CAMPBELLVILLE, Ont. - He's the most prolific trainer in Breeders' Crown history and a member of two horse racing halls of fame. Now, Bob McIntosh finally has his first Pepsi North America Cup title.
The 59-year-old native of Leamington, Ont., finally got to celebrate winning the world's richest pacing event when Randy Waples guided Thinking Out Loud to an impressive victory in the $1.5 million North America Cup at Mohawk Raceway. And for good measure, Dapper Dude, McIntosh's other entry in the 10-horse field, finished behind Time To Roll in third with driver John Campbell, a native of Ailsa Craig, Ont., and a six-time race champion.
"It's a great field of horses and it always comes down to racing luck and racing luck was on our side," McIntosh said. "Randy drove great, John drove a fantastic race and finished third with Dapper Dude.
"It was a very exciting night. But we bred this horse (Thinking Out Loud) . . . it makes it extra special when you win with a homebred."
McIntosh is one of Canadian standardbred racing's most accomplished conditioners. He has earned four O’Brien Award trophies as Canada’s top trainer (1991, 1992, 1998 and 2008) and two as Canada's top breeder (2007, 2010) to his credit. But in February he suffered a broken pelvis in a training accident that required surgery.
Thinking Out Loud earned its fourth win in six starts this year in record fashion, crossing the finish line in a stakes-record time of 1:47.4, which also tied the Canadian and track records as well. The victory also earned Waples, a Toronto native now living in Milton, Ont., his first North America Cup, a title his father, Ron, claimed in 1993 with Presidential Ball.
"It's just an unbelievable feeling," Waples said. "I just drove a horse for someone who is in every Hall of Fame in the world.
"He makes it so easy and his crew is unbelievable. He (Thinking Out Loud) has been a great horse since he set foot on the track. I was lucky enough to pick him up and I owe it all to Bob and his crew. A monkey could've done the same thing but I'm glad that for tonight my name is Bubbles."
Added McIntosh: "Randy and I go quite a ways back. Randy's dad, Ron, and I go back way, way back. The Waples' name is nothing but class. I'm happy for Randy and I'm sure Ron is proud of him."
Waples guided Thinking Out Loud to its seventh win in 10 career starts and the $750,000 winner's share boosted the horse's overall earnings over $860,000. The colt has never finished worse than third in a race but McIntosh was forced to shut him down last year the result of a bone bruise.
"It was a hard decision but we had to do the right thing for the horse and we shut him down for the year," McIntosh said. "He is paying us back for that patience now I guess."
However, McIntosh said he knew early Thinking Out Loud was capable of big things.
"When I was tuning him up to baby race, I knew he was going to be special," he said. "Last year when Randy raced him a little bit he said, 'That's your best colt.'
But Saturday's win was by the slimmest of margins as Thinking Out Loud beat Time To Roll by a head. And Time To Roll's margin of victory over Dapper Dude was also by a head.
"I thought at the head of the stretch that we had a legitimate shot to win," Campbell said. "History has shown that Bob's horses get better as the year goes on so I'm looking forward to it.
"It's going to be a great, competitive year."
Sweet Lou, the 1-2 favourite, had to settle for fourth after three straight wins. Sweet Lou finished last season winning 10-of-12 starts
"I thought he was all right tonight," trainer Ron Burke said of Sweet Lou. "Maybe he wasn't as good as we would've hoped but at the same time I think it took a lot out of all three of us that were near the front.
"I still feel he's the best colt and I'm not going to panic over it. It's a great run for Bob, he's a great trainer."
The remainder of the field, in order of finish, was State Treasurer, Bettors Edge, A Rocknroll Dance, Pet Rock, Simply Business and Warrawee Needy.
Driver Jody Jamieson won last year's race with Up The Credit but said he couldn't get Warrawee Needy to settle down Saturday.
"When I started him up I just couldn't get him to relax," Jamieson said. "The more I tried to get him to relax, the more he went.
"It just tired him out."
Thinking Out Loud paid $18.60, $8.40 and $8.50 while Time To Roll returned $9 and $9.10. Dapper Dude paid $9.50.
Also on Saturday's card, Jim Tetrick drove Check Me Out to a stirring victory in the $530,000 Elegantimage Stakes for three-year-old filly trotters. Last year's champion two-year-old edged Maven by a nose in posting a stakes, track and Canadian record time of 1:52.1
Later, Tetrick drove American Jewel to victory in the $642,000 Fan Hanover Stakes for three-year-old filly pacers in a world record time of 1:48.20.
Ron Pierce guided Beer Summit to an impressive win in the $351,000 Goodtimes trot for three-year-olds. The 8-1 pick crossed the finish line in 1:52.2, a stakes-record performance that also tied the track mark.
Pembroke Heat Wave, a 5-1 selection driven by Brian Sears, captured the $376,000 Armbro Flight for trotting fillies and mares. Pembroke Heat Wave won the race in 1:54.0, finishing ahead of Cedar Dove and China Pearls, the 8-5 favourite.