Milton, ON — Trainer Brian Brown finished second in last year’s Pepsi North America Cup with now 4-year-old star Done Well and the Ohio-based conditioner is back to take another stab at his second victory in Canada’s signature race with Air Force Hanover and Workin Ona Mystery in this Saturday’s eliminations.
“I guess you’d say I’m kind of excited about coming up,” said Brown, who won the 2017 Pepsi North America Cup with Fear The Dragon. “My post positions weren’t great, but I still think we’ve got a good chance with both getting into the final. I think we’re coming in better shape than I came into it last year with Done Well.”
In the first elimination Brown sends out Air Force Hanover, a Somebeachsomewhere colt racing for Country Club Acres Inc., Joe Sbrocco, Richard Lombardo and William Donovan. The earner of more than $200,000 enters the eliminations off two-weeks rest following a third-place finish from post eight in the $300,000 Art Rooney Pace.
“Our goal was to get the best trip we could and the most money we could,” Brown said. “David (Miller) had intentions of leaving (but) when the two or three from the inside left hard, he decided to take him off.
“Last year the horse would get really aggressive and for (David) to start him up and try to leave and be able to take him off, sit last — very relaxed and comfortable — was a plus for him. And then when he did move him, he was three or four wide (in the) last turn and still came home in :27.1 — that’s a pretty good last quarter at Yonkers. We were thrilled with the way we raced and we knew going into it we were in a bad spot.”
Brown has no concern about his horse being ready for Saturday’s elimination.
“He did train a mile in (1):55 (Monday) pretty handily, so I’m not worried about him going in short. Sure you’d rather race the week before but that’s not how it worked out.”
As a 2-year-old, Air Force Hanover won three races from 12 starts and set a mark of 1:51 in a division of the Bluegrass at The Red Mile. The next week, in a division of International Stallion Stakes, he broke at the start and charged first over before faltering in a 1:49.3 mile. Of his four starts this year, he has two wins — one being a two-move victory in 1:50.1 at Pocono — and no miscues.
“He’s grown a lot,” Brown said. “He was a June foal and has matured so much more — even more than my other two, Workin Ona Mystery and Proof. So far I think he’s above what I even expected; how he’s matured and handling himself.”
Air Force Hanover will start from post six in the first elimination, race three, with Yannick Gingras catching the drive since regular-pilot David Miller opted to drive De Los Cielos Deo for trainer Ron Burke.
“David made his decision. Sure you’re disappointed (for) a driver you named (and) they choose off,” Brown said. “That’s his decision — we’re fine with it — and we pick up Yannick. I mean, how can you be disappointed when we get Yannick. And it’s hard to get Yannick — it used to be (with) Takter’s barn and Burke’s barn, very rarely did you get a chance to get Yannick.
“I think he can leave and still put him in somewhere. So it’s going to be up to Yannick. He’s in charge; he’ll figure it out.”
Brown’s other Cup contender, Workin Ona Mystery, has only eight starts on his record entering the elimination. The son of Captaintreacherous did not make his debut until Aug. 29 due to an early injury.
“He had hurt a foot,” Brown said. “He actually did it in the stall — he stuck his foot through the stall gate and when he pulled it back he ran one of the wire tines into his foot. Of course, it got infected. It took him quite a while to come out of it. His groom never gave up on him — she kept working when other people said the horse would not race last year. She kept working and got the horse pretty good and as soon as he got to the races, he showed he was a really nice horse.”
Workin Ona Mystery won in his first start, coming from off the pace to break his maiden with a 1:52.4 mile at Scioto. He then only lost one race from his six starts last year when he pulled first over in the Breeders Crown elimination but faded to sixth in the stretch.
“That’s probably more of what he has going for him is natural ability,” Brown said. “Timmy (Tetrick) has been working with us and the horse to try and get him (manageable). Like you’d be sitting in the hole and you’d have to take a hold of him and his head would want to go up. Well then he would get the brush in his knees and get out of balance, and sometimes Timmy would have to pull him quicker than he should have or maybe a bit quicker than he wanted. We got a tie down and cable head halter on him, and we finally got it set — with Timmy’s help — to where I think he’s pretty good now; I think he’ll handle even better now.”
Since shutting down in October, Workin Ona Mystery has retained his freshman form and returned to the races with two starts, both victories.
“He didn’t get a lot bigger and stronger,” Brown said. “Maybe he got a little taller. Today I just looked at him and I thought maybe he had gained some weight lately. He’s always been a little on the taller, lankier side — not a real powerful horse. But today I thought he had actually gained some weight.”
Equaling his lifetime best of 1:49.3 in his most recent start, Workin Ona Mystery has not raced since May 19 as he heads to the Cup. However, he did pace a tightening mile on May 29 in a qualifier at Hoosier.
“We could have raced him that week at Chester but decided not to ship him out there. That’s why he wound up at Hoosier last week to qualify. He went a pretty good qualifier off a quarter in :30; he paced the last three-quarters in (1):22.3. He trained light yesterday, so I think he’s ready to go.”
Tim Tetrick, who drove Workin Ona Mystery for all his stakes starts, will sit behind. The pair will start from the outermost post in the nine-horse field for the second elimination, race eight.
“You never want the nine hole because you don’t know the price you’re going to have to pay to get into position out of the gate,” Brown said. “But he has the speed that he can use that. Again, I leave that up to Timmy and he’ll figure it out. He does race well from behind, too, so it’s not like he has to be on the front.”
Saturday night’s 12-race program starts at 7:10 p.m. (EDT) and features eliminations for the Fan Hanover — carded as races five and six — as well as a $35,000 prep for the Roses Are Red, race 10.