06/13/2013 9:23AM

North America Cup: Is Captaintreacherous invincible?

Derick Giwner
Captaintreacherous is listed as the 2-1 morning line favorite to win the $1,000,000 North America Cup at Mohawk.

Heavy is the head that wears the crown.

Captaintreacherous, the horse and its connections, have more pressure on them heading into Saturday’s $1 million North America Cup at Mohawk than the other nine rivals combined. That pressure is leveled by high expectations of a defending Pacer of the Year.

The “Captain” may have done nothing wrong to date, but the questions still remain. Will Saturday be the official seven-figure coronation his connections expect or a temporary derailment on the road to greatness?

Myron Bell, the architect behind the purchase and eventual syndication of the son of Somebeachsomewhere didn’t mix words when reached on Monday.

“I don’t expect him to go undefeated. That’s fantasy the way races are run,” Bell said, with a clear understanding how difficult it is to race week-in-week-out at a high level and always win.

Bell and the connections of Captaintreacherous had to shed a sigh of relief following this past Saturday’s eliminations. When longshot Captive Audience emerged in the stretch, the Captain’s captain, Tim Tetrick, appeared to go into red-alert mode to shake up the “sleepy” sailor and warn of the impending iceberg.

[DRF HARNESS: Watch + wager on the Saturday North America Cup card at Mohawk]

While the experts had varied opinions on Captaintreacherous’ performance, that started with “incredible bravery” and ended with “he’s supposed to beat Captive Audience by 10 lengths”, the jury remains out with the year’s biggest payday approaching. His 1:48 4/5 effort, a career best, was still accomplished against the weakest of the three elimination fields. Captaintreacherous was able to rate his own fractions kindly, leaving some in the audience concerned what might happen if he was under constant pressure during the mile and not just in the final yards.

The test for Captaintreacherous and any other great or potential great horse is the test of will when faced with incredibly fast fractions. The test comes when horses reach the three quarter pole in 1:21 or faster. That’s the plateau that separates the fast horses from the champions.

Fool Me Once came close to passing that test in his elimination race, pacing on the lead to the three-quarters in 1:21 2/5 and finishing his mile with a :26 4/5 final quarter. But in reality, Fool Me Once wasn’t going all-out from the start to the finish. He was able to relax with a :27 4/5 second quarter. The real test comes when horses aren’t allowed to take a breather from the start to the three-quarter pole. That is likely to happen on Saturday when 10 horses go behind the gate.

Another major factor making the North America Cup anything but a one-horse race is the lack of an appearance of dominance. With only two starts to his credit in 2013, Captaintreacherous has not faced very rugged competition. Yes he’s won both starts, but whom did he really beat?

The same could be said for others since we really don’t know who the divisional leaders are at this juncture. In 2013, the North America Cup arrived with a minimum of prep-races. The owners of Captaintreacherous elected to train the horse (in 1:48 3/5) prior to last week’s elimination race as opposed to entering him in a stakes race at Mohawk. Even Myron Bell conceded that “a training mile is not like a race,” when we spoke on Monday. That is a subject that could be debated far and wide should Captaintreacherous perform below expectations on Saturday. It certainly had to be running through minds this past Saturday when the colt appeared to be napping on the job in the stretch.

Vegas Vacation has won all four of his starts this year after winning just once in 10 starts as a juvenile. The altered son of Bettors Delight has a wicked turn of speed.

The presence of horses with extreme speed will make drivers’ decisions and execution perhaps the most important factor in deciding the outcome on Saturday.

Can Captaintreacherous dictate the pace and survive? Can any of the other contenders dictate and survive?

On paper it seems there is clearly enough speed and no one horse that stands out. That means position and pace may play the most important part to this race.

Only Martini Hanover, from the non-elimination winners, stands out as a legitimate speed horse. Granted the son of Dragon Again did get a break finding the pocket after getting parked nearly a half last week, but he showed staying power in the face of rapid fractions.

Horses like Odds On Equuleus and Apprentice Hanover have done their best racing from off the pace and it’s a major question whether either could contend for the pace early and live to tell about it late.

Sunshine Beach could be excused for his third-place finish in the eliminations or dismissed from final contention on the belief he’s an off-the-pace type without the requisite amount of enduring speed.

Wake Up Peter, the stablemate of Captaintreacherous, is a horse that Bell believes is fast.

“I think he can pace a quarter in 25 seconds,” Bell said, “But I don’t think he can pace four fast quarters.”

Wake Up Peter showed plenty of fire finishing second to Fool Me Once and may prove to be more than a one-run horse. Ron Pierce has been known to throw caution to the wind when the big money is on the line, and in many cases rewarded his followers handsomely.

In the final analysis it is Captaintreacherous’ race to lose. The depth of this three-year-old crop is probably too difficult to assess at this stage in the road. This North America Cup may not have a high percentage of power players, but it has enough. What shouldn’t be lost on those looking for a winner is the incredible talent of the drivers. While Tim Tetrick is renowned, Sylvain Filion and Scott Zeron have shined when the spotlight was cast upon them.

The spotlight doesn’t get any bigger than Saturday at Mohawk.


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