Waples, 48, a resident of Milton, Ont., will drive Canadian-owned Your So Vain on Saturday night at Mohawk Racetrack. Last week, Scott Zeron of Oakville, Ont., drove both Your So Vain and Master of Law to victory in their elimination races but opted to take Master of Law for the final.
That allowed Waples to pick up the drive on Your So Vain, who at 9-2 odds upset 2-5 favourite and Hambletonian champion Royalty For Life.
"I'm very fortunate to pick up a very live catch drive," said Waples. "This horse really seems to be on his game right now and coming into the race in top form.
"It looks like he takes a while to get involved in the race, so racing luck is going to be important. He's got a punishing late kick, which he used in his elimination and is also a major plus for us."
Waples will drive a horse that has recorded three wins and two second-place finishes in seven starts for earnings of $98,118 after having had to deal with some bad racing luck two weeks ago.
He was to drive Arthur Blue Chip in the $683,000 Metro Pace at Mohawk on Aug. 31 but the 7-2 early second pick was scratched from North America's richest event for two year olds with a lung infection. Waples had driven Arthur Blue Chip to victory in his elimination race and the son of Shadow Play-Advantest had been training well heading into the race.
It's not hard to understand why Zeron chose to drive the American owned and bred Master of Law. The horse has won six straight after making a break in his debut.
"I know how talented he is, so does Frank (trainer Frank Antonacci)," Zeron said. "But he just wanted to take his time and let him mature a little bit because he's a little bit tough to handle in a race.
"We wanted to bring him along nice and easy, so we tripped him out his first few starts, then at Lexington we let him go to the front. He’s very tough to handle but it’s his absolute endurance (that’s his best quality). He can go all day. He likes to mow them down."
The field for Saturday's race, with post, horse, driver and odds includes: 1) Wheeling N Dealin, Sylvain Filion of Saint-Andre-D'Argenteuil, Que., 10-1; 2) Punxsutawney, Corey Callahan, 12-1; 3) Master Of Law, Zeron, 3-1; 4) Your So Vain, Waples, 7/2; 5) Toocool Forschool, Jody Jamieson of Moffat, Ont., 30-1; 6) Royalty For Life, Brian Sears, 5/2; 7) Pine Credit, Doug McNair of Guelph, Ont., 15-1; 8) Corky, David Miller, 15-1; 9) All Laid Out, Yannick Gingras of Sorel, Que., 20-1; and 10) Smilin Eli, Tim Tetrick, 10-1.
Also on Saturday night is the $365,000 William Wellwood Memorial Trot for two-year-old colts and geldings and the $374,000 Peaceful Way for two-year-old filly trotters.
Driver Brian Sears and Royalty For Life will be looking for redemption Saturday following their stunning elimination race loss but trainer George Ducharme isn't concerned.
"He raced fine in my opinion but he was fighting a sickness the entire week before the elimination, so I'm sure he wasn't 100 per cent," said Ducharme. "We’re fortunate enough to get post six in the final, which is a relief.
"That’s a good spot for him."
Royalty For Life's second-place finish certainly didn't scare the oddsmaker, who installed him as the early favourite. Royalty For Life has five wins and two second-place finishes in 10 starts with earnings of $884,850 for Ducharme.
With career earnings exceeding $1.2 million, Royalty For Life is the Classic's leading money winner and will look to become the latest Hambletonian winner to claim this event, following the likes of Market Share, Muscle Hill, Donato Hanover and Deweycheatumnhowe.
Ducharme says Royalty For Life is the type of horse a trainer can only dream of handling.
"This is the best horse I've ever had and he's a joy to be around," he said. "I've been in this game over 30 years, straight out of high school, and he's just a dream.
"He's a once in a lifetime horse, especially for a small-time guy like me. It's been a thrilling season, one I'll never forget, and hopefully it continues."
However, winning Saturday night won't be easy.
"It’s a very wide open race," Ducharme said. "That horse of Frank Antonacci's (Master Of Law) is coming into the final in great condition and I was really impressed with the way Your So Vain trotted home last week.
"It's going to be a real good horse race."Suggest a correction