Dominant Lopes braced for challenges ahead
Tyler Lopes is bracing for what promises to be one of the most competitive fields in the Free for All in recent memory during the upcoming harness season.
The top driver dominated the sport with Cherokee's Ironman last season, winning the coveted Champion of Champions and Aged Stakes titles.
He also steered Arnold Manders's gelding to the season's fastest time of 1:02/4 racing on the rail in the second heat of the Champion of Champions finals.
Manders's racing pony, which holds all the records for a two-year-old on the ¼mile, five-sixteenth and half-mile tracks in Indiana, as well as the three-year-old record on the ½mile and five-sixteenth tracks, is again expected to be thick in the hunt for honours this season.
However, Lopes admits that man and beast have their work cut out as his rivals seek to put an end to their reign at the top.
“The Free for All is looking like it's going to be one of the most competitive we've seen in a long time,” Lopes, the grandson of seasoned driver David Lopes, said.
“It's definitely going to be interesting.”
Asked does he believe Cherokee's Ironman can surpass last season's achievements, Lopes said: “We have our hopes, but we will have a great year with him whether he surpasses last year or not.”
The driver is excited about the upcoming season and has left no stone unturned in preparation for the battles to unfold at the Bermuda Equestrian Centre on Vesey Street.
“Pre-season preparations have been busy and sometimes stressful,” Lopes said. “The ponies are getting fitter and are ready to race, so they're right where we want them to be at this point.”
Lopes will be kept busy over the coming months competing in the sulky of multiple ponies.
“This year hopefully I'll be driving three ponies,” he said. “I'll have Ironman, IC's Overextended and a two-year-old filly that I own named Google Me.”
The new season was scheduled to start last Saturday but was cancelled because of Tropical Storm Karl.
Organisers Driving Horse and Pony Club now hope to get the new season up and running on Saturday. Post time is 7pm.