By Ken Weingartner, USTA — Ron Burke does not often enter horses in the William Wellwood Memorial for 2-year-old trotters, but the trainer has enjoyed success in his limited trips to the event, winning in 2014 with Habitat and 2015 with Southwind Frank.
On Saturday, Burke will have a horse in the Wellwood for only the second time in seven years when T C I meets seven foes in the third of three C$30,000 eliminations at Woodbine Mohawk Park. The colt, named for vacation destination Turks and Caicos Islands, brings a four-race win streak to the race and is the 6-5 morning-line favorite.
T C I and driver David Miller will leave from post three. The top-three finishers from each elimination plus one fourth-place finisher drawn by lot will advance to the C$640,000 final on Aug. 26 at Mohawk.
The winner of the Wellwood receives free entry to the Mohawk Million on Sept. 23.
T C I finished second in his career debut, a division of the Kindergarten Classic Series at The Meadowlands. Since then, the colt has reeled off four consecutive victories by a total of 12-1/2 lengths. His best win time of 1:54.4 in a Kindergarten split at the Big M is tied for eighth fastest among 2-year-old male trotters.
In his most recent start, T C I won a division of the Pennsylvania Sire Stakes at Pocono Downs at Mohegan Pennsylvania by 5-3/4 lengths in 1:55. Only one 2-year-old trotter has gone faster on a five-eighths-mile track this season.
“To me, he seems like the total package,” said Mark Weaver, who owns T C I with Mike Bruscemi, Burke Racing Stable, Hatfield Stables, and Knox Services. “He’s been one of (the stable’s) best trotting colts, if not the best, since day one. He’s done nothing wrong. He seems like a professional, he can race however you want. I wouldn’t change anything about him.
“I’m excited to see how he does up in Canada. This is a race we don’t typically go to, but Ronnie felt he was worthy to be paid into it. It can be difficult to ship to Canada for two weeks, but after his last race, we agreed he should go. He punched his ticket, and we’ll take a shot.”
T C I, a son of Cantab Hall-Nicole’s Promise, was purchased under the name Cantabile for $150,000 at the Standardbred Horse Sale. His full brother Global Pandemic and half-sister Livininthefastlane were Grand Circuit winners.
“Bud (Hatfield) has kind of been the inspiration,” Weaver said. “He usually likes to pick a couple trotters, and he especially likes the Cantabs.
“It’s neat to have trotters. We had three years in a row with (Dan Patch Award-winners) Mission Brief, Southwind Frank, and What The Hill being Hambletonian-types. This year we had Celebrity Bambino and Point Of Perfect win Hambo elims. Now it looks like we’ve got a couple nice trotters like T C I that could put us back in the hunt next year. We had a four- or five-year hiatus but hopefully we’re back in that hunt again.”
Of course, the focus now is on Saturday. T C I faces a group that includes Thinker Monkey, a $500,000 yearling purchase at the Lexington Selected Sale and full brother to 2020 Trotter of the Year Gimpanzee, and recent Ontario Sire Stakes-winner Soar Higher.
“Anytime you go for this kind of money they’re not going to give it away,” Weaver said. “I think (T C I) is worthy. David gets along great with him, and he does a great job of not over-racing these young horses while putting them in a spot where they can win. We’ll know a lot more after Saturday night.”
The morning-line favorite in the first Wellwood elimination is My Way, who is 8-5 for driver Tim Tetrick and trainer Marcus Melander. The colt, a full brother to Mohawk Million winner and Hambletonian runner-up Oh Well, won a preliminary leg of the New Jersey Sire Stakes and was a beaten-neck second in the final.
Winter Soldier, a winner in the Kindergarten Classic Series for driver Andy McCarthy and trainer Tony Alagna, is the second choice at 2-1 followed by unbeaten Send It In Hanover at 3-1. The gelding, trained by Ben Baillargeon and driven by Sylvain Filion, is coming off a victory in the Millard Farms Trotting Series at Mohawk.
In the second elimination, Amazing Catch is the 9-5 favorite for trainer-driver Ake Svanstedt. The colt enters the race off a victory in the Kindergarten series. Mars Hill, who won two preliminary legs of the New Jersey Sire Stakes, is 5-2 and has Todd McCarthy driving for trainer Alagna.
Mohawk also will host two C$30,000 eliminations for the Peaceful Way Stakes for 2-year-old female trotters on Saturday.
In the first, Sunkist Beauty is the 2-1 morning-line favorite. The filly, trained and driven by Svanstedt, finished second in the New Jersey Sire Stakes final after posting a win and a second in the prelims. Second choice at 5-2 is Cheval Rapide, a two-time winner in the Kindergarten, for driver Yannick Gingras and trainer Nancy Takter.
The 5-2 favorite in the second elim is three-time Ontario Sire Stakes series winner Willys Home Run, who is trained by Robert Kyle Fellows and driven by James MacDonald. The 3-1 second choice is two-time Kindergarten series winner Internationalmodel, who will have Scott Zeron driving for trainer Domenico Cecere.
Racing begins at 7 p.m. (EDT) at Mohawk. For free Mohawk programs, visit the track’s website here.