CAMPBELLVILLE, Ont. — Workin Ona Mystery's handlers are pulling out all the stops to ensure the horse is at his best Saturday night in the $1-million Pepsi North American Cup.
The American three-year-old was pretty good last weekend, winning his elimination race in career-best 1:49.0, the fastest time of the two heats. Bettors Wish captured the other with a personal-best effort of 1:49.3.
Workin Ona Mystery won impressively despite suffering from severe allergies. Trainer Brian Brown said Tuesday during the race draw at Woodbine Mohawk Park that the 2/1 early favourite was undergoing treatment in a hyperbaric chamber at Lexington, Ky., so he could be completely healthy come post time.
"It's basically the same thing that it is for humans, just bigger," Brown said. "It takes a little while to do but once they're in it and it's running right, the horse actually enjoys it.
"The horse has some allergies, we're dealing with it. As good as he raced the other day, the scope (after the race) was as real bad. A horse should not have raced like he did but some just fight through everything and luckily we have one of those horses that has the will to win and wants to be a good horse."
Hyperbaric therapy delivers high concentrations of pure oxygen in a pressurized chamber. A patient inhales the oxygen, increasing its delivery to the body and enhancing its natural healing process.
Hyperbaric chambers for horses can accommodate up to three animals. Some models resemble circular stalls with enough room for a horse to walk around or even lie down during treatment.
"You heal him up, there's a possibility he's not much better than he was," Brown said. "But in reality, you'd think he'll be much better."
While the treatment might sound extravagant, the race is Canada's richest harness event with a $500,000 winner's share. Brown won the '17 North America Cup with Fear The Dragon.
"It's such a different feeling to win a race with this much prestige and money," Brown said. "Sure, I've won races and some that were pretty nice but to win with all of that, the prestige and money, it's just a whole different feeling."
As elimination winners, the handlers for Workin Ona Mystery and Bettors Wish got to select their post positions Tuesday. Brown took the No. 4 hole while Chantal Mitchell, Bettors Wish's assistant trainer, selected the No. 3 position.
"That was (driver Tim Tetrick's) choice, he wanted to be in a position where he's not rushed and crammed," Brown said. "He can choose when the gate leaves if he wants to go forward, to float or take back.
"If you're on the inside you can get jammed up pretty good. Jimmy is the one with experience, he knows what he's doing and we stand behind him."
Tetrick has won this race twice (2013 with Captaintreacherous, 2015 with Wakizashi Hanover). Workin Ona Mystery has finished first in all three of his '19 races and eight-of-nine overall.
The field, with post, horse, driver and odds, includes: 1) Aflame Hanover: Andrew McCarthy, 20-1; 2. De Los Cielos Deo: David Miller, 9/2; 3) Bettors Wish: Dexter Dunn, 4/1; 4) Workin Ona Mystery, Tetrick, 2/1; 5) Captain Victorious: Yannick Gingras, 12/1; 6) Tyga Hanover, Sylvain Filion, 15/1; 7) Best In Show: Bob McClure, 15/1; 8) Captain Crunch: Scott Zeron, 5/2; 9) Hurrikane Emperor: Daniel Dube, 15/1; 10) Stag Party: Brian Sears, 12/1.
At No. 3, Dunn will be able to closely monitor what Tetrick does with Working Ona Mystery. And Mitchell said Bettors Wish will give Dunn plenty of options during the race.
"Bettors Wish is a versatile horse, he can race any way you want him to," she said. "He's always had issues in front of him and they never phase him, he just goes with the flow.
"Wherever the driver needs to point him he'll go."
Bettors Wish has won all four of his races this year and 9-of-16 overall. He's finished in the money 15 times and yet is the third choice.
"This horse, he's always kind of the underdog," Mitchell said. "It seems to be normal for him."
Brown has no problem with Workin Ona Mystery being deemed the horse to beat.
"If I was the favourite in every race I'd thrilled because everybody and me would think I have a shot," he said. "I'm not worried, I'm not superstitious about the favourite and all the things that can go wrong (because) I've had them all happen to me.
"With this horse, as long as the breathing is good, this horse will be good."
Dan Ralph, The Canadian Press