CAMPBELLVILLE, Ont. — Brian Brown isn’t the least bit concerned about not having the favourite for the $1-million Pepsi North America Cup.
Brown will have two horses — Fear The Dragon and Downbytheseaside — in Canada’s richest harness event at Mohawk Racetrack. Although both are coming off impressive wins in their respective elimination races last weekend, the horse to beat Saturday night will be Huntsville, the early 8-5 favourite.
Huntsville posted the fastest time in the three elimination races. The son of 2008 Cup winner Somebeachsomewhere earned a 4 1/4-length victory in one minute 49.1 seconds, the third in four starts this season for U.S. racing’s top two-year-old pacing colt last year.
“I thought (Huntsville) should’ve been the favourite as good as he raced the other day,” Brown said Tuesday after the race draw at Mohawk Racetrack. “I’m not a gambler of any type, I couldn’t even tell you what three-to-five pays.
“I’d like to be the favourite in every race I was ever in but in the end, to me, the odds don’t mean anything. You just go out and race and hope everything works with no one getting into any trouble and everyone has a clean race.”
Fear The Dragon and Downbytheseaside aren’t exactly chopped liver either. Both are undefeated this season, with Fear The Dragon winning all five starts in 2017 while Downbytheseaside has won four straight.
David Miller drove both American-owned and bred horses to their elimination wins, leaving him with a tough decision regarding which one he’d take Saturday night. Brown said Miller will drive Fear The Dragon in the Cup with fellow American Brian Sears replacing Miller with Downbytheseaside.
While Brown handles preparations for the horses to race, he’ll leave the driving to Miller and Sears on Saturday night. Miller won last year’s Cup with Betting Line.
“When I give the lines to David and Brian, I shut up,” Brown said. “I don’t want any opinions in their head but their own.
“I expect other horses from the outside will be leaving hard for position. I think when the dust settles into the quarter, two or three of us will be moving on, trying to get to the front. I just hope I’m in a good spot by the half with both horses.”
Huntsville, trained by Ray Schnittker and driven by Tim Tetrick, will go from post No. 3, flanked by Downbytheseaside (No. 2) and Fear The Dragon (No. 4).
Fear The Dragon gave Brown some anxious moments in his elimination win. Leading in the deep stretch, Fear The Dragon jumped over a fallen racing head number and broke stride.
Miller managed to get Fear The Dragon pacing again just steps before crossing the wire.
“He was going right over it, he saw it and just stepped over it and got tangled up and made a break,” Brown said. “Thankfully he recovered.”
Fortunately, Brown said the horse is none the worse for wear.
“When we took his bandages off, there were no marks, no swelling,” he said. “We jogged him (Monday) and today he seems like himself, everything looks fine.”
Despite Downbytheseaside’s winning ways, the horse also has his issues. Brown said the richest horse in Saturday’s field ($848,616) sometimes has difficulty running with the lead.
“He just waits on the other horses when he gets away from them,” Brown said. “But in this race, they’re all going to be together and whoever is on the front, somebody is going to be right at their throat the whole step.
“I feel good but I’m not overly confident. I feel I should get good money if I don’t win but the object is to come here to win. I saw that Cup 20 years ago when I was up here and I’ve been eyeing it ever since.”
The remainder of the 10-horse field, with post, driver, (and hometown if Canadian), includes: 1) Ocean Colony, Yannick Gingras of Sorel, Que.; 5) Sports Column, Chris Christoforou of Campbellville, Ont.; 6) Classic Pro, Trevor Henry of Arthur, Ont.; 7) Ozone Blue Chip, Brett Miller; 8) Filibuster Hanover, Matt Kakaley; 9) Western Hill, Doug McNair of Guelph, Ont.; 10) Miso Fast, Matt Kakaley.