06/04/2012 9:14AM

Bergman: Old-school trainer McIntosh going for first North America Cup win

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Dapper Dude finished second in a division of the Somebeachsomewhere.

It’s hard to keep a good trainer down.

Bob McIntosh, a Hall of Famer in both the U.S. and Canada, wasn’t about to let a broken pelvis slow him down. When a rambunctious two-year-old tossed him from the sulky in early February it sent McIntosh to the sidelines. Few fans that have seen him enjoy so much success in the Standardbred sport expected him to idly sit by.

Instead McIntosh has spent his recovery time overseeing a stable of roughly 75 racehorses. Behind the scenes there are 50 broodmares and a host of weanlings and yearlings that follow. For the trainer, based in Windsor, Ontario, there appears to be no letting up. His career is filled with impressive accomplishments that include guiding Horse of the Year Artsplace to an undefeated season (16 or 16) in 1992.  Pacing champions Artiscape, Camluck and most recently Ponder have been a major part of his career.

Somehow, someway this leading conditioner has failed to win the big one. This Saturday when eliminations are held for the $1.5 million North America Cup at Mohawk, McIntosh figures to have at least two contenders in the box. With just seven finalists in the race’s long history, McIntosh trainees have but two second-place finishes to show for his work: Stonebridge Regal, who was second behind Rocknroll Hanover in 2005, and Squirter, the 1988 runner-up to Runnymede Lobell.

It’s hard to blame McIntosh for this one personal failure. He’s accomplished what he has by staying true to a particular formula. That formula is generally not to race horses the way most conditioners do in these times. That’s right, McIntosh is as old school as they come. So while many of today’s current top trainers routinely send horses down the road, McIntosh’s band is usually seen coming from off the pace. That could be a major reason why his horses last a lot longer than many, but at the same time why they can’t seem to win the big ones.

His two prized candidates for the North America Cup trials are homebreds. This has become commonplace for McIntosh and his loyal owners. Over the years they have managed to race and collect some valuable broodmares. Combine that with an array of top stallions like Ponder and Camluck to breed to and it would seem only a matter of time before a champion emerges.

Thinking Out Loud just could be that homebred that hits a homerun. The son of Ponder is from McIntosh’s stakes-winning mare Los Angeles. He is the first colt from the mare, who has had two fillies earn around a quarter million each.

The colt was flawless with three successive wins at Woodbine and Mohawk heading into this past Saturday’s $100,000 Somebeachsomewhere. He stumbled somewhat on Saturday racing from off the pace and finishing second behind Secretsoftheknight.

“He was my best two year old last year,” McIntosh said of Thinking Out Loud. “He suffered a bone bruise in the Dream Maker last year and we stopped with him.”

Such has been the case with many of McIntosh’s past stars. He rarely pushes horses at two and sometimes doesn’t risk hurting them at three either.

Then there’s the chestnut colt Dapper Dude. Another homebred, this one is a second generation of one of McIntosh’s favorite mares, Lingerie. The hard-hitting racemare has turned into an excellent producer, and her daughter Dressed To Suggest popped immediately with her first pairing to The Panderosa.

Dapper Dude also entered the Somebeachsomewhere after a sparkling 1:49 4/5 victory in a Pennsylvania Sire Stakes at Mohegan Sun at Pocono in May. Dapper Dude brought with him Hall of Famer John Campbell to drive.

“John really liked the way the horse raced down there and told me to put him down to drive,” said McIntosh.

The Hall of Fame driving and training team go way back to when they were both getting started in 1977 at Windsor Raceway in Ontario. They would again team up for a high percentage of winners when McIntosh made his Meadowlands debut in 1983-84.

Dapper Dude stuck with the McIntosh game plan, racing from off the pace after a little trouble at the half, and wound up a solid second in his division behind one of the likely North America Cup favorites, Michaels Power. The colt showed there was no quit in him, getting beaten just two and a half lengths in the 1:51 1/5 mile over the rain-soaked surface.

“He was a good colt last year,” McIntosh said of Dapper Dude. “He set a track record at The Meadows (1:51 2/5) but he was a big colt and a bit gangly. He struggled a bit with his stifles. They needed to be developed so we stopped with him.”

For McIntosh times are indeed different today than they were back in the 80s and 90s. His injury has made it difficult for him to travel and he remains at his Windsor training base and watches his horses compete either by computer or satellite.

“There’s not much I can do for them after they go on the truck,” said McIntosh.

While McIntosh does like his horses he seemed realistic about what he was about to face coming into the sport’s richest race.

“There are some quality horses out there," he said. "I saw Sweet Lou race at Pocono and I have a lot or respect for him.  A Rocknroll Dance is a proven horse. This is a tough, deep group.”

For many trainers, the two-year-old season has already begun, but not for McIntosh. He tries to be a bit more conservative than the rest and he’s likely to bring his horses out in late June, rather than late May.

With the North America Cup moving into it’s 29th edition it would be easy to look at past performances and say that McIntosh is winless in the biggest race and cross his contenders out from consideration.

Racing from off the pace may have its disadvantages in the modern era of harness racing, but when you put a host of speedy horses in one race together there’s always the possibility that a closer will emerge.

You just can’t keep a good trainer down forever.