CAMPBELLVILLE, Ont. — A memorable first for Canadian driver Yannick Gingras and historic result for Tall Dark Stranger.
Gingras, of Sorel, Que., drove the 3/5 favourite to a solid two-length victory in the $1-million Pepsi North America Cup on Saturday night at Woodbine Mohawk Park. The win was Gingras' first in nine appearances in Canada's richest harness event.
"I feel awesome, there's no doubt about it," an emotional Gingras said. "This means so much . . . I couldn't be any happier right now."
Tall Dark Stranger crossed the finish line in 1:48.2 ahead of Tattoo Artist with Moneyman Hill taking third in the 10-horse field. Tall Dark Stranger became the first horse to win Metro Pace and Breeders Crown as a two-year-old, then claim the North America Cup at age three.
"I have all the confidence in the world in this colt," Gingras said. "I rolled him at three-quarters pretty hard, I mean, he just never quits.
"He's a tremendous horse, great horse. The best pacing colt I've ever driven, there's no doubt in my mind. He's an amazing animal."
Trainer Nancy Takter captured her second North America Cup win in as many years. In 2019, the Takter-conditioned Captain Crunch posted a race-record time of 1:47.2.
Gingras took Tall Dark Stranger just after the quarter-mile mark and really never looked back. Down the stretch Tattoo Artist, driven by Bob McClure of Rockwood, Ont., appeared set to threaten but Tall Dark Stranger handled that easily.
"I'm overjoyed, I really am,” said co-owner Marvin Katz. "This is historic.
"What he's done tonight has never been done before. He won the Metro as a two-year-old, he won the Breeders Crown, he’s come back to win the Meadowlands Pace and he's won the North America Cup. Somebeachsomewhere, Captaintreacherous . . . they couldn't do it, but he's done it."
Tall Dark Stranger captured the $500,000 winner's share with his sixth victory in seven starts this season. And the son of '01 North America Cup champion Bettors Delight has been victorious in 14-of-16 lifetime races.
"I think he's just stronger than they are right now, and he can get them tired just by trying to keep up with him," Gingras said.
The Pepsi North America Cup was originally scheduled for June 20 but was rescheduled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. There were no spectators at the race.
Tall Dark Stranger became the 16th favourite to win the event but only the fourth in the last 12 editions.
Gingras also found the winner's circle Saturday night with Warrawee Ubeaut, driving her to a two-length victory in the $290,000 Roses Are Red race in 1:49.3. Trillions Hanover was second with So Much More taking third.
"It was more her gameplan," Gingras said of his horse. "She was a little bit anxious in the post parade and going to the gate too, and when she was like that I wasn't going to fight with her, I let her do her thing.
"But once she got to the front, at least she was able to relax a little bit; she wasn't a runaway or anything like that. I got a decent middle half, and she finished it off."
Also on the card, Party Girl Hill remained unbeaten in capturing the $400,000 Fan Hanover final.
Driver Doug McNair of Guelph, Ont., guided Party Girl to a time of 1:49.2 for an eighth win in as many starts after the filly was unraced as a two-year-old.
"I just kind of rolled her along a little more this week," said McNair. "She can just carry her speed so far.
"Obviously, you can tell tonight . . . she paced right through to the wire. I was really happy with her."
Sweet Lou was second 2 3/4-lengths behind the winner. Peaky Sneaky took third.
And Hey Livvy claimed a two-length win in the $220,000 Armbro Flight. The five-year-old daughter of Donato Hanover, driven by Trevor Henry of Arthur, Ont., finished in 1:51.2 ahead of Felicityshagwell S and Plunge Blue Chip.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 29, 2020.
The Canadian Press