Day At The Track


05:43 AM 26 Aug 2007 NZST
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Danae Prayer I Am
Danae - The Hambletonian Oaks was no fluke
Prayer I Am - A repeat American National champion

Many of North America’s top sophomore trotters descended upon Balmoral Park on Saturday night as a pair of prestigious American National Stakes shared top billing on the big 14-race card.

The $205,000 colt match-up provided a mild upset as the C. Kevin Thomas trained Prayer I Am became a repeat American National champion with a game half-length triumph in 1:54.3.

Sent away from post position seven by driver Charles Sells Prayer I Am was able to find a favorable spot in fourth as Great Success (Mike Lachance) and Xactly Hanover (Dave Magee) battled through an opening quarter in 28.4

Those two trotters continued to slug it out on the backstretch with Xactly Hanover in command as the 10 sophomores raced by the halfway point in 57.1.

That’s when disaster struck for the leader as the speedball made a nasty break heading into the final turn. The miscue caused the pocket sitting Lachance to grab a strong hold of Great Success while also knocking Hitchhiker (Mike Oosting), who was sitting in third at the time, off stride.

Sells deftly managed to steer clear of the trouble swinging to the outside of horses as the field moved around the turn. Moving powerfully around his troubled rivals Prayer I Am grabbed command as the field reached the three-quarter-mile pole in 1:26.1.

“My horse really was getting over the track nicely the entire way,” noted Sells. “That helped me get around that trouble on the turn.”

With clear sailing in front of them Sells and Prayer I Am set sail for home. Continuing to maintain a 1 ¼ length advantage at the midstretch call the pair began to feel the heat from Review Stakes winner Rune (Marcus Johansson) who was gobbling up ground on the outside. Great Success was also back on course and was a menacing third while looking for a seam to split the top pair.

“I forgot just how long this stretch here at Balmoral is,” said Sells. “I just kept driving on and on and my horse really dug in and wouldn’t let that other horse get by him tonight.”

The homebred son of Like A Prayer was as tough as nails on this night holding his rivals at bay to post his second win in eight trips postward. Rune turned in a solid effort to finish second while Great Success wound up a troubled third.

Last year’s American National Two-Year-Old Trotting Colt champion returned a healthy $12.40, $6.20 & $5.20 to his backers.

In the winners circle a jubilant Roy Dobbins who bred and owns the winning colt sounded like he had some plans for a portion of the $94,300 winner’s check. “After winning this race we may spend the $30,000 it costs to supplement to the World Trotting in Derby in DuQuoin,” said the smiling Dobbins. “I’ll have to talk to Kevin and see what he thinks about it but I’d sure like to go.”

In the $150,000 filly division Rodney Mitchell Inc. & Teague Inc.’s Danae proved her win in the Hambletonian Oaks was no fluke as she rallied in the final strides to best heavy favorite Possess The Magic by a half-length in 1:55.3.

Taking advantage of a text book steer by local hero Ryan Anderson the daughter of Andover Hall floated away from post position five and was parked in third as J C Josie (Homer Hochstetler) led the ladies through an easy opening quarter of 29.2.

Gaining control after three-eighths of a mile Anderson was more than content to let Possess The Magic (Mike Lachance) grab the point as the fillies proceeded to the half mile mark.

“I was happy we were able to make the favorite (Possess The Magic) work to get around us,” said Anderson. With the tempo picking up a bit on the backside the leader hit the halfway station in 57.2.

A live outer tier continued to make things interesting around the final turn but the top two spots remained unchanged as the field reached the three-quarter mile station in 1:27.0.

Through the lane Possess The Magic continued to cling tenaciously to a one-length advantage as Falls For You (Dave Magee) took her shot at the pace setter. The pocket sitting Danae was still full of trot while patiently awaiting her chance to pounce on the leader.

“Anytime you can sit right on the back of a horse that’s as good as Possess The Magic is you’re pretty confident you’ll have a big chance to take your best shot in the late going,” explained Anderson who is now a two-time American National winner.

Slipping into the passing lane with a sixteenth of a mile to go Danae once again flashed the powerful closing kick that earned her the Hambletonian Oaks title. Moving with long fluid strides the George Teague Jr. trained miss roared home in 28.1 to earn her second win of the season. Possess The Magic was forced to settle for the bridesmaid role while 63-1 longshot Wishful Me (Don Swick Jr.) closed willingly to get the show dough.

Sent off as the 2-1 second choice in the wagering Danae returned $6.60, $3.20 & $2.60 while running her seasonal earnings over the $460,000 mark.

In the regular Saturday night feature Redbud Stable & Michael Mcneely’s Thisbigdogwillfight continued to live up to his name nipping Michigan invader Action Figure in the final strides to take the $21,500 Higher Power Free For All in 1:50.3. The win was the 10th in 17 starts this season for the state-bred four-year-old.

Tom Kelley

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