CAMPBELLVILLE, ONTARIO — Trevor Henry has his first victory in the $1-million Pepsi North America Cup.
The driver from Arthur, Ont., rallied Desperate Man from fourth off the final turn to overtake 3/5 favourite Bulldog Hanover and claim Canada's richest race for three-year-old pacers. It was also the first Cup win for trainer Kathy Cecchin, who co-owns the horse with her husband, John, daughter, Nikki and son-in-law Paul Davies.
"It feels great," said Henry, a longtime friend of the Cecchins. "Like these people deserve it: they've been in the business a long time, had some hard times and got lucky to get this horse.
"You know, I started at the bottom and now I won the biggest one, so it's been great."
Desperate Man, a 7-1 pick, earned the $500,000 winner's share in one minute 49.3 seconds at Woodbine Mohawk Park.
Perfect Sting, driven by American Dave Miller, was second ahead of Whichwaytothebeach, which was driven by Sylvain Filion of Saint-Andre-D'Argenteuil, Que. Bulldog Hanover, driven by Jody Jamieson of Cambridge, Ont., finished fourth.
Jamieson, chasing a third North America Cup title, staked Bulldog Hanover to the lead before the quarter-mile mark. And coming around the turn, Jamieson and Bulldog Hanover remained ahead of the field.
But Henry and Desperate Man, a $20,000 purchase in Lexington, Ky., in 2019, had plenty left coming home after finishing second to Bulldog Hanover in their elimination race last weekend.
"I had to get away better than I did last week," Henry said. "Last week, he kind of ran behind the gate.
"I got him back pacing and I didn't want to rush him off his feet. I was just interested in making the final. Tonight, I said we've got to have him closer, so you know, if he makes a mistake, he makes a mistake. But we've got to have him closer."
When Paul and Nikki were married in December 2018, the Cecchins offered to either help with the down payment on a new house or part ownership on an unraced colt. The newlyweds accepted the ownership stake.
"He's a special horse," John Cecchin said. "We've had a lot of nice horses over the years but nothing makes money like this one."
Desperate Man earned its second win in nine starts this year (three seconds, one third) and fifth in 15 career races.
"Yeah, he started off slow," Henry said. "They decided to keep him at home and there was no racing through the pandemic and that kind of hurt him at the start.
"He never had the races in him. As the year progressed he got better and here he is today."
Desperate Man paid $17.20, $6.40 and $4 while Perfect Sting returned $4.80 and $3.10. Whichwaytothebeach paid $4.40.
Also on Saturday's card, Mark MacDonald of Cambridge, Ont., drove 4/5 favourite King Of The North to victory in the $640,000 William Wellwood Memorial for two-year-old trotters. MacDonald had King Of The North sitting fourth coming off the final turn but the horse hit another gear on the outside to win the race in 1:54.2.
The victory also secured King Of The North a slot for the US$1-million Mohawk Million, which goes Sept. 25 at Mohawk. The other nine were purchased for $100,000.
"We had tweaked him a little bit and changed his shoes a little bit and I thought he trotted a little cleaner," MacDonald said. "He was just kind of on that line again, so we just have to tweak him a little bit more and try and get him really good for the Mohawk Million.
"Yeah, you know, we're pretty excited to be into that."
Duly Resolved (driven by Paul MacDonell of Oshawa, Ont.) was second ahead of Letsdoit S (driven by New Zealand's Dexter Dunn).
The win was the sixth in seven races this year for King of The North. The horse had recorded five consecutive victories before finishing second in its elimination race for this event last weekend.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 11, 2021.
The Canadian Press