Harness World Readies for North America Cup and Other Games

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Time has already pushed us into June, which is when harness racing stakes heat faster than the ozone layer. All the buzz within the harness racing industry currently revolves around the first million-dollar — though it’s one million Canadian dollars — race of the season, the North America Cup, which will have its eliminations next week at Mohawk Racetrack in Campbellville, Ontario.

Before we get that far ahead of ourselves, Mohawk hosts preps for the North America Cup with the Somebeachsomewhere Stakes, formerly known as the Burlington Coat Factory Stakes. But since all Burlington Coat Factories have probably become Boscovs by now and Somebeachsomewhere is a native champion of Ontario, the race received a name change.

Aside from those festivities, we have the $200,000 Battle of Lake Erie Invitational at Northfield Park on Saturday, June 3 and some Hambletonian Trail stakes you can find over at Frank Cotolo’s Hambletonian Trail, including the three divisions of the $118,424 Currier & Ives Trot at The Meadows.

Let’s roll!

The Great Green-But-Once-White North

There are two divisions of the $140,000 Somebeachsomewhere Stakes on Saturday, June 3, carded alongside the second round the Graduate Series.

Division one of the Somebeachsomewhere has Classic Pro going off the potential favorite and 2016 Metro Pace winner Beyond Delight most likely being close to him in the odds market. But you better believe we’re going to try to beat them.

Shipping in off a sharp win in a division of the Ontario Sires Stakes at Flamboro Downs, Southwind General appears to be flying into this race unnoticed. Qualifying well at Mohawk back on May 15 before winning at Flamboro Downs, he showed that he has the speed to be able to keep up with the probable giants of this race and, if sent off a price similar to his 10-1 morning line, will be highly underrepresented.

Casie Coleman, who won the North America Cup last year with Betting Line, and in 2010 with Sportswriter, once again has another Cup contender with Ideal Wheel, who is the likely favorite in the second division of the Somebeachsomewhere. Making his second start off of a layoff after finishing third against conditioned company, it’s possible that the plan for him is to have him peak as the Cup draws nearer, meaning this race could be just a tightener for the grand dance.

That said, there are two value contenders — one better than the other. After supporting him in the Art Rooney and putting in a great effort with a horrible trip, Stealth Bomber ships back to his home track stronger than ever. His performance in the Rooney will likely be underrated because of his eighth-place finish, but, given the right trip in this event, he should be able to bounce easily.

Henry The Dragon is an interesting contender who also ships up from the Art Rooney. Though starting from post 10, he had a strong kick to finish fourth in the Rooney final, and that late rally would be what would propel him to a potential on-the-board finish in this event. He will also no doubt be a great price.

The Graduate divisions are pretty straightforward.  For the pacers, good luck trying to find value outside of Lyons Snyder, though he is the probable public choice in that race. Maybe Manhattan Beach can improve enough second-out to beat him? I’m a self-titled expert and I’m not even too sure, but Manhattan Beach would be the only price worth playing in this short field.

Broadway Donna is the horse to beat in the trotting split, entering off a win in the opening round of this series. Also making his second start off a layoff and drawing better, Cufflink Hanover appears to have developed since his three-year-old season, when he couldn’t even outrun a diesel tractor. He’s shipping in here off a good trip while parked in the first preliminary and will likely benefit from the rail position, though he is tracking Trolley, which could play to his advantage since Trolley will likely be firing for forward position.

Battle of Lake Erie

One of the signature events on the Northfield Park stakes calendar, the Battle of Lake Erie annually gathers eight talented pacing stars, most of which are familiar names from the, gulp, George Morton Levy Series. This year, we are faced with four challengers we met on our Levy Escapades: Guantanamo Bay, Soto, All Bets Off, and Rockin Ron.

Aside from them, we are greeted by Luck Be Withyou, who is the likely favorite entering off of quick miles at Pocono Downs, Indiana-star Night Pro and not-Indiana-star Sunfire Blue Chip fresh off the Molson Pace, and, of course, everybody’s favorite horse, Mr Wiggle Pants!

This race is like any race — price will guide us to glory. If Night Pro is left alone to be double-digit odds off a great performance going first over in the Molson Pace, he is definitely worth using; if he ends up being 4-5 because Ronnie Wrenn Jr. is aboard, he’s probably not worth using.

Soto is another probable, though maybe lower, price contender, considering he could be poised for a pocket ride, which was the only way he won any Levy prelim. He has a way of doing no work for seven-eighths of a mile and then doing work in the last eighth of a mile that just feels so magical. We wouldn’t want to know how the trick works, but we love cashing off it, and maybe we’ll witness it again.

Preview Review

Favorites, favorites, favorites.

We hate them. They are the kindling to the fire of our passionate hearts, which is why heartburn is a real epidemic in America. We need to cool them down with nice-priced horses. Of course, that did not happen.

In the NJSS colt split, Every Way Out won at 1-9. Deo Galileo was second at 5-1. There was no place or show betting.

Colorful Jasmine won at 1-5 in the NJSS filly split. Misqued was second. At 21-1. She paid $7 to place and $4.40 to show, and fueled a $15 exacta.

Bit Of A Legend N wired the Molson Pace field — at 4-5. Evenin Of Pleasure finished second — at 13-1. He paid $8.70 to place and $6 to show. The exacta paid $40.20, though. That’s not bad.

Downbytheseaside won the Art Rooney at 1-9. Miso Fast was sixth at 5-1 and Stealth Bomber barely finished at 52-1.

Agent Q lost the Lismore at 1-5, though. But we hate it nonetheless because Warrawee Sunshine broke and finished eighth at 13-1. Boo!

Oh boy, and the Harrah’s invitationals… don’t even get me started. I’ll start myself.

Maxie Lee Memorial: Crazy Wow was the 3-2 favorite and paid $5. Charmed Life, third, at 30-1, paid $5.40 to show.

Betsy Ross: Lady Shadow was the even-money favorite, paying $4. Mackenzie A, fourth, at 9-1, paid nothing.

Ben Stafford Jr. Memorial: Mossdale Conner N? Even-money favorite paid $4. Rock N Roll World, sixth, at 17-1, paid zilch.

I’m leaving to wash my mouth. All this chalk is drying up my spirit.

Ray Cotolo
Ray Cotolo is a seasoned handicapper and harness writer. At 17-years-old, he has worked in the harness racing industry for approaching a decade. Known for his creativity, humor, and eccentric personality, he works to promote harness racing while also entertaining. He is also known as the son of harness-racing guru Frank Cotolo and focuses primarily on the pari-mutuel side of the sport, invested in seeking value.

Ray hosts the weekly radio show “North American Harness Update,” which combines his talents to both entertain and aid the public in discovering overlay contenders from the highest-stake harness races to the cheapest overnights at Truro Raceway. He strives to put on the greatest show possible for all audiences along with his co-host, Mike Pribozie. It airs from 9-11pmEDT on SRN One.

Outside of racing, Ray is a playwright, writer, and, debatably, a comedian. He has performed and written sketch comedy while attending high school, as well as plays and varying side projects. He continually updates his Twitter account, @RayCotolo, with thoughts either pertaining to or not pertaining to harness racing.

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