06/14/2012 7:23AM

Mohawk: Sweet Lou looks best in extremely strong North America Cup field

New Image Media
Sweet Lou after setting a Canadian record time in his North America Cup elimination.

Saturday’s $1.5 million North America Cup field could be the greatest collection of 3-year-old pacing talent in the 29-year history of this jewel on the Canadian stakes calendar. History will likely prove the validity of that statement, but for those that enjoy facts, 2012 appears to be the first NA Cup final where every entrant is coming off a sub-1:50 mile in his elimination start.

Most fans and experts will concede that this stellar group has a leading colt named Sweet Lou. The Yankee Cruiser-Sweet Future offspring with the name reminiscent of Lou Pinella, who was called that because of his sweet swing, possess a similarly natural striding ability that allows him to cover ground on the track with complete ease.

Following a standout freshman campaign where he posted a 10-for-12 record and earned the United States Harness Writers Association’s 2-year-old Pacing Colt of the Year award, Sweet Lou came into this year with high expectations. He has not disappointed.

Lou is perfect in three starts and posted one of the most impressive North America Cup elimination performances you have ever seen. With Dave Palone in the bike, he brushed to the front and kept finding more speed in his seemingly limitless tank. When the timer stopped all spectators were amazed by the new Canadian record time of 1:47 4/5. That is with the exception of the man who knows him best, trainer Ron Burke.

“I wasn’t surprised at all,” said Burke. “His potential is unlimited. Since his second race at Lexington when he came home in 25 2/5, and then the following week when he was 13 lengths off at the half and won under wraps, since then, you just kind of get used to it.”

What makes the record-setting performance even more incredible was that Burke says Sweet Lou was not 100 percent during his elimination.

“Last week he had some mucus and his temperature was a bit low at 98 degrees,” said Burke. “He is not a great trainer, but even for him I thought he trained blah.”

With the final looming on Saturday, Burke reported that Sweet Lou’s blood and temperature were perfect.
“I know this week he is the sharpest he has been this year,” said Burke, who lacks the confidence that others have in Sweet Lou.

“Nobody can beat Sweet Lou. He’s much the best,” said trainer Jimmy Takter.

“I don’t think I can beat Sweet Lou,” said driver Jody Jamieson, who drives second choice Warrawee Needy. “I think my horse is definitely in that class, but I look at his record and I can’t believe that he got beat. I can’t believe a horse that was that dominant on Saturday ever got beat.”

But Burke remains grounded despite the tales of greatness being bandied about by his peers.

“I know how hard it is to win a race like this,” said Burke. “I have been beaten before when I thought I had the best horse.

“I don’t have the faith in him yet that I have in Foiled Again,” remarked Burke on his older stable star with nearly $4 million in earnings. “He earned that trust by always giving his all and never putting in a bad race.”

Foiled Again is now 8 and had his best career season as a 7-year-old, an age that perhaps Sweet Lou can see on the track.

“He’s coming back for his 4-year-old season for sure,” said Burke as he looked to the future. “There is not even a doubt in my mind. Everything I do has that thought in my mind.

“We are racehorse people first,” he continued. “I may even breed him at five and race him as well.”

Before Sweet Lou gets to his 4-year-old season he must battle the field in Saturday’s North America Cup. If last week’s elimination effort is any indication, Warrawee Needy, who finished a close second to Sweet Lou, will be the main danger.

“I love my horse,” said Jamieson. “How many horses in history have paced a 1:48 mile in their first start as a 3-year-old. I don’t think you could find one.”

While Sweet Lou was able to select post four as an added benefit of winning his elimination, Warrawee Needy was at the mercy of the draw and wound up on the outer half of the gate in post eight.

“I don’t really like to give my hand away early but there is really only one thing I can do from post eight,” said Jamieson, who thought that he might be in an early speed battle with A Rocknroll Dance, who drew just to his inside.

A Rocknroll Dance finished fifth in his elimination and made the final by the less than a length. But he had an excuse in the race, as he was interfered with by Mel Mara in the stretch.

“Turning for home I had a lot of pace and there was no doubt in my mind he was a winner at that point,” said driver Yannick Gingras about the elimination race. “His leg got stuck in the wheel for a second. I honestly thought he was going to take off running.”

Dapper Dude wound up winning that elimination at nearly 10-1 and chose post two for the final. Although the son of The Panderosa has only been worse than second once in nine career starts, he seems likely to go off at another healthy mutuel come Saturday.

Others signed on to the featured event on the stakes-filled card at Mohawk Racetrack are Bettors Edge (post 1), Time To Roll (post 3), Thinking Out Loud (post 5), State Treasurer (post 6), Pet Rock (post 9), and Simply Business (post 10).

If last week’s elimination was any indicator, they could all be part of something special in the $1.5 million final. Will we see the ever so likely extending of the legacy of Sweet Lou or perhaps a David besting Goliath moment?

Tune in to the seventh race at 9:40 p.m. on Saturday and watch for yourself.