by Frank Carulli
August 31, 2020
With more than 7,500 wins and $186 million in purse earnings, Yannick Gingras knows a good harness horse when he drives one. But Gingras shed the highest praise on Tall Dark Stranger, who dominated in the $1 million Pepsi North America Cup last Saturday at Woodbine-Mohawk Park.
“He’s the best pacing colt I’ve ever driven, there’s no doubt in my mind,” Gingras said in a post-race interview with Chris Lomon of Woodbine Communications.
Tall Dark Stranger did the talking in the one-mile race for 3-year-olds. He tracked early leader Tattoo Artist (Bob McClure) through a :25.4 opening quarter mile, pulled out of the pocket to the lead before a :53.3 half and repelled a stretch challenge from the 5-1 second favorite with ease in what amounted to an uneventful, two-horse race. Tall Dark Stranger won by 2 lengths in 1:48.2, bumping his record to 15-for-17 with a North America-leading $879,131 bankroll this year for owners Marvin Katz, Crawford Farms Racing, Caviart Farms and Howard Taylor. He paid $3.20 to win as the 3-to-5 favorite and triggered a $476 triactor payout after 127-1 longshot Moneyman Hill (Jonathan Drury) got up for third behind Tattoo Artist in the 10-horse field.
“I rolled him by three-quarters pretty hard, but he just never quits,” said Gingras.
New Jersey-based trainer Nancy Takter could not watch her second consecutive Cup victory in-person because of COVID-19 border restrictions. But she can revel in the fact that Tall Dark Stranger completed what is believed an unprecedented run through four of the sport’s biggest races – the Metro Pace and Breeders Crown as a 2-year-old, and the Meadowlands Pace and Pepsi North America Cup this season.
It’s not recognized as the Grand Slam, per se, but if Gingras had a vote, it probably would be.
PARTY GIRL HILL REMAINS PERFECT IN FAN HANOVER
Tom Hill’s Party Girl Hill remained at the top of the hill for 3-year-old filly pacers with a 2-3/4-length victory in the $400,000 Fan Hanover Stakes on the North America Cup undercard. Doug McNair asked Party Girl Hill for run before the half-mile marker and she took command from there, winning in 1:49.2 for her eighth win in as many starts.
Warrawee Ubeaut (Gingras) was queen of the $290,000 Roses Are Red for fillies and mares, pacing home in 1:49.3.
Hey Livvy (Trevor Henry) seized the moment when odds-on favorite Atlanta broke stride, winning the $220,000 Armbro Flight trot in 1:51.2.
Driver Bob McClure swept the $117,029 Nassagaweya stakes for 2-year-olds, winning with Abuckabett Hanover ($5.10) from post 7 and Lawless Shadow ($15) from post 9.