by Frank Carulli
June 20, 2017
The pace was hot in the C$1 million Pepsi North America Cup, igniting a fire under Fear the Dragon.
The 3-year-old son of Dragon Again rallied furiously in the one-mile pace at Mohawk Racetrack and out-kicked reigning divisional champ Huntsville to win Canada's richest race in lifetime best 1:48.4 Saturday.
The two favorites cruised to victory in their Cup eliminations the previous week, but they were content to track in mid-pack as Sports Column, Classic Pro, Fillibuster Hanover and Downbytheseaside all made bids for the lead through a :52.1 half mile, the fastest in track history.
Huntsville (Tim Tetrick), the 4-to-5 choice, advanced first-over and Fear The Dragon followed, setting the stage for an epic stretch battle. Fear The Dragon got up on the outside to win by a half-length, giving Hall of Fame driver David Miller his second consecutive Cup victory and fellow Ohioan Brian Brown the biggest win of his training career.
“They were rolling up front and my horse was having a hard time keeping up,” said Miller. “He was gapping and I was chasing him and I never really thought we had a shot until the head of the stretch. Then he dug in and traded punches with Huntsville all the way down the stretch. That's why I love this horse. He never gives in."
Fear The Dragon improved to 6-for-6 this season for owner Emerald Highlands Farm. He paid $4,90 to win.
"This is a feeling I've never felt before," said Brown. "It's unexplainable."
Fear the Dragon was the night's biggest star, but not the only one as the North America Cup undercard featured five lucrative stakes.
Lady Shadow (Yannick Gingras) improved to 32-59 lifetime with her third consecutive victory in the C$365,000 Roses Are Red in 1:48.4.
Hannelore Hanover (Gingras) defended her title in the C$253,000 Ambro Flight for trotting mares by 3-1/4 lengths in 1:51.4.
Bettors Up (Doug McNair) sprung an 11-1 upset in the $440,000 Fan Hanover for 3-year-old pacing fillies.
International Moni (Scott Zeron, $7.60) rallied past odds-on favorite Enterprise en route to victory in the C$251,000 Goodtimes in 1:52.4.
McWicked won the C$100,000 Mohawk Gold Cup as Miller employed similar driving tactics to those of Fear the Dragon.