The Confederation Cup, which moved into its 37th year in 2015, has evolved into the finest day Canadian harness racing has to offer.
If it takes prestige, tradition, excitement and world-class performances by champion horses to make a race great, then the Confederation Cup is truly a great race.
In 1977, Governor Skipper was named North America's Pacer of the Year with John Chapman driving in what was a spectacular season. One year later, Abercrombie added more prestige to the Cup by winning the Cup in his Horse of The Year season.
Cam Fella, with Pat Crowe driving, became the second winner of the Cup to be named Horse of The Year (as a three year old) in 1982. He then went on to win 28 straight races as a four year old to take the horse of the year title for the second consecutive year. Cam Fella truly was a "Pacing Machine".
Matts Scooter, winner of the 1988 Cup, was voted both three year old pacer of the year and pacer of the year in his sophomore season and then captured Horse of The Year honours as a four year old. His performance in the 1988 edition was one of the most exciting in Cup history.
On The Road Again (Buddy Gilmour) won Cup VIII in 1984 and was named Pacer of The year. His 1:56.1 established a new Canadian record for three year old pacers on a half-mile track. This champion pacer went on to record a mark of 1:51.4 and earned more than $2.8 million.
Hot Hitter (Henri Filion) in 1979 and Jate Lobell (Mark O'Mara) in 1987, captured 3-year-old Pacer of The Year titles after winning the Cup.
Nobleland Sam (Sam Noble III) set a new stakes record of 3:52.1 for two heats in 1986. However, that Cup will best be remembered as the year that local favourite Armbro Emerson was disqualified and placed down after winning the first elimination in what would have been a new track record of 1:55.4. Emerson was exceptional again as a four year old. He won Aged Pacer of the Year honours in 1987 for trainer Brian Burton and driver Walter Whelan.
Whats next (John Plutino) was awarded the 1985 Cup when race winner Armbro Dallas was disqualified. His two world records later in his career stamped him as yet another champion winner.
Justin Passing (Doug Arthur) in 1980, and Conquered (Dr. John Hayes) in 1981, were Canadian three year old pacing champions. Bill Gale won the 1989 Cup with Mystery Fund with a 1:56.3 mile after winning his elimination in 1:56.4.
In 1990, Center Strip nosed out Apaches Fame in their elimination, but was no match for him in the final as Apaches Fame streaked to a 1:55.0 victory to become the first Ontario sired/bred/owned winner of the Cup with Bud Fritz driving.
Arcane Hanover (Norm McKnight Jr.) set a new stakes, track, and Canadian record of 1:53.3 in winning the 1991 final after a 1:55.1 victory in his elimination heat. Survivor Gold and Doug Brown teamed up for a 1:54.3 win in 1992.
Village Connection's spectacular win in 1995 helped him earn the title of Canada's top 3-year-old pacing colt of the year. The Cam Fella colt experienced road trouble in his elimination and had to settle for second, but in the final, driver Paul MacDonell scored a decisive gate-to-wire decision in 1:54.0.
The 1996 Cup was won by a pint-sized pacer named Stout for Hamilton owners Matt, Pat, and Dan Daly, setting a new two-heat record for elimination and final in a combined time of 3:48.2. Tony Kerwood drove for the 1:54.2 elimination and the 1:54 time in the $175,000 final.
Owner-trainer Bill Wellwood achieved his second Cup in 1997 with the pacing son of Jate Lobell. Village Jasper won his elimination for driver Paul MacDonell in 1:57.4, and the $180,000 final in 1:55.3, running gate-to-wire as the clear favourite.
The 1998 event was nick-named Woody's Cup as trainer Bill Wellwood collared his third Cup with Rustler Hanover, who pushed his lifetime earnings over the one million dollar mark in an impressive win. Driver Paul MacDonell also landed his third Cup victory in four years.
1999 saw the names Teeth Of The Dog and John Stark Jr. etched on the Cup for the last time in the century when he cruised to victory in 1:55.
At the dawn of the new millennium, Flamboro Downs completed its expansion into a world-class gaming and entertainment centre. In the 2000 Cup edition, driver Ron Pierce brought High On Emotion to the wire in 1:54.1 for owner George Millar Sr. of Millar Farms in Newmarket Ontario.
In 2001, Ring Of Life, trained by Yves Filion, finished second in his elimination by a head, and then went on to win the record $531,500 final in 1:54.2 for driver Sylvain Filion.
The 2002 edition saw Art Major, trained by Bill Robinson, break the all age flamboro downs track speed record in the final. After winning his elimination heat in 1:52.2, Art Major was driven by Steve Condren to a wire to wire victory in the final in 1:51.1.
In 2003, Stonebridge Premio, a last minute supplemental entry, won his elimination race and was subsequently driven to victory by Mike Lachance to capture the $558,000 second and final heat.
In 2004, in the 28th edition of the Confederation Cup, Paul MacDonell became an unprecedented four-time Cup winner by steering Sparkler to victory in both the elimination heat and the $567,000 final.
Confederation Cup XXIX in 2005 produced one of the most spectacular races in Ontario.
Despite starting from the ninth trailer position, American Ideal made a breath-taking three-wide move on the final half-mile back stretch, exploding into a huge lead he would not relinquish, and then a 7 3/4 length margin at the finish.
In demolishing Art Major's previous 1:51.1 mark set three years earlier, American Ideal set a new Confederation Cup record, plus an all-age Canadian record and was just 1/5 sec off the world record for three-year olds on a half mile track.
Casie Coleman, who made history as the youngest trainer and the first woman to win the Confederation Cup, in 2005 garnered the O'Brien Award as Canada's Trainer of the Year.
Mark MacDonald went on to break the all-time Canadian single season win record and also captured the coveted O'Brien Award as Driver of the Year.
A record crowd of 11,285 watched a record-setting race Sunday afternoon in Confederation Cup XXX in 2006.
Armbro Deuce won the $608,000 Flamboro Downs’ classic in 1:50.2, eclipsing the mark set last year by American Ideal by a fifth of a second, setting a new track and Confederation Cup record, a Canadian all-age record on a half-mile track and a world record for three-year-olds on a half miler.
Driver George Brennan had Armbro Deuce (trained by Blair Burgess) leading all the way to the finish line ahead of second place finisher Western Ace with Ron Pierce in the sulky and Secluded Island, guided by Roger Mayotte, who placed third.
The Ontario-based owners of Armbro Deuce, Robert Burgess of Campbelleville, Karin Olsson Burgess of Milton, Neal Cooper and Richard Kostoff of North York, supplemented the colt into the race for $25,000. It proved to be a very wise choice. After winning his elimination heat and earning back the entry fee for his owners, Armbro Deuce banked them another $254,000 by winning the Confederation Cup XXX final.
Tony Chiaravalle will be laughing all the way to the bank.
After watching his horse, Laughing Art, win Confederation Cup XXXI this afternoon (Sunday) at Flamboro Downs, the Hamilton, Ontario, owner said the only thing that could make the win any better would be to have former Flamboro Downs owner, Charlie Juravinski, write the cheque.
After a tough battle to win his $50,000 elimination race, Laughing Art electrified a crowd of over eleven thousand shooting up the rail down the homestretch to win the $548,500 final in 1:53.3. Mark MacDonald drove the early pacesetter, Domitian Hanover, to a second place finish while Forensic Z Tam, with Pat Lachance at the reins, eagerly hung in for third.
Local boy, Jody Jamieson, got the winning drive for trainer, Bill Elliott. For Jamieson, who started his illustrious career at Flamboro Downs, it was his first Confederation Cup win and “an unbelievable dream come true.”
The thirty-first edition of the Confederation Cup offered a record purse of $698,500 for the Flamboro Downs signature event.
An epic performance Sunday afternoon at Flamboro Downs has re-written the harness racing record books.
A scorching 1:49.2 mile by fan favourite Somebeachsomewhere in the $593,000 Confederation Cup XXXII wiped out the world record for three-year-old pacers on a half-mile track. It was the fifth Confederation Cup victory - also a record - for driver Paul MacDonell.
An enormous crowd cheered, clapped and whistled as Somebeachsomewhere crossed the finish line. The colt phenom, whose nonchalant, Seabiscuitesque demeanor has endeared him to a growing legion of fans, returned to the winner’s circle to the ovation of the adoring crowd, appearing to bow his head in tribute.
Santanna Blue Chip with last year’s Confederation Cup winning driver, Jody Jamieson, in the bike was second. Steve Condren guided The Mohegan Pan to finish third and Keystone Horatio with Randy Waples in the sulky was fourth.
Shadow Play, partly owned by Montreal Canadiens great, Serge Savard, equaled the previous Flamboro Downs, Confederation Cup and Canadian all-age record of 1:50.2, in winning his $50,000 elimination heat but came home fifth in the $493,00 Confederation Cup final.
A new world record mile - 1:54.2 - for three-year-old trotting geldings was set by Define The World in the $140,00 Ontario Sires Stakes Gold Final. Paul MacDonell got the driving win.
Jody Jamieson guided Andy Roo across the finish line first in the $62,500 Signature Pacing Series.
If I Can Dream Wins Confederation Cup XXXIII (courtesy Standardbred Canada)
If I Can Dream pulled off a dreamy victory in the 33rd edition of the $560,000 Confederation Cup for three-year-old pacers at Flamboro Downs on Sunday afternoon.
With luck on his side, If I Can Dream drew the rail heading into the final after finishing second to Bay Of Sharks in the first of two elimination heats held earlier in the day. While elim winner, River Shark (Luc Ouellette), fired off the gate from Post 5 in the rich final, Jim Morrill, Jr. sent If I Can Dream to the lead from third before the :26.4 first quarter. From there, the Western Hanover-Arterra colt carved out middle splits of :56 and 1:24 and turned back a challenge from Lyons Horace (Randy Waples) en route to victory 1:52.1 by two and a quarter lengths.
River Shark finished second and Bay Of Sharks (Mario Baillargeon) rolled three-wide at three-quarters to come on for third.
“You’ve got to have a lot of luck and we were lucky and drew the rail in the final so today was our day,” said Morrill, Jr. following the race.
Trained by Tracy Brainard for the Bulletproof Enterprises of Boca Raton, Florida, If I Can Dream won for the sixth time in 11 outings this year. The bay boosted his bankroll to $986,888 with his eighth lifetime score.
“It's unbelievable," said Josh Marks, Brainard's assistant trainer. "Never in a million years did I expect to win this race.
“I know we’ve got the Jug and the Cane Pace [coming up]," he added. "Everything depends on how he comes out of today with double heats. I’ve never had a horse do that before so we’ll see what happens after today.
“We tried to avoid the Chester horses today by coming here, but we’ll face them in the Jug and it won’t be quite as easy.”
(courtesy Standardbred Canada)
Aracache Hanover overcame a bumpy start and survived a pair of judges’ inquiries to capture the 34th edition of the $547,000 Confederation Cup in straight heats for the father-son team of Doug and Gregg McNair on Sunday afternoon at Flamboro Downs.
After avoiding an early breaker in his elimination heat earlier in the day, Aracache Hanover got off to a bumpy start himself in the finale. He put in a few steps leaving the gate from Post 1 but quickly reset and advanced to the lead in front of Foreign Officer (Jody Jamieson) before the :26.4 first quarter.
The 2-5 favourite, with Doug McNair in the bike, lead the way through the remaining fractions of :54.2 and 1:23 as he extended his lead to five and a half lengths, which allowed him to cruise home for the 1:52.1 score.
Aracache Hanover survived a pair of judges' inquiries regarding his early miscue and the whipping rule. The judges ruled he did not cause interference while on a break, and although McNair had both lines in one hand in the stretch to celebrate the win, he did not strike the horse and no whipping violation occurred.
Fellow elimination winner BGs Folly (Dan Dube) finished second with Four Starz Trace (Luc Ouellette) third.
"He just put a few steps in and then came right back pacing -- he didn't bother anybody I don't think," said Doug McNair before the results were made official. "That was the first time [he did that]. He kind of shied from the gate a little, that's what happened. I kind of stopped and started him that's why he put a few steps in.
"He finished up tired," continued Doug. "He was real tired but I went a pretty big middle half, but the more I got into him the faster he went. He felt kind of weak coming around the last turn but he had five or six [lengths] on them. He just raced huge."
Aracache Hanover notched his seventh consecutive win and eighth of the season in 10 starts pushing his earnings to over $500,000. Lifetime, the three-year-old Dragon Again-Armbro Cachet colt has recorded 10 wins while banking $540,217 for trainer Gregg McNair and owners William Switala and James Martin of Clarence Center, New York, who purchased him for $37,000 at the Harrisburg Yearling Sale.
Gregg McNair's other entry, Stonebridge Tonic (Mike Saftic), finished fourth and also survived a judges’ inquiry. The judges ruled Stonebridge Tonic did go inside two consecutive pylons but was not lapped on at the finish and therefore remains fourth.
"The other horse raced good," said Gregg. "He did what he could in two heats. It's a lot to ask from him and he raced big.
"We have two horses with the owners [of Aracache Hanover]. The other horse was OK Commander and he made a bit more money at the end of the year last year and we kept him eligible to the million dollar races and we skipped them with this horse," explained Gregg. "[Aracache Hanover] eligible to the Little Brown Jug and the Pennsylvania Sires Stakes final."
(courtesy Standardbred Canada)
The 35th edition of the $532,500 Confederation Cup went to the best three-year-old pacing colt on Sunday afternoon at Flamboro Downs, which proved to be Bestofbest Hanover.
Drawing into the final off his fifth place finish in the first of two eliminations earlier in the day, Bestofbest Hanover shot up the rail to score the 1:52 victory in the final with Jack Moiseyev in the sulky for trainer Daniel Martin. The Western Hanover-Bunny Lake colt is owned L Ecurie Triple P Inc. of Quebec, Que.
Mystician (Rick Zeron) and favourite Up The Credit (Jody Jamieson) blasted off the gate together from post positions four and five, but with the inner advantage, Mystician held on to the lead and forced Up The Credit to settle into the pocket at the flashy :26.1 opening quarter.
Elimination winner Prodigal Seelster (Scott Zeron) made the first over sacrifice from fourth with Bestofbest Hanover and driver Jack Moiseyev following his cover as Mystician led the field in front of the grandstand for the first time and past the half in :54.3.
Heading to three-quarters in 1:23.1, Prodigal Seelster inched closer on the outside while Up The Credit broke stride from the pocket and backed through the field. Bestofbest Hanover dove down to the rail and out-sprinted his rivals to score the 1:52 triumph by three-quarters of a length over Mystician and Prodigal Seelster. The other elimination winner, Keystone Velocity (Dan Dube), finished fourth and Townslight Hanover (Randy Waples) was fifth.
"I’ve never had too many horses flip a palate in the first heat and come back to race that good in the second heat,” said Moiseyev of Bestofbest Hanover following the victory. “If you can save him until the head of the stretch, he’ll give you all he’s got.
“It feels good," added the veteran reinsman, who also won an Ontario Sires Stakes Gold Final with Daylon Magician during the card. "I was in it [the Confederation Cup] a few times, but this is my first win.”
Bestofbest Hanover paid $12.60 to win as the 5-1 fourth choice. The bay colt has won five of his 12 starts this year including his Somebeachsomewhere Stakes division and the North America Cup Consolation. His biggest stakes win today in the Confederation Cup was also his owner's biggest thrill.
“I’ve had horses for 40 years and I won my first stake in the Somebeachsomewhere at Mohawk,” noted owner Jean Roch Perron of L Ecurie Triple P Inc.
Purchased for $27,000 at the Harrisburg Sale as a yearling, Bestofbest Hanover has won eight races in 17 career starts and now boasts a bankroll of $319,890.
Perron indicated that his colt will be shut down for the rest of the year and return to the track for his four-year-old season in 2012.
For a video replay , click here.
(courtesy Standardbred Canada)
Michaels Power shot up the passing lane in the 36th edition of the $581,500 Confederation Cup to prevail in a thrilling three-horse photo finish on Sunday afternoon at Flamboro Downs.
After finishing second to the pylon-skimming Pet Rock in his elimination heat earlier in the day, Michaels Power and driver Scott Zeron turned the tables on that foe in the final.
With the inside post advantage, favourite Pet Rock and Brian Sears established the early lead, but Zeron fired 3-1 second choice Michaels Power off the gate from post six and took over command during a :26.1 opening quarter. Refusing to sit a pocket trip, Pet Rock reclaimed the top spot and led the field in front of the grandstand to the half in :55.4.
At the midway point, I Found My Beach and Randy Waples advanced first up from fifth with Secretsoftheknight and Doug McNair following their cover. Pet Rock reached three-quarters in 1:23.4 as the field began to bunch up with another elimination winner State Treasurer and catch-driver Paul MacDonell rallying three-wide from the backfield and early trailer Dynamic Youth and Andrew McCarthy following that move.
But at the top of the stretch, Zeron sent Michaels Power up the passing lane and edged by Pet Rock to prevail in 1:52.4. Dynamic Youth surged home from the back of the pack into the win photo forcing Pet Rock to settle for third.
"In the elimination I tortured him a little bit and I just tripped out beautifully in the two-hole and slipped up the passing lane," said Zeron, who earned his first Confederation Cup trophy and third win in a row on the card. "I had to leave. I had his nose right on the gate and was gunning him out of there as fast as I could.
"He's just a spectacular animal," continued the 23-year-old Oakville, Ont. reinsman. "Every time he comes on the track he gives it his all. Nobody knows how a horse is going to handle two heats and he proved that he could do it no problem. I'm so excited!"
The Camluck-Michelles Jackpot gelding is trained by Casie Coleman for owner and breeder Jeffrey Snyder. Michaels Power has won 10 of his 12 races this year, including the Upper Canada Cup, Somebeachsomewhere Stake, Canadian Breeders Championship and two Ontario Sires Stakes Gold Finals, earning the bulk of his $970,650 career bankroll.
"He's been unbelievable and anybody who knows this horse knows he's not the soundest. He does have bad feet," said Coleman. "My mom takes care of his horse and she does an unbelievable job trying to keep him sound. He has just been phenomenal all season. This horse doesn't jog on a regular track and doesn't train during the week. He's not the soundest creature on his feet, but he just keeps on going hard."
The Confederation Cup victory was the Cambridge, Ont. resident's second. She also won the 2005 edition with American Ideal.
"It's just as sweet, if not even sweeter," said Coleman of her second victory. "To win a race like this and to do it twice is just a dream come true. It's unbelievable."
For a video reply, click here.
Courtesy Standardbred Canada
After setting a 1:50.4 track record for aged pacers in his Confederation Cup elimination last week, All Bets Off came right back to win the $226,575 final on Sunday, May 17 at Flamboro Downs.
The Ron Burke-trained All Bets Off captured the stakes final in 1:51.3 with Matt Kakaley making his Flamboro Downs driving debut a winning one. Kakaley has been the regular driver of the millionaire pacer, although Yannick Gingras made the trip to the Dundas, Ontario half-mile track for the Burke stable for the elimination round.
The other Burke starter, Limelight Beach, and Gingras left from post six and took the lead into the first turn over insider Ideal Cowboy (Tim Tetrick) while Big Boy Dreams (Sylvain Filion) settled behind those two and All Bets Off remained parked out. Tetrick tipped Ideal Cowboy out of the pocket early on, but eventually opted to drop back behind Limelight Beach, who sprinted a :26.2 first quarter.
With Ideal Cowboy settled back in the pocket, All Bets Off drove on and took over the lead from his stablemate. He reached the half in :54.4 and proceeded to three-quarters in 1:22.2. Meanwhile, Ideal Cowboy committed first over and National Debt (Chris Christoforou) gapped his cover forcing the backfield to fan wide around the final turn, including the other elimination winner Lets Drink On It (Billy Davis Jr.).
Rallying widest of all from the back of the pack was Bettorever (Corey Callahan), who was full of late pace, but All Bets Off had already opened up a couple lengths on top and he hit the wire with one and three-quarter lengths to spare. Bettorever made it up for second while Big Boy Dreams finished third. Limelight Beach and Ideal Cowboy completed the top five finishers.
"I just kind of eased back a little bit going into the first turn and let Yannick make front and kind of let the dust settle," explained Kakaley after the race. "Then Timmy popped the two-hole so Yannick got to drive on a little bit more and it took me, obviously, a lot farther [to make the lead] than I wanted it to, but he's a really good horse and he showed that tonight.
"I love driving him and it's been a fun ride," he added. "He's a good little horse."
All Bets Off has proven himself on the half-mile tracks, winning the Art Rooney, New York Sire Stakes Championship and Messenger Stakes at Yonkers Raceway, and Carl Milstein at Northfield Park. Assistant trainer Mickey Burke Jr. is confident the son of Bettors Delight can handle any size track in the future.
"I think he'll be fine everywhere we take him," he said, commending the pacer's versatility. "I think he'll be a good solid racehorse for a good while to come. He wants to win."
All Bets Off is owned by Burke Racing Stable LLC, Frank Baldachino, The Panhellenic Stable Corp. and the Estate of Rosemary J. Shelswell.
After a two-year hiatus, the newly formatted Confederation Cup returned to Flamboro Downs for its 37th edition on Sunday. Previously recognized as one of Canada's signature races for sophomore pacers, the Confederation Cup is now a four-year-old stakes event.
For a video review of the race, Confederation Cup 2015
The streaking Ron Burke trainee Rockin Ron held off reigning U.S. Horse of the Year Wiggle It Jiggleit, the 3-5 favoured second tier starter, in 1:50.1 to set a new record for older pacers on a half-mile track.
Burke, trainer of 2015 champion All Bets Off with three entrants in this year's edition, has set a new track record in the Confederation Cup for the second year that it has been contested as a race for four-year-olds. Last year, All Bets Off won his elimination in what was a track record 1:50.4 before returning to take the final, and later won the Prix D'Ete in 1:50.3 at Hippodrome 3R for a share of the former Canadian record.
Gingras left with Rockin Ron from post four as he indicated he would in a pre-race interview on the Flamboro Downs broadcast. Rockin In Heaven (Trevor Henry) also left from post seven and cleared to command heading to the first turn. However, Rockin Rock retook the lead into a :26.2 first quarter.
As the 4-5 second wagering choice led the field off the turn in front of the grandstand, his stablemate My Hero Ron (Matt Kakaley) tipped first over from fourth with Wiggle It Jiggleit (Montrell Teague) following his cover.
Rockin Ron raced past the half in :55.3 and headed to three-quarters in 1:23.3 while Teague fired Wiggle It Jiggleit three-wide down the backstretch to take over second-place.
Wiggle It Jiggleit continued to chase the leader as they turned for home, but Rockin Ron maintained a one-length advantage down the stretch as he sprinted home in :26.3 to score the 1:50.1 triumph, equalling his lifetime mark that he took at Miami Valley Raceway in his last start. Rodeo Romeo (Brett Miller) finished two and a half lengths behind in third off a three-hole trip.
The finish order was completed by Rockin In Heaven, National Seelster
(Sylvain Filion), Burke trainees Rock N Roll World (James MacDonald) and
My Hero Ron, Drachan Hanover (Randy Waples) and Americanprimetime (Chris
After the race, Gingras admitted that he was concerned that the front-end looked tiring, but opted to stick with his strategy after speaking with Burke.
"He pumped this horse up, but he sure put up," said Gingras in a post-race interview. "He went a big mile, and at the wire, he was just starting to get going. If he went around again, he was going to win anyway. I never touched him with the whip and I was ultra-impressed by him.
"I was able to cross right over, but :26.2 and :55 are no easy fractions. And 1:23.3 and then he had :26 on the end of it to come home, so you've got to give the credit to the horse, he put in a big performance."
Rockin Ron has now won all 11 of his starts racing for the Burke stable, including 10 this year. The four-year-old Real Desire gelding is owned by Burke Racing LLC, Weaver Bruscemi LLC and Rtc Stables Inc.
Prior to the race, Burke noted that the Confederation Cup would be a good test for Rockin Ron to decide what direction he takes with the pacer.
"That's very impressive -- :26.3 tonight was a very good quarter and Yannick really thought that he had more left so this is another step in the right direction and we'll try to figure out where we go from here," said Burke after the victory, noting that Rockin Ron is scheduled to compete in next Saturday's Graduate Series.