06/05/2013 5:23PM

Mohawk: Odds On Equuleus looks to rebound in the North America Cup eliminations

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Derick Giwner
Odds On Equuleus being led off the Meadowlands track by caretaker Melissa Allen.

As Odds On Equuleus lines up behind the gate for the third of three elimination races for the $1 million North America Cup on Saturday at Mohawk Racetrack, there still will be plenty of questions. But less than one minute and 50 seconds after the gate springs, his short-term fate will be determined.

Odds On Equuleus posted a stellar 2-year-old campaign in 2012. The son of Art Major–Latte Lady won a division of the Nassagaweya and finished second behind Captaintreacherous in the $1 million Metro Pace at Mohawk. He went on to The Red Mile and captured divisions of the Bluegrass and International Stallion Stakes. With five wins in nine starts and $413,665 in earnings, the seeds of a spectacular career were planted.

Trying to pick up right where he left off, Odds On Equuleus set foot on the Meadowlands surface to make his first qualifier April 27. He followed up that 1:52 4/5 mile with a strong 1:51 2/5 mile May 11. Then came a 1:50 3/5 qualifier May 18 that appeared to have the colt ready for a top effort June 1 in the $75,000 Somebeachsomewhere Stakes at Mohawk.

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Unfortunately, something went wrong on Odds On Equuleus’s way to the winner’s circle. He made a nice brush to the front and reached the half in 54 seconds, but after three-quarters in 1:22 2/5, he succumbed to pressure and surprisingly backed up to a well-beaten sixth while appearing somewhat uncomfortable in the stretch.

“He didn’t pace that last turn as good as he normally does,” said driver John Campbell. “He just didn’t respond and was more tired than anything else.”

Although trainer Robin Schadt “figured he would win that race,” she chalked up the poor showing to conditioning and timing.

“We had to change our plans and were forced to put in another qualifier,” Schadt said of the May 18 qualifier brought on by the cancellation of a New York Sire Stakes race at Vernon on that same date due to an outbreak of equine herpes at the track. “I was disappointed [in his Somebeachsomewhere effort], but a qualifier is not the same as a race. If he is going 54 [seconds] to the half, he is not going to maintain a [1]:48 pace.”

While Schadt said Odds On Equuleus is doing well now and trained well in a slow mile Wednesday, he did scope “a tad sick,” according to the trainer, who also will switch to aluminum shoes in front because the colt was slipping a bit.

It is hardly uncommon for horses to get sick when they ship north of the border, and that was one of the reasons why the highly regarded Captaintreacherous (race 3, first elimination) skipped the Somebeachsomewhere.

With a race under Odds On Equuleus’s belt, a new set of shoes, and any sickness behind him, Schadt is looking forward to Saturday and expecting big things from her star pupil.

“I’d be very surprised if I wasn’t in the final,” the trainer said bluntly.

To secure a spot in the rich final, Odds On Equuleus will need to finish in the top three in his ninth-race elimination.

Vegas Vacation (post 1) likely will assume the role of post-time favorite. The Casie Coleman trainee is perfect in three starts this season and hung a 1:48 3/5 final time on the board last Saturday in the Somebeachsomewhere.

The speedy Johny Rock starts from post 2 with regular driver Andy Miller at the controls. He finished just a neck behind last year’s Breeders Crown winner, Rockin Amadeus, in the New Jersey Sire Stakes Final on June 1 at the Meadowlands.

The field hardly shallows out as one sorts through the contenders. Apprentice Hanover (post 6) was thought to be one of the top colts in North America before two subpar miles in Pennsylvania Sire Stakes action. Beach Memories (post 5) has reeled off four wins in five starts, with his latest being a 1:49 4/5 mile at the Meadows.

Even the expected longer-priced horses come post time – Dovuto Hanover (post 3) and Resistance Futile (post 7) – have displayed the ability to pace with the best.

The North America Cup elimination action starts in race 3, in which Captaintreacherous (post 5) will be heavily favored to defeat his six foes. The Tim Tetrick-driven and Tony Alagna-trained colt won his only start of 2013 in 1:49 4/5 and recently prepped for the eliminations with a fast training mile at the Meadowlands on June 1. He will face (from the rail out) Moonliteonthebeach, Varadero Hanover, Evenin Of Pleasure, See And Ski, Sunshine Beach, and Captive Audience.

The second elimination (race 7) is a wide-open affair on paper. Rockin Amadeus, fresh off a NJSS victory in 1:49 3/5, figures to be the slight favorite from post 4 over a stacked field. Twilight Bonfire (post 2) comes in off a 1:50 1/5 win in Sire Stakes company at the Meadows. Wake Up Peter (post 5) was a hard-luck third behind Rockin Amadeus in the NJSS Final. Martini Hanover (post 7) already has a 1:49 3/5 win to his credit at Mohegan Sun Pocono for trainer Chris Ryder. Fool Me Once (post 3) and Sweet Talkin Satin (post 6) each put in solid in-the-money finishes in last week’s Somebeachsomewhere.

First post for Saturday’s 13-race North America Cup elimination card at Mohawk is 7:25 pm.