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year-old pacers eligible to the 2017 Pepsi North America Cup were out in full force Monday morning (May 8) at Mohawk Racetrack, as a robust 14-dash qualifying session went forth at the Campbellville, Ont. course.


The qualifiers took place over a 'good' track and the judges deemed the course two seconds slow.


The Casie Coleman-trained and Jonathan Drury-driven Ideal Wheel helped kick off the session, as the Cup-eligible colt made his 2017 charted debut in Race 1. The American Ideal bay started from Post 5 and sat well back in fourth through the :27.3 opening quarter and the :55.3 half. Ideal Wheel was first-over in third by the time three quarters flashed in 1:24.3, but was still five and a half lengths in arrears of the pacesetter, Mc Mach, driven by Paul MacDonell. Ideal Wheel quickly erased his disadvantage, as he held a two-length lead at the head of the lane. He would go on to pace his final quarter in :28.1 and post a four-length victory over Mc Mach. Ideal Wheel’s win time was 1:53.4. Mac Nichol (of Burlington, Ont.) owns Ideal Wheel, who was a $150,000 Harrisburg yearling purchase that has been assessed as the co-20-1 eighth choice in Trot Magazine’s 2017 Pepsi North America Cup Spring Book.


The Rick Zeron-trained and driven Mass Production, who was a winner of his Ontario Sires Stakes Super Final division last fall, made his second qualifying effort of the year in Race 2. The three-year-old Muscle Mass gelding left from Post 3 and threw a gate-to-wire mile at his rivals. When all was said and done, the bay trotted to a convincing six and a half-length win in 1:57.2. Mass Production won five of his nine starts last year and banked over $285,000.


Last season’s Earl Rowe winner, Lookslikeachpndale, made his 2017 charted debut in Race 4. With Sylvain Filion in the bike for trainer Luc Blais, the five-year-old son of Muscle Hill closed from the backfield to get up and post a half-length victory in 1:59. The bay horse won four of his 16 starts last year and hit the board nine times, which helped him bank more than $229,000 during his campaign.


Qualifying for the second time since his solid 2016 campaign, older pacing heavyweight Shamballa was front and centre for trainer/driver Rick Zeron in Race 5. After having started from Post 4, the seven-year-old Somebeachsomewhere gelding was forwardly placed through the opening quarter (:29.2) and half (:58.2), but had worked his way to the lead by the time the third clock flashed to life in 1:27.2. Zeron threw his mount into gear in the final quarter (:27.4) and the duo paced away to an eight and three-quarter-length win in 1:55.1. Shamballa captured $439,000 in purses last year and also lowered his mark to 1:47.1 over the Meadowlands Racetrack.


Multiple OSS Gold winner Tycoon Seelster recorded his second qualifying mile of 2017 in Race 6. Trained by Scott McEneny and driven by Paul MacDonell, the three-year-old Angus Hall gelding started from Post 4 and was positioned third through the opening half mile. MacDonell slipped his charge out first-over on the final turn, and duo then ground down the leader before posting a three-quarters of one-length victory in 1:59.4.

Fast forward to Race 9 and it was Sports Column, who has been ranked as the 10-1 third choice in Trot’s Spring Book, who was racing in his second charted mile of the year. Regular pilot Chris Christoforou was in the sulky for trainer Blake MacIntosh. After starting from Post 4, Christoforou wanted the lead, so he raced two-wide into the turn while Streakvana (driven by Sylvain Filion) clicked off the opening quarter in :28.4. Sports Column grabbed the lead in the second quarter and cut the rest of the fractions (:58, 1:27). He finished off his mile with a :28.2 final quarter and posted the three-length win in 1:55.2. Streakvana, the 16-1 sixth choice in Trot’s Spring Book, finished second and paced in 1:56. Sports Column, who was plucked out of the Lexington Selected sale for $20,000, is owned by MacIntosh (of Cambridge, Ont.) along with Hutt Racing Stable (Paoli, PA) and Daniel Plouffe (Bromont, Quebec). Sports Column was a multiple OSS Gold winner last year and also captured the Battle of Waterloo. He won four of his six freshman starts and banked $222,000 in purses.


Last year’s Metro Pace winner, Beyond Delight, who is the 12-1 fourth choice in Trot’s Spring Book, made his seasonal charted debut in Race 11 for driver Sylvain Filion and trainer Tony O’Sullivan. The O'Brien Award winning Bettors Delight colt started from Post 3 and sat a pocket trip as Bet On Brett (driven by Rick Zeron) cut the fractions in :28.1, :57 and 1:26. Beyond Delight was on top by a length as the field reached the top of the lane. He came home with a :29.3 final quarter and held off closer Some Attitude (driven by Paul MacDonell) for the head win. Beyond Delight won three of his 11 starts last year, which included a division of the Champlain Stakes. He heads into his 2017 campaign with over $423,000 in purses in his bank account.