08/29/2014 9:57AM

Tioga: Luck Be Withyou looks to upset in Cane Pace

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Derick Giwner
Ron Pierce is confident in Luck Be Withyou's ability.

The $437,325 Cane Pace, the first jewel in the Triple Crown for three-year-old male pacers at Tioga Downs on Labor Day, shapes up as one of the more competitive events of the year. While the race was an open draw the results of that draw have led to somewhat of a handicap event. Likely favorites He’s Watching (post six) and J K Endofanera (post five) are positioned in such a way to make the Cane something to watch and surely wager on.

While luck of the draw wasn’t with the aforementioned Meadowlands Pace and North America Cup winners it did come packaged nicely for last year’s Breeders Crown champion Luck Be Withyou. The Chris Oakes-trained colt landed the pole position and has the services of Hall of Fame driver Ron Pierce in the bike.

Luck Be Withyou is coming off a dead-heat for second in the Millstein at Northfield and Pierce is hoping things work out a little differently this time around.

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“I had trouble steering him,” Pierce said of the Millstein, where his horse was racing without cover the final half. “He was bearing in and I had to concentrate and steering him and couldn’t drive him at all. I think if I could have driven him he would have won.”

It’s been an up and down season for the son of American Ideal. He’s been in the major races but hasn’t been up to the task when the big money is riding. Trainer Oakes has given him plenty of time to prepare for the late-summer and fall classics over the Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs five-eighths mile track. Racing against quality aged performers Luck Be Withyou has blossomed and enters Monday’s contest as the fastest three-year-old in the field over a five-eighths mile track among the group.

“I think he’s got as much talent as any in the field,” said Pierce, “He just needs to be able to go straight. With the rail position how the (starting) car gets up to speed makes a big difference.”

Pierce, like most Hall of Famers, doesn’t like to leave much to chance. “I spoke with Chris (Oakes) last night and he’s going to make a few changes to the equipment. I think the headpoles need to be tighter,” said Pierce.

Despite the advantageous post position the Cane field has a ton of speed and talent and a very hot property in He’s Watching.

“He had three weeks off before the Meadowlands Pace and the Empire Breeders Classic and that worked out well,” said Dave Menary, trainer of He’s Watching. “He’s coming into the race in great shape.”

He’s Watching has already proven that he can overcome the draw having captured his Meadowlands Pace elimination from post nine. Post six puts him outside his main rivals but the colt has proven to be quite versatile.

“You can drive him anyway you like,” said Menary of the colt that after going undefeated as a juvenile in 2013 seeks a fifth straight victory in 2014. Early in the season He’s Watching hit some bumps in the road but his trainer now has complete confidence in his talent and ability.

While JK Endofanera has had a solid campaign including capturing the richest race of the year in the North America Cup, his most recent efforts have seen him as second fiddle to He’s Watching. Regular driver Brian Sears hopes to have better racing luck starting inside of He’s Watching in the Cane. When the rivals last met in the Empire Breeders Classic (August 10) JK Endofanera had post eight and He’s Watching post three.

The Cane, the first jewel of Pacing’s Triple Crown, is race nine of 11 on the Tioga Downs afternoon (1:30 p.m. post) program. The Little Brown Jug (Sept. 18) at Delaware, Ohio and the Messenger Stakes (October 25) at Yonkers Raceway are the remaining legs.

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