Brian Brown talks about his double participation in the Cup
MILTON, June 17, 2022 – This year’s edition of the Pepsi North America Cup is proving twice as good for harness racing coach Brian Brown.
When the field of 10 lines up behind the door for the 39e edition of the $1 million classic, the conditioner from Ostrander, Ohio will have two opportunities, in the form of Ario Hanover and Night Hawk, for a shot at the coveted Cup trophy.
“Wish I had more, but I only have two ready to go,” Brown joked.
Son of 2013 Pepsi North America Cup winner Traitor Captain, Ario Hanover is the sixth product of A Filly To Fear. The bay colt, a $45,000 buy at the 2020 Harrisburg Yearling Sale, sports a 1-4-1 record in seven lifetime starts for the ownership group of Kirk L Nichols, Aws Stbs Llc, Joe Sbrocco and Rich Lombardo Racing.
Ario Hanover, dispatched on his way to 35-1, clinched his ticket to the final after an impressive rally to finish third in his Cup qualifier last Saturday at Woodbine Mohawk Park, highlighted by a :26.1 last quarter.
“If you look at his lines, he always finishes every race well. It actually comes out of a very high number of blanks, so we’re reducing it. You can see how much it went down with the way he ran in the playoff. I wouldn’t say it’s perfectly normal, but he’s been training well and he’s doing well. I expect him to have a good race.
After just one start as a two-year-old, the bay colt beat his young daughter in Miami Valley in April, clocking the mile in 1:52.4.
Brown thinks the wheels are turning in his sophomore’s favor as he prepares for the biggest race of his career to date.
“I liked that the horse went into his elim. We knew we had him better, but then again, he’s healthier now and he’s really sharp. He ran well for us.
The other half of Brown’s stunt double is Night Hawk, an ultra-coherent son of bet linewinner of the 2016 Pepsi North America Cup.
Owned by Acadia Farms Inc., Joe Sbrocco, In The Gym Partners and Leeman Lombardo Stable, Night Hawk will be looking to do better in Race 11 on Saturday night after a second-place finish in their Cup elimination last week.
Setting a lifetime record of five wins and two seconds out of seven starts, the $35,000 purchase at the 2020 Lexington Select Yearling Sale recorded a decisive neck win on May 30, winning a Pennsylvania Sire Stakes split in 1: 48.4 – a career-best mark, the fastest mile of the year at Pocono and the fastest mile by a three-year-old of the season.
“He’s a beautiful horse,” Brown said of the colt, who won both of his starts as a two-year-old and is the first foal out of the Somebeachsomewhere Night Music mare. “We made some changes on him. We return to the shadow roller. We had it in Pocono, where they race during the day. When he warmed up, he jumped shadows. So I added the shadow roll back just to be sure. David [driver, Miller] said last Saturday that the horse saw something at the head of the stretch and stepped aside, so we think he really wasn’t paying attention.
Brown hopes keeping his eyes on the prize will help boost Night Hawk’s chances in the Finals.
“Now don’t get me wrong, when you go for a quarter-mile sprint with [morning line Cup choice] Pebble Beach, most horses will lose. It’s crazy fast, at least over a quarter mile, and I’m sure it’s fast for longer. But over a quarter mile, I don’t think a three year old can beat it. I’m not saying our horse should have won [the elim], but I think he should have been even stronger last Saturday. So we’re going back to shadow rolling just to make it focus. And I’m going to switch from steel to aluminum.
Brown, who shut down Night Hawk last July due to a sore cannon bone in his rear left ankle, is thrilled to find his young star back on track.
“He’s a wonderful horse and just like Ario he always comes out and tries every time.”
The appeal of Night Hawk is having David Miller on the race bike. The decorated kidney accompanied Betting Line to the 2016 Cup victory.
A year later, it was Brown’s turn to join the victory parade when Fear The Dragon, with Miller in the sulky, took all the spoils. In all, Brown fielded four Cup starters and all finished third or better.
Now the coach with 1,778 career wins has doubled his chances of adding a second piece of Cup gear to his trophy case.
And he does it with horses that have very different personalities from each other.
“Ario, he has become very studious. But he probably has a funnier attitude, except when he’s studying. He’s a nice horse in the stable. Night Hawk is very nervous and easily spooked. You are always worried when you put the cart on that it might get scared and run away. On the track, he’s been pretty good other than looking at things. He skipped things in the past. I feel very lucky to have these two horses in our stable and to be there on Saturday. We are really looking forward to it.
The key to either of his horses winning the top prize is no revelation.
“For both horses, the journey is going to be everything. I think the winner is the one who will make the trip. I don’t know how many of them are good enough to get beat up and still win the race, any horse, let alone mine. It should be a great race.
Did Brown show the photo of the NA Cup winner’s circle of Fear The Dragon’s Cup starters, for inspiration?
“No, but we whispered his name to them.”
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by Chris Lomon, for Woodbine Entertainment