moore) 4. Nvestment Bluechip by Shadow Play (Jody Jamieson - Dave Menary) 5. Michaels Victory by Rocknroll Hanover (Sylvain Filion - Mark Silva) 6. Big Top Hanover by Western Ideal (Yannick Gingras - Ron Burke) 7. Manhattan Beach by Somebeachsomewhere (Yannick Gingras - Ron Burke) 8. American Passport by American Ideal (Scott Zeron - Tony Alagna) 9. Magnum J  by Big Jim (Doug McNair - Gregg McNair) Hannah Beckett for WEG Communications

CAMPBELLVILLE, September 16 - After a visit to Hanover Shoe Farms to preview yearlings for the Harrisburg sale last year, trainer Tony Alagna left with only one yearling on his mind. In search of a trotting filly for owner Tom Hill of Hamilton, Ontario, he believed he had found the best one at Harrisburg. Purchased for $55,000 at the sale, Caprice Hill has bankrolled nearly $175,000 in six starts so far this year. "She was very athletic in the field, I saw her at Hanover, I saw her in the barn and when we turned her out, she had natural balance," said Alagna. "She had a great look to her, great attitude, the way she handled herself showed a lot of confidence. I thought she was definitely worth a shot, especially being a Kadabra filly with the Ontario Sires Stakes program and the opportunity to support Ontario racing." Broke to harness at the Alagna home base in New Jersey, 'Caprice' was then sent to Alagna's mother Donna Lee Ozment in Chicago to prepare for her freshman campaign. Assured by his mother that this filly was one to watch, Alagna went out to see for himself over the winter. "When I saw her, she did everything right. In April, Mom said she's ready to come to you and she's proven to be a really nice filly. She's been special from the get go." Easy going around the barn, Caprice Hill has made good on her memorable first impression, making her racing debut in a qualifier at Gaitway Farms with a 1:58 victory. When Tim Tetrick was forced to pick off for another horse, Yannick Gingras found himself with a filly that would assist in making 2015 a banner year for the catch driver. "Yannick was at the baby races at Gaitway and Tim (Tetrick), who I had originally put down to drive her, had a conflict. I told Yannick I had a special filly and asked him if he'd go with her and he said yes. When he pulled up, he said to me 'I've never asked you for a commitment on a horse, but I really want to drive this filly, she's something special' and I told him 'She's yours to drive'." Gingras headed to Georgian Downs for her first start in Ontario Sires Stakes Gold action on July 12, cruising to a seemingly effortless 1:55.2 mile, leaving her competition four and a quarter lengths behind in wire-to-wire victory. Guiding the Kadabra filly to four victories in five starts prior to last Saturday, he chose to drive Jimmy Takter trainee All The Time in the Peaceful Way eliminations. "In the elimination last week, he had a conflict with Takter who is a big account of his so he had to go with her, so Timmy Tetrick was the next choice. Things seem to work out in strange ways sometimes, since he was originally supposed to start her." Caprice Hill continued to flex her trotting muscles, taking a new mark of 1:55 with a last quarter of 27.3. She held off All The Time, who was resigned to finishing second, with Emoticon Hanover rounding out the triactor. "Any of the top drivers, any of the top six or eight in the country, with the right horse will get the job done. I have guys with whom I have a better working relationship, but she's a good filly to drive and I don't think the driver change is of any concern to her. "She's pretty easy going, she has her moments like any two-year-old trotting filly but if anything it's because she's got a lot of play. She never does anything mean, she's always feeling good and that's part of the reason she carries it so well into the races as well, she's got a lot of determination." Putting up the fastest mile of the three $30,000 eliminations, she will face fellow elimination winners Celebrity Eventsy and Could It Be Magic. Elimination winners earned the right to pick their post in the final, with Caprice Hill's connections choosing post position four. "She's really good coming out of the elimination, jogged back good and trained her today (September 15) at First Line Training Centre on Joe Stutzman's farm. She trained light and good, she's feeling good for Saturday. "I think there are a good few nice trotting fillies, some that no one knows about and some who are headliners. Takter's filly All The Time in the ten hole is a quality filly, Emoticon Hanover has been really good so far and so has Celebrity Eventsy. There's a handful that could get the job done." Alagna has two major stakes engagements remaining on her schedule for 2015, pointing her next to the Ontario Sires Stakes Superfinal before rounding out the season with the Breeders Crown. "I don't go into these races with any expectations. We take her to the races in the best shape possible and hope she has good luck, a good trip and she'll do the rest." The lucrative Saturday night card at Mohawk Racetrack also features the finals of the William Wellwood Memorial, Elegantimage, Canadian Trotting Classic and Maple Leaf Trot. The first race goes to post at 7:25 p.m. by Hannah Beckett, for WEG Communications

CAMPBELLVILLE, September 3 - With a golden pedigree to back up her nearly perfect record this year, it comes as no surprise that L A Delight has become a contender to be reckoned with in the harness racing two-year-old pacing division. Trainer and owner Bob McIntosh has a better understanding of her impressive maternal line than most. Purchased for $115,000 as a yearling, L A Delight's grand-dam Los Angeles became a fixture on racing's Grand Circuit under McIntosh's tutelage. The Camluck mare was retired after her three-year-old season, hanging up the hopples with a mark of 1:53.4 to her name and taking up residence in the breeding shed. In eleven years since her transition, Los Angeles has produced eight horses with total earnings of over $2.5 million dollars. Among her offspring was the great son of Ponder, Thinking Out Loud. Capturing the US Pacing Derby in a sharp 1:47.2 as a four-year-old, he built up an extensive highlight reel over a career that put nearly $2 million in the bank. Her first foal, however, was a Western Hanover filly named West of L A. "We bought Los Angeles as a yearling and she turned out to be a really solid race mare, and then she turned out to be a great producer," said McIntosh. "She has produced a couple of really great horses, and West of L A was a very good filly. The family worked out really well for me." West of L A bankrolled $257,150 for connections Robert McIntosh, CSX Stables and Al McIntosh Holdings Inc., taking a mark at the Red Mile of 1:53.2, but was retired off her fastest mile, 1:50.1 at Dover Downs, at the end of her three-year-old season. She wasted no time in setting a very high standard for her offspring, producing Somewhere in L A, who has posted a record of 12-9-7 in 46 starts with nearly $700,000 in earnings. This season, her Bettor's Delight filly L A Delight has become a dominating presence in Ontario racing. Having spent many years with her family, McIntosh believes they all have the most important thing in common. "All three of them have had really quick speed. They're all good gaited and have quick speed to match." Training down for this season, McIntosh had no way of knowing the hidden potential in his homebred. Quiet and unassuming around the barn, she had yet to stand out in the group. "She was perfect, she was just one of those really easy to get along with fillies. She had no real quirks. In the winter, I thought she was a nice filly, but I never dreamt this. It was a nice surprise. I actually thought I had a couple that were better back then," said McIntosh. "She never did anything wrong but she never stood out. She was always there with the group, just never a show off. But when she started racing that obviously changed. " L A Delight started her freshman campaign with a third place performance, closing hard in 27 seconds to hit the board. Likely not a fan of being denied victory, the filly has since set a seven race win streak and will be looking to make it eight on Saturday night in the $455,000 Shes A Great Lady final. L A Delight set a flashy mark of 1:51.4 in the Eternal Camnation stakes on August 22, the final prep heading into the Shes a Great Lady eliminations. Leaving from the two hole in last Saturday's elimination, she sat third to the quarter, but was not content to wait for long. Gaining the lead by the three quarters, she cruised home easily for driver Randy Waples to win in 1:54.2. "She came out of it perfect, there was no real stress for her last week," said McIntosh. "Randy never had to ask her and it's been a good week since. At this point, she's very tight, so she doesn't need a lot of work. I'll go a couple slow miles with her on Thursday." After earning the right to select post four for Saturday's final, L A Delight will square off against the other elimination winner Thatsoveryverynice, who starts directly to her inside in the three hole. Conditioned by Tony Alagna, she is four for five with an Ontario Sires Stakes record mark of 1:51.2. "I've got a lot of faith in her, she hasn't been to the bottom of the well yet," said McIntosh. "I expect a lot from Alagna's filly, she's been spectacular. Hopefully we have some good racing luck." Staked lightly for her freshman season, L A Delight has remained close to home. Only one start has seen her away from the Campbellville oval, shipping to Georgian Downs for an Ontario Sires Stakes Gold event. "She wasn't staked to a lot of events because I didn't think she was that spectacular early on," said McIntosh with a laugh. "If everything goes as planned, she's going to have thirteen starts which I think is funny for a two-year-old. I think she has another Sires Stakes Gold and then the Super Final. She's got plenty of races right here at home, but hindsight is always 20/20." Next year, her full sister will take to the track to contest her own freshman campaign. Way Bettor, bred and owned by the same connections, will be looking to follow in L A Delight's footsteps. Those who may be eyeing the youngster will be sadly disappointed, her name absent from the fall yearling sales. "We're going to retain her; I don't send yearlings to the sale that I raise. I sell off pieces, but there's nothing for sale in that full sister, she's already divided up. I haven't seen her lately but the last time I saw her, she was a really nice, good looking filly." With another convincing victory in the books in last Saturday's eliminations, L A Delight will be the one to watch as she looks to do what her dam and grand-dam could not: capture the Shes a Great Lady stakes final. McIntosh is confident in her ability, three generations in the making. "Hopefully the racing gods are on our side, we'll look to leave the bad luck at home and get a good, clean trip out there. I wouldn't trade fillies with anyone." Hannah Beckett for WEG Communications

CAMPBELLVILLE, August 20 - For harness racing trainer James 'Friday' Dean, Saturday can't come soon enough. Stealing headlines with freshman pacer Thisorthat Hanover since her racing debut in June, Dean's filly is poised to strike next in the first division of the Eternal Camnation Stakes Saturday night at Mohawk Racetrack. When Dean and long time owner Scott Horner headed to the Harrisburg Yearling Sale last year, they had reviewed the catalogue meticulously. Their thoughtful preparation led to the purchase of a filly who would go on to become one of the top contenders in her division. "Scott generally has his picks based on pedigree and the videos. We go and look at them in Harrisburg and I think we looked at half a dozen or eight horses," said Dean. "All he said to me at the end was 'who do you really want?' and I said this filly and he bought her. "Everything about her, her video was awesome and she had a lot of leg under her, a really nice body, everything was correct about her. I knew we'd have to pay for her but I didn't think he'd go that much, but Scott wanted her as much as I did." When the gavel fell on Hip #161 in Harrisburg, the price stood at $110,000. With $67,900 in the bank so far, she is well on her way to making good on his investment. Scott Horner has been one of Dean's key owners in the last ten years since he started out on his own in 2005. Along with brother, Clay Horner, the pair have bred and owned many horses of note throughout the years. Among them was the beloved pint-sized pacing sensation, Doonbeg. "Scott comes to the barn two or three times a week. He likes putting his horses away and jogging them and all that. He enjoys coming down and going with his horses, he's a very hands on owner. As for Horner's most recent investment, Thisorthat Hanover continued to impress every step of the way heading into her two-year-old season. Though Dean was confident in her progress, he was unwilling to make any early judgments. "She was perfect prepping for this season, she never did anything wrong, she just did all her lessons well. She never gave us any problems as we brought her along. I don't think you really know how they'll do based on training, you can train them down and you can think they're going to be a nice horse but until you actually race them, they can disappoint you. Or, they go in the other direction and surprise you." In her second lifetime start, the Sportswriter filly blasted her way to the front, striding to the quarter in 26.1 and the half in 55.4. Maintaining her lead to the three-quarter pole, she was overtaken coming into the stretch by Thatsoveryverynice, who went on to stop the clock in an Ontario Sires Stakes record-setting mile of 1:51.2. "She was a little warm that night, she was hitting the bike and she just took off like a rocket. Randy (Waples) had his hands full, he could never get her quiet after that so we put in some earplugs and a different check bit and she's been good since." With four starts under her belt, Thisorthat Hanover has come to establish herself as a vicious contender on the front end, pacing her way to the top by the half in every start. In her most recent start, Dean's filly relinquished the lead to Mark Steacy trained filly Bernadette in the third-quarter. In the stretch, Thisorthat Hanover challenged Bernadette on the outside, but was interfered with and sent off stride finishing second. However, the interference infraction by Bernadette vaulted Thisorthat Hanover from second to first. "In her last start, Randy said that with the way she was, he could have sat in with her third if he wanted to but he chose to be on the front. She's really good; he said she was going to win anyways. " Heading into Saturday's Eternal Camnation Stakes, Dean plans to give his filly a quiet week. "This is the first time she's raced back to back two weeks in a row, so generally I don't train them hard when they're racing weekly." Waples will once again take up the lines this week, leaving from post four in the third race on the card. She will be up for a rematch with Thatsoveryverynice, as well as New Jersey Sires Stakes champion Blue Moon Stride, who heads into Saturday with four straight victories. Dean isn't setting anything in stone, but a good effort Saturday will mean more Grand Circuit action for 'Thisorthat'. "After this we're playing it by ear, with these young horses, anything can happen," said Dean. "If she races good on Saturday, she's got the Shes A Great Lady the following week and then her Sires Stakes obligations." Dean also sends out Peg in the second division of the Eternal Camnation, drawing the two-hole with Phil Hudon in the bike. The Dragon Again filly will face stiff competition in the form of L A Delight, who carries a five race win streak into Saturday's event. With a mark of 1:56.3 taken at Mohawk, she has shown speed of 1:54.4 and promises to be a contender. As for where 'Friday' will be on Saturday night, he will be heading on to the track at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono with Split the House when 'Thisorthat' is scheduled to race, warming up for The Battle of the Brandywine. Co-owned by Scott Horner, Peter Milligan and Dean, the Rocknroll Hanover colt has stormed onto the scene in his three-year-old season. Absent at two due to injury, he has made up for lost time in proving himself to be one to watch as the year progresses. Sweeping the Summertime Series at Mohawk, he heads into the 'Battle' off a career-best 1:48.3 victory in the New Jersey Classic at the Meadowlands on July 25. Going up against many of the horses he saw in the Pepsi North America Cup elimination, like winner Wakizashi Hanover, this time around, Dean believes his horse will be an even stronger contender. "He's good right now. He may still be a bit of an unknown because we haven't raced against those horses a whole lot. In the North America Cup, I don't know if he was mentally ready for that race. There's not much we could do about it, we had four starts and won them all handily so we gave him a shot. It didn't work out but he's rebounded, got a nice trip at the Meadowlands with a sweet drive and everything worked out. "I think he could be a Grand Circuit horse, we never ever questioned his ability. It's tough for a horse that doesn't race as a two-year-old to go in his fifth lifetime start and be in with the crème de la crème. He didn't race bad in his (Cup) elimination, he was only beat three lengths but I don't think he was quite ready for it." Split the House will have John Campbell in the bike Saturday, who will be making his return to racing after a three-week hiatus with a broken wrist. "I tried to get Brian Sears or Yannick Gingras for him on Saturday, but Brian originally said he wasn't coming down and Yannick has his Burke obligations. John (Campbell) is a good fit for any horse, I didn't know if he was coming back Saturday. When I saw that he would be, I gave him a call and he said he'd be glad to drive the colt. "He's been lucky so far with the draws. He'll make a good race out of it and he's got 'The Master' driving, so hopefully it'll all work out." Thisorthat Hanover and Split the House are two of the many horses in Dean's stable that have the trainer en route to a banner year. Despite having posted less than sixty starts in 2015, Dean has put up a 17-7-7 record with his stable so far, maintaining a 0.400 training average. "I think it's simply better horses," said Dean. "Split the House, we knew he was a nice colt last year and unfortunately he cracked a bone and couldn't prove it, so he's doing it this year. I don't race very many horses. Just overall better quality horses this year and I'm really, really happy to have them." Saturday night features a strong group of juvenile pacers contesting two divisions of the Eternal Camnation and three divisions of the Nassagaweya Stakes, both offering an opportunity for final preparations before the Shes A Great lady and the Metro Pace eliminations on August 29. The first race Saturday goes to post at 7:25 p.m. Hannah Beckett for WEG Communications

CAMPBELLVILLE, June 18 - For the harness racing Tri County Stable of Truro, Nova Scotia, their direct flight to cloud nine was a $23,000 ticket purchased at the Harrisburg Yearling Sale in 2013. The six-partner syndicate will touch down at Mohawk Racetrack on Saturday night, in the hopes of watching Wakizashi Hanover trip the timer first in the Pepsi North America Cup final. Comprised of Percy Bonnell, Scott Bowen, David Bugden, Wayne Burley, David Chabassol, and Bruce Kennedy, the group pooled $20,000 in the hopes of jumping back into the racing game. "Three of us have fifty years in the business," said partner Bruce Kennedy. "We had the yearning to get back into racing after some time away so we pulled a group together and hurried down to Harrisburg with the little Black Book in our hands." The story of the Dragon Again gelding snowballs from there. Close friend and neighbour Brent MacGrath of Somebeachsomewhere fame spoke with his contacts at Hanover Shoe Farms, who compiled a list of their yearlings that were likely to fit the requirements of the group. Among the group was Wakizashi Hanover. "We weren't looking for $100,000 yearlings; we were looking for something more reasonable. Everyone judges and grades yearlings differently and with the help of that list, we narrowed it down to 50 or 60 horses." As the sale progressed, the group put in bids on nine yearlings but failed to emerge the winning buyer. This caused them some concern, having purchased a new harness and all the necessary gear for their new horse earlier in the week. "There were around 1,118 yearlings or so in the sale and he was 1,104. We really started looking at the last fifteen horses; we paid a little bit over our budget for him but we were prepared to pay a bit extra over leaving without a horse at all." The group had connected with Maine-based trainer Gordon Corey prior to the sale, having worked with him in the past. The gelding shipped directly to Pinehurst, North Carolina to learn the ropes under Corey's watchful eye. "Corey was happy to have him; he was coming along pretty good from November to February. We kept a weekly record of him, tracking his progress every step of the way." As February arrived, so did stakes payment season. Unsure of what to pay him into, they chose to focus on the Pennsylvania Sires Stakes program. The two-year-old was showing his potential and didn't fail to catch the eye of others. Involved with a horse racing in Harrington, Delaware with Jim King Jr., Corey introduced King to the young hopeful. "Jim was at the Fun Day at Pinehurst to wrap up the winter program. He came over and trained the horse a few trips and really liked him. He trained the horse in 2:19 and Gordon relayed to us how pleased Jim was with the horse. "We made contact with Jim and said 'if you've got space for him, you've got him'. The plan was for Jim to keep him until July to see if he was good enough to bring home to race in our country. Long story short, he hasn't made it to Nova Scotia yet." During his freshman campaign, he posted a record of 2-3-0 in six starts and bankrolled over $100,000 for his connections. Posting a mark of 1:51 over Pocono Downs in a Sires Stakes event, he always seemed to indicate that there was more left in the tank. Kennedy describes the group fondly as a family, united by their beloved horse. "We've grown to have a great relationship with the Kings; Jim is a personal friend and a great partner with Tim Tetrick. We couldn't have afforded to look for a driver like Tim and yet he came our way. "Our six people are really ecstatic about this guy, we've rolled into racing with the elite at three and we never thought we'd be here." Wakizashi Hanover stormed home in his North America Cup elimination from sixth-place to claim victory in a career best of 1:49.2, holding off 1-5 favourite Artspeak in an impressive finish. Emerging from last Saturday fresh and in good spirits, Kennedy is confident in the horse's performance in the final. "He gave us something he was hiding all along, after the race Tim said to me 'he was explosive today, he gave me more than anything I expected to get'. Tim has had a few drives on him and it couldn't have been any better for us, the strategy panned out perfectly. "This morning (June 17) we were at the training center and he trained awesome, he looks as ready as can be. The way he was this morning proved that. He has never missed a meal, rests himself well every day and he's just a happy and healthy horse." Staked lightly last year due to financial constraints and uncertainty, Tri County have an impressive dance card slated for their horse in the upcoming season. "We took all his earnings from last year in Pennsylvania and we reinvested it all in the three-year-old stake program for him." Wakizashi Hanover has many major events on his radar, with the Hempt, the Meadowlands Pace and the Milstein in the near future. The syndicate is also looking further down the road with the Breeders Crown the goal at the end of the season, back on Canadian soil. "I don't know if the horse gets as tired listening to all of these things as I do listing them, but he's got a full place if he can handle it. It's a wicked schedule of fierce competitors. "We're not the richest people in racing but we're the luckiest right now. This kind of a trip, I wish everyone could have this one day in harness racing, just once." Wakizashi Hanover Hannah Beckett for WEG Communications

CAMPBELLVILLE, June 11 - As bidding stalled at $7,000 on one of White Birch Farm's yearlings at the Harrisburg sale in 2013, Farm Manager Steve Williams felt compelled to act. Choosing to buy the colt back for $7,500, he soon proved to be the ultimate harness racing bargain. Making his first start on Canadian soil in the second $50,000 North America Cup elimination on Saturday night, In The Arsenal will be looking to extend his sophomore win-streak after going three for three to start his campaign. In his first start of 2015, the American Ideal colt captured a New York Sires Stakes event in a tidy 1:50 before finishing on top in both his Art Rooney elimination and the $300,000 final. Choosing to forego the Somebeachsomewhere at Mohawk Racetrack on June 6, trainer Kelvin Harrison believes he is good and fresh going into the eliminations. "He's a little more mature as a three year old," said Harrison. "He didn't grow much but he is a lot smarter than he was last year. "I didn't feel it was necessary to send him to the 'Somebeach'. He raced three weeks in a row and I wanted him to get some rest before the North America Cup." In The Arsenal's freshman campaign saw a 6-1-1 record in eleven starts, banking just shy of $400,000. Owned by White Birch Farm and In The Arsenal Racing, he took a mark of 1:49.4 over Lexington in September before rounding out the season with an impressive performance in the Breeders Crown final, finishing second by a head to Traceur Hanover. Though he picked up the lion's share of the purse in the Art Rooney final on May 30, a slight bobble at the wire gave fans pause and nearly cost him the race. Fortunately, Harrison believes this nothing to show concern over. "It was the finish lights at Yonkers. There was a little bit of sunlight peaking over the building and he ducked a little sideways. He made it look worse than it actually was." The fourteenth foal out of Ladyotra headed north Wednesday morning with Harrison following suit on Thursday. Brian Sears is confirmed to drive, after establishing a successful partnership with the colt in his last nine starts. "He's going to be stabled at (Richard) 'Nifty' Norman's place. Hopefully we'll be there after the eliminations and for the final." In The Arsenal's first start in Canada will bring Harrison back to Mohawk after a seven year hiatus. His last start came in the Breeders Crown Open Mare Pace where his trainee Free held off a hard-closing Invitro to finish third. He will be looking for repeat success, with a finish in the top three guaranteeing a coveted spot in the $1 million Pepsi North America Cup Final on June 20. "He was very good coming out of the Rooney. He's obviously as good as anything I've ever had; he's a real tough horse." Harrison has seen his fair share of success, with $11.9 million in purses collected over the last thirteen years and he is hopeful In The Arsenal will do his part in helping him surpass the 1,000 win milestone. The three-year-old will start from post position seven and is one of only two horses in his elimination field to bypass the Somebeachsomewhere. He will face off against division winner Dudes the Man, who won handily in his 'Beach' division for Corey Callahan in 1:50.3, to his outside in post position eight. The field also includes Bob McIntosh trainee Go Daddy Go, who rallied to finish a strong second in his division after starting from the ten hole. Pennsylvania invader Allbeef N Nobull and The Wayfaring Man are likely to find themselves in the mix as well, posing a challenge for Harrison's trainee. "It's a talented field; they wouldn't be there if they weren't. It comes down to a little luck and a big effort. "It's like I always say 'it's not where you start, it's where you finish'." In The Arsenal is staked to the majority of major stakes event throughout the rest of the season, with the Meadowlands Pace and the Little Brown Jug on Harrison's radar. Twenty-four horses will start in three North America Cup eliminations Saturday (June 13) at Mohawk in search of a spot in the $1 million final the following week. The first race goes to post at 7:25 p.m. Hannah Beckett for WEG Communications

CAMPBELLVILLE, June 4 –Harness racing duo John Campbell and Bob McIntosh have proven to be a winning combination over the course of their thirty-year partnership. Their latest protégé promises to be a tough competitor this season. Go Daddy Go will be looking to continue his sophomore campaign in a winning fashion in the $78,767 Somebeachsomewhere for three-year-old pacing colts at Mohawk Racetrack. McIntosh has seen his fair share of talented horses, with $94.3 million in lifetime earnings since his legendary career began in 1984. Having conditioned starters with over 4,000 wins, he is hopeful another will be added to the tally this Saturday night. Go Daddy Go is well positioned to make good on that hope. He posted a mark of 1:51.1 over the Meadowlands as a two-year-old, banking nearly $400,000 in fourteen starts. The son of Ponder returned to the track at the start of May, putting in three qualifiers before winning in an impressive fashion at The Raceway at Western Fair in an Ontario Sires Stakes Gold event. “He spent the winter at Peninsula Farms with Carter Duer,” said McIntosh. “When I picked him up, I was really happy. He grew four or five inches, even grew some length. He really matured. “He trained down without a hitch and sound. We qualified him three times but he was nothing special in those qualifiers.” The chestnut posted times of 1:54.3, 1:52.2 and 1:53.3 over Mohawk, but the Campbell-McIntosh partnership knew he had more to give. “It’s like he could sense the qualifiers didn’t matter and just didn’t care. Under the lights, he’s a totally different horse.” He was certainly ready to go in London, winning easily in 1:53.1 by seven lengths, driving away from the field. Owners Dave Boyle, Diamond Creek Racing and McIntosh were pleased to see his strong performance. “John (Campbell) is the best person to give feedback on a horse and we’ve got a very valuable relationship. He said the colt wasn’t firing home in the qualifiers but at London, he said ‘we’ve got our horse back’. “Those qualifiers are the reason I have a few new grey hairs. He didn’t do anything wrong but he was lackluster. I did a little work on his front feet which seemed to help, but warming him up (at Western Fair), I knew he seemed good.” The three-year-old will have his work cut out for him Saturday at Mohawk, drawing the dreaded ten-hole with real speed to his inside. A challenge for the horses that prefer to be forwardly-placed in the mile, McIntosh believes he has what it takes to overcome it. “I think he’ll be okay (in the ten), it’s not the first or last race of his career. He’ll make a good effort, have to get away and a bit forward but you learn a little more about these horses every time they race. “Once the draw came in, I said to John ‘Buddy, I don’t even buy programs anymore. We’re in there and I’m not driving him so you better figure it out!’ I don’t tell any of my drivers how to drive; you never know what will happen when the wings fold.” Go Daddy Go is among the group of volatile three-year-olds pointed to the North America Cup on June 20, the highlight of Mohawk’s summer meet. “There’s some intimidating three-year-olds out there but after the Governors Cup and the Breeders Crown, I thought to myself that he belongs with the best. I’m not saying he’ll dominate in there but if they mix it up on the front end, hopefully he can be there to pick up the pieces. “After the North America Cup, he’ll give us some answers on where to go next. As of right now, I’m not thinking beyond that race.” The O’Brien Award finalist is paid into events including the Milstein Memorial, the Meadowlands Pace and the Breeders Crown which will be contested at Woodbine Racetrack this year. Though McIntosh doesn’t have his schedule planned out yet, the stakes calendar is full of options for his talented colt. “Last year, he showed that he’s much better than a Sires Stakes horse, he can go with the Grand Circuit colts. I’m a huge supporter of Ponder and I think he’ll throw some more good ones.” Ponder finished the 2014 Ontario Sires Stakes season ninth in the stallion standings, with his offspring racking up $232,750 in 50 starts. Go Daddy Go part-owner Diamond Creek Farm also hold the ownership papers on the stallion. Go Daddy Go finished off last season with a gritty effort in the Breeders Crown and impressed his conditioner. “I was pretty pumped last year after (the Breeders Crown elimination) at the Meadowlands,” said McIntosh. “Unfortunately in the final he had his own bad luck, a horse broke in front of him and he didn’t settle in. “He had to go three wide the whole way home. Most of the time, when a horse tries to pull that off, you’re distanced. He managed to do it and rally for fifth.” As for what racing fans will see trackside on Saturday night, Go Daddy Go will be looking to bring home some new hardware. “He was great coming out of the OSS Gold, he’s on his hind legs, he’s feeling good. He’s ready for the races.” Hannah Beckett for WEG Communications

CAMPBELLVILLE, May 28 - Harness racing trainer John Bax is no stranger to success, having collected nearly $20 million in lifetime earnings. On Saturday evening, the veteran conditioner will be looking to add another win to his collection with Stubborn Belle in the $129,661 WEG-S.B.O.A Final for three-year-old filly trotters at Mohawk Racetrack. Her first start of the season came in the eliminations a week prior, with an impressive win in 1:55.2. "I was real happy with her," said Bax. "I think it was a good tightener for her, we've got the inside (in the S.B.O.A. final) so I'm hoping she'll be just one race better. Touch wood, hopefully she stays healthy." The daughter of Taurus Dream spent her winter across the border before returning to the track, fresh and ready for her sophomore campaign. "She enjoyed Florida as much as I did! She's come back pretty good, a few hiccups here and there. She can be a bit hard on herself so we've got the odd bump and bruise. Despite that, I think she's getting back to where she needs to be." According to Bax, his trainee can certainly put the "stubborn" in "Stubborn Belle" and though somewhat calmer as a three-year-old, she still considers herself to be the boss. Heading into the final, she'll be looking to prove it to a strong field. "I think she's got as good a chance as any. Obviously I'm hoping for a win but I think she looks good in there. There's a couple new horses coming out of the woodwork and I'm sure they're going to be heard from." Bill Budd's Meadow Seelster certainly made herself known last week, finishing a strong second to Stubborn Belle after making a break at the start. Since returning to the track in 2015, she's continued to trot faster with each start. Another one to watch will be Second Sister as she looks to build upon her gate-to-wire 1:55 win in the second WEG-S.B.O.A elimination for Team McNair. "The three-year-old year, you always have to step up," said Bax. "It's a long year so I won't read too much into one race, but I'm looking forward to a good three-year-old season with her." In 2014, Stubborn Belle picked up another win off the track, capturing the O'Brien Award for Two-Year-Old Trotting Filly to cap off a season with earnings in excess of $500,000. She edged out fellow nominee Danielle Hall, who broke stride early in her elimination, rallying for sixth and the also eligible position in Saturday's event. "I felt disappointed for Carl (Jamieson)," said Bax. "It would have been nice if he could have gotten a good start in her somewhere. That's the problem with making all that money as a two-year-old, it's hard to put a horse in for their first start back and get a race where they don't get beat up by older horses. "I'm sure it's just a blip, (Danielle Hall) is a nice mare. She always liked to beat the good ones." Stubborn Belle will be headed next to Ontario Sires Stakes action and Bax has Grand Circuit events such as the Casual Breeze and Elegantimage stakes also on her radar. "I'm hopeful she'll be good enough for the Hambletonian Oaks in August. There's lots of racing for her, it's a long season so you don't want to stretch them out too much too early. It's going to be a good year." Saturday night's card at Mohawk will be highlighted by the WEG-S.B.O.A finals for both three-year-old filly trotters and pacers. The $129,661 final for trotting fillies is carded as Race 3, while the $127,661 final for sophomore pacing fillies will take place as Race 6. Post time is 7:25 p.m. Hannah Beckett for WEG Communications  

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