Harness racing Hambletonian hopeful Brooklyn Hill is featured in the second edition of "Fika with Jonas," which airs on YouTube, starting on April 1, 2016. Fika is the Swedish word for a coffee break, and Swedish-born trainer Jonas Czernyson is the star of the monthly series produced by Cody Bach Productions. Czernyson takes the audience into the stall of Brooklyn Hill, a three-year-old son of Muscle Hill, as the trotter is prepared and equipped for a jog on the half-mile sand track and the main racetrack at Winners Training Center in Chesterfield, NJ. Brooklyn Hill, owned by the SRF Stable of Delray Beach, FL, earned $188,700 at two, finishing in-the-money in eight of 10 starts. He picked up his first win in a New Jersey Sire Stakes and posted his mark of 1:53.1 in his final start of 2015, the International Stallion Stakes at Lexington's Red Mile on October 8. In the second episode, Czernyson answers viewer questions about bits and overchecks. Next month in Episode 3, Czernyson will discuss shoeing. Questions and comments may be sent to Christine and Jonas Czernyson through the Team JC Stable page on Facebook, @teamjcstable on Twitter or by email to email@example.com.
The $1 million Hambletonian and filly companion stake, the $500,000 Hambletonian Oaks, will be raced on Saturday afternoon, August 6, at the Meadowlands Racetrack, East Rutherford, New Jersey. The 91st edition of the Open harness racing event will feature eliminations and the final on the same day. Eliminations for the Hambletonian Oaks, if necessary, will be raced the prior week, Saturday, July 30. Mega-trainer Ron Burke has the top-rated trotter in the experimental ratings two years in row. Last year his filly Mission Brief was ranked #1 and finished second in the Hambletonian to Pinkman, and this year's dazzling colt Southwind Frank, who lost just once in 12 starts last year and racked up $786,419 in earnings, is also the winter-book favorite for America's Trotting Classic. "He is training great," said Burke. "He's been in 2:20 and looks great. I kept him up here this winter at Gaitway [Training Center, Manalapan, NJ] because I figured if Takter wins Hambletonians by staying up here in the North, I'm staying up here. If you can't beat 'em, join 'em. "You have to be ready by August and even with Mission Brief last year I always felt I was chasing, chasing, and needed one more week. Keeping Southwind Frank and Make Or Miss who is also coming along unbelievably well up here means they are on schedule, and will be ready." Dan Patch Trainer of the Year Jimmy Takter annexed a fourth Hambletonian title in 2015 with Pinkman, becoming just the fifth trainer to win consecutive Hambletonians since 1926. No trainer has won three in a row, and another win by a Takter-trainee would place him in the rarefied company of five-time Hambletonian winners and immortals of the sport Ben White, Bill Haughton and Stanley Dancer. The Takter stable has 10 trotters eligible to the Hambletonian, with the $324,405 earner Lagerfeld leading the parade. "Lagerfeld is good but I have a few maybe a little better," said Taker." So many of them were sick last year - I think Bar Hopping, Love Matters and the brother to Shake It Cerry [Jimmy William] who is just training fantastic now, may be my sleepers." Jimmy William is a son of the Takter-owned and trained Solveig, who not only earned more than $800,000 herself, but subsequently produced six foals whose current winnings top $4.3 million. Other eligibles include Valley Victory winner Dog Gone Lucky from the Chuck Sylvester stable; Derivative, a son of 2003 Hambletonian winner Amigo Hall who has already made his first start this year for trainer Blair Burgess; Speed It, a son of pacing sire Cam's Rocket who produced the blazingly fast Googoo Gaagaa for trainer Richard Hans, and the foreign owned, bred and trained Ulisse Kronos, an unraced but highly regarded three-quarter brother to Going Kronos. The Hambletonian has been hosted by the Meadowlands Racetrack since 1981. There are no supplemental entries permitted in the Hambletonian and Oaks, nor are participants in those events or the Hambletonian Maturity (July 18), permitted the use of Lasix or Butazolidin. The Hambletonian is the first leg of the trotting Triple Crown, followed by the Yonkers Trot on September 3 and the Kentucky Futurity on October 9. The Hambletonian race is also the longest-running live broadcast in harness racing. The August 6 event will be broadcast live on CBS Sport Network from 4:00-5:30 p.m. [EDT] The Hambletonian Trail commences Saturday, May 7, with the Dexter Cup and Lady Suffolk at Freehold Raceway. Eligibles for all Hambletonian-serviced stakes can be found at www.hambletonian.org 84 Eligibles to 2016 Hambletonian; 102 Fillies Paid Into Hambletonian Oaks
The Meadowlands Racetrack, longest-running host track of the classic Hambletonian race for harness racing 3-year-old trotters, has signed a contract extension to host the event through 2021. The Hambletonian Society, which owns the race, and Jeff Gural, chairman of the New Meadowlands Racetrack LLC, have extended the existing Hambletonian contract from 2018 to 2021. An option to host future races was required before May 15, and the NMR was quick to exercise that option. The $1 million Hambletonian, and the companion race for 3-year-old fillies, the $500,000 Hambletonian Oaks, are the richest of their kind currently offered in harness racing, and among the richest worldwide, regardless of breed. Hambletonian day, traditionally the first Saturday in August is scheduled for August 6. It is the only harness race that strictly prohibits race-day medication, even the commonly accepted therapeutic medication Lasix. Hambletonian day continues to set North American handle and attendance records in the new Meadowlands grandstand, with more than $8 million wagered in 2015. "Since 1981 the Meadowlands has been a proud host of the Hambletonian. This agreement solidifies that commitment, and we are all dedicated in continuing to make the race a world-wide attraction," said Jeff Gural. "We appreciate the confidence of the Hambletonian Society in continuing their relationship with us," said Jason M. Settlemoir, CEO/GM of NMR. "Hambletonian Day is annually the most highly-anticipated day of racing in our sport and we take great pride in continuing to make the Meadowlands the home of America's Trotting Classic. The agreement also means the Meadowlands will be the home of the Hambletonian for a record four decades through 2021, the longest the event has been raced at any one track. Tom Charters, president of the Hambletonian Society, which has owned and administrated the Hambletonian since its inception in 1926, praised the Meadowlands for past contributions and future growth of one of the most iconic races in the world. "The state of New Jersey (NJSEA) brought the Hambletonian here in 1981 and Jeff Gural and his management team have continued to keep the sport's signature race at the highest level. They are wonderful partners and we look forward to 2021 and beyond," said Charters. The Hambletonian is the first leg of the trotting Triple Crown, followed by the Yonkers Trot on August 27 and Kentucky Futurity on October 9. The Hambletonian race is also the longest-running live broadcast in harness racing. The August 6 event will be broadcast live on CBS Sport Network from 4:00-5:30 p.m. [EDT] For more information contact Moira Fanning at the Hambletonian Society (732-306-6713) or Rachel Ryan at the Meadowlands Racetrack (201) 842-5015.
In the trotting world, the pinnacle of success is to win the Hambletonian at the Meadowlands. It is the "Holy Grail' for trotting enthusiasts and holds the same mystique in the Northern Hemisphere as the New Zealand Cup does in New Zealand. Ordinary horses just don't win the Hambletonian and it has proved a great siring testing ground with a lot of the winners going on to be great sires. We are sure that is why Stallions Australasia has taken the approach it has with regards to the trotting stallions in its siring stable. Stallions Australasia has three Hambletonian winners amongst the five stallions it has frozen semen for and looks to have most bases covered with its team of stallions. The star of the team is undoubtedly Muscle Hill 1:50.2 ($3,318,682) who after a stellar race career when he won 20 of 21 starts including the Hambletonian, has quickly established himself as an elite sire in North America. His first crop included last years Hambletonian winner Trixton 1:50.6 ($968,696) while his second crop included the freakish two year old filly of last year in Mission Brief 1:50.6 ($1,478,012) who went on to run second in the Hambletonian this year. With his oldest crop coming to the end of their four year racing season, Muscle Hill has nearly $13,000,000 on his card already and is in huge demand in North America. A newcomer to the team at Stallions Australasia this year is last years Hambletonian winner Trixton 1:50.6 ($968,696) who served his first book in North America this year. While the race record of Trixton is outstanding, his breeding is out of this world. A son of the hottest trotting sire in North America at the moment in Muscle Hill, Trixton is a son of the great Garland Lobell mare Emilie Cas El 1:57.1 ($454,688) who was the 1994 two year old trotting filly of the year. Emilie Cas El is a full sister to three of the greatest trotting sires ever in Andover Hall, Angus Hall and Conway Hall while a full sister in blood to the three great sires in Canland Hall is the dam of Cantab Hall. Another Hambletonian winner to join the team this season is Royalty For Life 1:51.6 ($1,628,649) who won the 2013 Hambletonian. Royalty for Life is a son of RC Royalty 1:55.2 ($709,355) who after not getting much support initially, is starting to build a really good record in North America with stake earnings to date of over $7,000,000 from just 180 foals eligible to race. Royalty For Life was a 1:54.4 two year old who got better as the season went on, running second in the Breeders Crown Final at the end of the season. He carried that form into his three year old season winning the Hambletonian and the Canadian Trotting Classic on his way to earning $1,287,820 and being named three year old trotting colt of the year in North America. At a service fee of $4500 for this season, Royalty For Life would seem great value for money in our view. The other two stallions in the Stallions Australasia team are both $2,000,000 winners on the track and both have Hambletonian form to boot. The Hambletonian runner up Lucky Chucky 1:50.8 ($2,119,958) who was the two and three year old colt of the year in North America, is available again this year at $5,000 as is the brilliant son of Conway Hall in Wishing Stone 1:51.4 ($2,361,099) who ran third in the Hambletonian Final and went on to be a great older horse on the track and he is also available at $5,000. All in all, Stallions Australasia have put together a great lineup of some of the best trotting stallions available and have priced them at a level that is not out of reach for a lot of New Zealand breeders and for that they should be congratulated. Harnesslink Media
While still awaiting the figures from some foreign sites, at present, the Hambletonian Day handle stands at $7,788,195. That number has already eclipsed the previous record for a Hambletonian Day where the Hambletonian at The Meadowlands was raced in heats of $7,660,205 which was established in 2013. In that year, there were three Hambletonian eliminations, compared to two this year. The major contributor missing from the total handle is the Cheval Francais Le Trot online handle, which last year was in excess of $387,000. Therefore, Hambletonian Day 2015 could be the first raced in heat-format to surpass the $8 Million handle plateau. Overseas, the Hambletonian Day program was especially popular in Sweden, where wagering was up nearly 40-percent. However, because the value of the Swedish Krona has fallen substantially over the past year, despite the large increase, the handle actually translates to less handle in terms of U.S. Dollars. But the signal was extremely well received. The on-track handle showed slight gains with live handle being $1,320,325 compared to $1,280,854 last year. This marked the first time since 2005 that the on-track handle showed a year-over-year increase. While history shows that handle is higher on Hambletonian Days where there are not multiple heats, the storyline of Pinkman vs. Mission Brief proved compelling this year and gave an added jolt to what was a spectacular day of racing. With races like the Cane Pace, U.S. Pacing Championship and John Cashman Memorial as supporting features and a European spark from D'One in The Fresh Yankee, this year's Hambletonian Day program certainly had a flare for the dramatic and it continues to show why Hambletonian Day is the greatest day in the sport of harness racing. "I was extremely pleased with the racing product we put forth on Hambletonian Day," said Meadowlands Chairman Jeff Gural. "That is what The Meadowlands is all about. While we all know that handle performs better when there is just a Hambletonian Final, like last year, I thought the Mission Brief/Pinkman story-line created a real buzz around the track, especially considering Yannick Gingras had to make a choice between the two. That kind of excitement can get people interested in our sport. Also, to see the foreign handle figures are likely to push the handle past $8 Million, making this the highest-handling heat format Hambletonian Day ever, is extremely gratifying. The team at The Meadowlands did a great job of getting the program page for the Hambletonian Final distributed quickly and effectively to both our on-track customers and those betting off-site. We are proud to host the greatest day in harness racing and look for more great things on Hambletonian Day 2016." Darin Zoccali Director of Racing Operations Meadowlands Racing & Entertainment | 1 Racetrack Drive | East Rutherford, NJ 07073
It's been a week of triumph and tragedy in Ontario harness racing. Saturday, brothers John and Jim Fielding, of Toronto, along with former Torontonian Herb Liverman and their U.S. partners, won the $1 million Hambletonian, at the Meadowlands Racetrack, in New Jersey, with their trotter Pinkman. On Monday, came the announcement that stellar stallion Camluck, the leading pacing sire in Canadian history, had died at age 28 at Seelster Farms in Lucan, Ont. More on that in a second, but first, the good news. Pinkman, a three-year-old gelding, defeated ultra-game Mission Brief, who was trying to become the first filly to win trotting's greatest race since Continentalvictory accomplished the feat in 1996. John Fielding has been trying to win the Hambletonian for some 30 years. He grew up in Toronto riding the streetcar with his brother to Greenwood Raceway where their passion for horse racing was first stoked. Today, John is one of the top owners in harness racing, is a two-time owner of the year and sits on the board of the Woodbine Entertainment Group that operates Woodbine Racetrack in Toronto and Mohawk Racetrack in Campbellville. Saturday afternoon, John hid his emotions behind dark sunglasses as he gripped a corner of the famed revere silver bowl that stands as harness racing's Stanley Cup. "I don't usually get too emotional, but I got emotional because my son David's here. My family, all my kids, are used to me running out to watch a race. So, they know how important this is to me and they're all very understanding," John said in the winner's circle. Then, with a mighty grin he added, "It feels fantastic. We've had a lot (of horses), but we're finally here. We finally did it," he said of the victory he, his brother and Liverman share with Joyce McClelland, of Ohio, and Christina Takter, wife of Pinkman's New Jersey-based trainer Jimmy Takter. The trainer said he's blessed to have Fielding as one of his owners, but more importantly, as one of his close friends. "It's very special," Takter said. "John has been with me a long time. Everybody knows in this sport that there's nobody better. I can race 20 horses and 19 race bad and one race well and he will never mention the 19 bad ones. Doing this for John means very much for me." Earlier that day, the same connections, minus McClelland, also won the $500,000 Hambletonian Oaks for fillies with Wild Honey. Pinkman's triumph makes him just the sixth Canadian-owned horse to win the Hambletonian in the event's 90 years. The first was a filly named Helicopter in 1953 that became the foundation trotting broodmare of the Armstrong Bros. equine empire, of Brampton, Ont. Liverman was part-owner of the 1998 champion Muscles Yankee. The Burgess family, of Campbellville and Milton — father Bob, his trainer son Blair and Blair's wife Karin — won the Hambletonian with Amigo Hall and Glidemaster in 2003 and 2006, respectively. In 2010, Takter-trained Muscle Massive won the Hambletonian for a group that included Marv Katz, Al Libfeld and Sam Goldband of Toronto and Louie Camara, of Puslinch. As for Camluck, by Canadian accounting he is the leading sire in harness racing history by progeny earnings. His sons and daughters have collectively earned more than $221 million on the track. He produced 28 millionaires and his offspring have average earnings per starter of more than $118,000. Camluck was inducted into the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame in 2003 and the United States Harness Racing Hall of Fame in 2008. Hall of Fame trainer Bob McIntosh of LaSalle, Ont., owned Camluck with his cousin, Al McIntosh, and the New Destiny Stables. Camluck earned over $1 million on the racetrack and then made an even deeper impact as a stallion. He stood at Seelster Farms for 23 years until being royally retired from active stallion duty in October of 2014 to a private paddock with a special lawn as pristine as one might find on a golf course. "The legacy of Camluck will live on for generations to come in the offspring he continues to influence with his determination and intelligence," said Ann Straatman for Seelster Farms. "What the pedigree pages cannot say is what a privilege it has been to care for Camluck all of these years and how much we will miss our friend." Earlier this summer, when Camluck became the first horse inducted into the Wall of Fame at The Raceway at The Western Fair District in London, Ont., Straatman said, "Camluck made Seelster Farms. Without a hesitation I say that. Without him we wouldn't be where we are today. He put us on the map." McIntosh often referred to having Camluck as like having an annuity or like hitting the lottery and he and the other connections expressed their "profound sadness" at the stallion's passing. The trainer said Camluck's legacy will be long and deep. "It's mind-boggling. It's something that will go on when I've passed. He'll be in pedigrees of great horses. It's pretty humbling. I'm lucky to have him come across my path," McIntosh said. Dave Briggs is the president of the Canadian chapter of the United States Harness Writers Association. He can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
After the Hambletonian leg of the 2015 HANA Harness Grand Circuit Handicapping Challenge presented by the Bellino Stables, DRF Harness, Hambletonian Society, Meadowlands Racing and Entertainment, Northfield Park, Tioga Downs, and Vernon Downs, Sally Hinckley has firmly placed her handicapping sulky back in front of Mark McKelvie. She did it by selecting five winners in the twelve race marathon and posted an impressive 1,966 total contest points. Mark McKelvie remains very close and is a mere 52 points behind. Gapped back in third is our early pace setter Bob Zanakis. The real action occurred back in the pack where thirteen positions changed. The biggest mover of the day was Earl Paulson and his super computer. The computer and its ace programmer led all handicappers on the day with seven wins and 554 points earned. Earl moved up seven positions from eleventh to fourth. Dennis O'Hara was a close second on the day amassing 537 points on six winners. He was the only other handicapper to correctly pick 50% winners on the day. His key was Flanagan Memory at $21 which earned him 231 of his points. He moved up the most positions from thirteenth to fifth. The best individual pick of the day went to Brandon Valvo who selected D'One at $31.40. The European invader won with a thrilling come from behind effort to upset Bee A Magician. It was that race, plus the Cane, where Wiggle It Jiggleit faded after a speed duel that tripped up most of the contestants. Next week the handicapping tour visits Northfield Park for the Carl Milstein Memorial. The handicappers will appreciate the short work week to rest up for the following weekend that sees us visiting seven tracks and puzzling through 18 scheduled events. Allan Schott Harness Racing Coordinator
Maybe harness racing fans will now understand the growing importance of amateur racing especially with three pari-mutuel races for Hambletonian Amateurs presented on Hambo weekend at the Meadowlands. In what was the Big M's last overnight card prior to the racing of fabled Hambletonian, amateur drivers supplied three fields of trotters to assist in filling that Hambo weekend card on Friday night, August 7th. True, not all trotters that raced that night were owned by the participating amateurs and not all horses that raced fit the Billings criteria which by not doing so many Billings members didn't earn any series points by competing. But the bottom line is, the amateur movement helps fill race cards. And bettors seem to like wagering on amateur races which was brought to light the previous day at Monticello Raceway when the amateur race there was the best bet race on the card. Although 18 participants at the Meadowlands on Friday were Billings members the winner of each of the amateur races didn't earn a point in seven month CKG Billings Harness Driving Series because their trotters didn't fit the Billings horse criteria or weren't a Billings member. Some may find it unusual that an amateur driver could win two betting races on one card, especially at the Meadowlands, but that's exactly what Bob "the Headhunter" Hechkoff did on Friday. In the first Hambo Amateur event the executive recruiter started in the second tier (post 11) with his own No Recess and stayed along the pylons until the homestretch where they caught the pacesetter, Permanent Joy driven by Bobby "Rapid Rail" Krivelin and then out-footed them to the wire for a head decision in a time of 1:55. Paul "the Coach" Minore finished third with Hallanet. Although Kivelin and Minore earned Billings Series points Hechkoff didn't because his trotter didn't fit the Billings conditions. And in the second Hambo Amateur split Hechkoff took no prisoners and went down the road with his own Keystone Thomas and made every pole a winning one en route to a two length victory over Falcor Bluestone and driver Dave "Linemaster" Ehrenberg II in the identical time of 1:55. Third place went to Wygant Prince handled by "Bullet Bob" Davis.However, none of the top three finishing horses fit Billings criteria so no series points were earned by their drivers. When Max Schulz was victorious in the final Hambo Amateur trot he had the thrill of winning a race at America's biggest harness racing venue. And, not a Billings member he, of course, didn't earn any series points. Schulz , a visiting amateur driver from Germany, won a Billings split by disqualification last week at Northfield Park and rowed that same boat home at the Big M again being placed first this time with Insider Access, a horse loaned to him by Billings series vice president, [i]Steve "You're Never Too" Oldford. Futuristic Bride finished second for "Joltin' Joe" Pennacchio and Dave "Steady As" Yarock, who was first under the wire with Mr Ridgetaker, found his trotter was placed third after having interfered with others while on a break earlier in the mile. Pennacchio and Yarock gained Billings points but the visiting Max Schulz didn't. Now, Billings points aside, the competing amateurs fortify the claim that amateur racing not only is growing in statue but an important tool in helping fill race cards during a period in while breeding is on a decline. Next up for the Billings members will be a pair of trots at Monticello Raceway on Thursday, August13. by John Manzi for the CKG Billings Series
East Rutherford, NJ --- Pinkman and Brian Sears, who got the drive on the horse less than an hour before the race, took control of the $1 million Hambletonian for 3-year-olds at the half and never gave it up as they cruised under the wire to be the 90th winners of the trotting classic in a world record time of 1:51 on Saturday (Aug. 8) at Meadowlands Racetrack. Pinkman (Explosive Matter-Margie Seelster) is trained by Jimmy Takter and owned by Christina Takter, John and Jim Fielding, Joyce McClelland and Herb Liverman. His winning time was the fastest ever by a sophomore trotting gelding on a mile track. The filly Mission Brief, who Yannick Gingras chose to drive after her win in the second elimination, gave futile chase in deep stretch and made up ground, but not enough to win. Uncle Lasse, also trained by Takter, was third after adding trotting hobbles between the elimination and the final. As the field trotted off the starting gate, it was Uncle Lasse (David Miller) who was first to the lead from post seven, hitting the quarter-mile mark in :27.2, with The Bank (Johnny Takter) outside and behind him and Pinkman in third. The Bank was on the move just past the quarter-mile mark, with Pinkman behind him. By the time they reached the half-mile marker in :55.2, Pinkman had the lead on the outside and The Bank was second. Mission Brief, who had been fourth, a few lengths from the leaders most of the way to the half, hustled to join the crowd and bore down on the leader, Pinkman, around the final turn, getting to his wheel as the field turned for home. She lost contact when they straightened out, but re-engaged under urging from Gingras as the wire drew closer. She got close, but not close enough, three-quarters of a length back. Uncle Lasse was third, The Bank fourth and Jacksons Minion got the final purse check. Trainer Jimmy Takter won both the Hambletonian and the Hambletonian Oaks for the second straight year. He won last year with Trixton in the Hambo and Lifetime Pursuit in the Oaks. “I was looking forward to try in the final with a couple that I did have (Habitat and Wings Of Royalty) and I managed to do that,” said winning driver Brian Sears. “But opportunity knocked and it’s just great that they gave me the call. “I didn’t hear much (about the chance to drive Pinkman if necessary). I heard a little bit from Herb (Liverman). I talked to Herb a little bit, but I’m very grateful for the opportunity. He (Pinkman) was pretty much push button and it was a pleasure.” Pinkman has now won eight times in nine season's starts, with earnings of $1,170,965. Lifetime he has been a winner in 14 of 17, with $1,737,925. “It’s very emotional and I just want to thank all the connections that were involved,” said co-owner John Fielding. “Brian Sears stepped in and did a great job and of course, my friend and partner Jimmy Takter and Christina, have done again an amazing job. We’ve been at this for 30 years trying to win this trophy and I’ll tell you, this is the greatest thrill you could ever want in this sport and I’m just blown away, very honored and happy to be in this situation. I’ve got a plane I’ve got to catch to go back to a party in Toronto tonight, but we’re going to have to stop at the windows (to cash bets). “We leave these decisions (about drivers) up to Jimmy and he always seems to make the right decisions. We’ve had Brian Sears, who everybody knows is a fantastic, great driver, one of the best there ever was when the money is on the line, so I wasn’t worried at all, very confident in Jimmy.” Of the filly runner-up Mission Brief, trainer and co-owner Ron Burke said, “She raced really good and I think if things would have shook out a little differently the result would have been different. She was the only one still going forward at the wire. She really gave it her all and at the wire she was still coming. I would never change anything that I did and I don’t regret anything about the conditioning. She’s still a super horse, some day we will be back and we are not going to give up. We are going to win the Hambletonian.” Mission Brief’s driver, Yannick Gingras, who picked her over the eventual race winner, said, “I’m still young and I’m blessed to have two great chances at the Hambo like I’ve had the last few years. I will have plenty more chances I hope. Everyone ignores Pinkman because he isn’t flashy, they want to talk about Uncle Lasse and Canepa Hanover, but Pinkman beats them every week, he was just a flat out winner. You have to give the horse all the credit in the world. “I’m not disappointed in her effort at all. She wasn’t quite as strong as the first heat. She wasn’t quite as good gaited as before, so I couldn’t make the moves I wanted to with her. I knew I didn’t have enough at the top of the stretch. You have to give it to Pinkman. He’s a great horse and he’s a winner. “I was happy with how the race went. Takter’s horses were being used and if she went her A1 effort, she might have won. My son joked with me this week and said don’t make a break (as with Father Patrick in 2014), Well, I got that accomplished at least and it’s still been a great day. Pinkman is Brian’s horse now, of course.” Hambletonian eliminations East Rutherford, NJ --- Pinkman (Yannick Gingras) won the first $100,000 elimination race for the Hambletonian for 3-year-old harness racing trotters by a half-length in 1:51.2 over The Bank (Johnny Takter) on Saturday (Aug. 8) at Meadowlands Racetrack. Donatomite (Trond Smedhammer) was third. The other two spots for the final went to Habitat (Brian Sears) and Jacksons Minion (Tom Jackson). Pinkman is trained by Jimmy Takter for owners Christina Takter, John and Jim Fielding, Joyce McClelland and Herb Liverman. Gingras and Pinkman made it quite clear they wanted the lead from post ten as the two charged off the starting gate and went straight for the front, getting past the rail horse, Donatomite, to get to the lead just past the :26.2 first quarter. The Bank was out and moving at the three-eighths to get the lead and held it to the :54.3 half with Pinkman tucked in behind him. Jacksons Minion was on the move for the top when the field passed the half, while the lead horses remained unchanged at the 1:23.2 three-quarters. With the finish line in sight, Gingras went to work on Pinkman and they passed The Bank for the win and a chance to draw for posts one through five in the final. “I figured (Smedshammer) was going to try to get position and sit behind me,” said winning driver Gingras. “His horse (Donatomite) has got good gate speed. He’s not had much luck with his horse, but he’s a nice horse too. “It kind of worked out. I was hoping to cut it, but The Bank is a very good horse. If I was going to follow anybody, he was the horse to follow. “(Winning) is exactly what he does. In this race I had to get after him pretty hard in the stretch, but that’s Pinkman. All he does is win.” Trainer Ron Burke's filly Mission Brief set up the anticipated Hambletonian showdown against male rival Pinkman, winning her elimination by 4-3/4 lengths over Aldebaran Eagle in 1:51.3. French Laundry, Uncle Lasse and Wings Of Royalty also advanced to the $1 million Hambletonian final. Mission Brief is trying to become the first filly since Continentalvictory in 1996 to win the Hambletonian. Uncle Lasse (David Miller) led to the quarter in :26.3, with Mission Brief in fifth place. Yannick Gingras then moved Mission Brief to the front, hitting the half in :54.2 and three-quarters in 1:23. She drew off in the stretch for the easy win in 1:51.3. Gingras will drive Mission Brief (6-5 morning line) in the final and Brian Sears will take over behind Pinkman (5-2). “In the first turn it got a little crowded, she wasn’t anxious, I was,” Gingras said. “There were a lot of horses around us and she’s not used to that. But she acted very professionally. At the top of the stretch, I could hear Brett (Miller driving French Laundry) on my back and it sounded like he had some trot. I kicked the earplugs but she did it on her own.” Gingras added prior to making his decision, “It’s going to be a tough one. It’s two guys (Jimmy Takter and Ron Burke) that really helped my career, two horses that I started with from the beginning, so it’s very tough.” Mission Brief, a daughter of Muscle Hill-Southwind Serena, is owned by Burke Racing, Our Horse Cents Stables, J&T Silva Stables, and the partnership of Mark Weaver and Mike Bruscemi. Pinkman Mission Brief by Ellen Harvey and Ken Weingartner, Harness Racing Communications
Harness racing trainer George Ducharme knows that Wings Of Royalty is not the same horse as 2013 Hambletonian champion Royalty For Life. The affable conditioner nonetheless is rather pleased with the progress the son of R C Royalty has made entering the 90th edition of the Hambletonian on Saturday at the Meadowlands. “I’m very happy with the way he trained this week,” said Ducharme from his Vernon Downs base on Thursday. “I thought he raced well in the Zweig (fourth place behind Pinkman),” said Ducharme. “After the race I talked to Tim (Tetrick) and we both agreed that he needed a race over the big track to get stretched out and acclimate to the speed of the race." "He’d been racing so much over the half mile tracks.” Royalty For Life will have Brian Sears in the bike in the second of two elimination heats on Saturday afternoon. “I was very happy with the draw,” said Ducharme of post five in the nine-horse field. Wings Of Royalty, a homebred of Raymond Campbell Jr., has earned $237,599 during his career racing primarily in New York. The colt prepped for the Hambletonian with a victory at Vernon Downs last Saturday coming from off the pace in 1:54 3/5. “I think he’s as good as he’s ever been,” said Ducharme of Wings Of Royalty. “I was happy with the division he got into." I think the first division is tougher but we do have Mission Brief and she’ll be tough if she behaves.” Royalty For Life was a favorite going into the Hambletonian in 2013 and Wings Of Royalty is a decided longshot. But trainer George Ducharme wouldn’t have entered the colt had he not thought he belonged with this group. Wings Of Royalty has been quite consistent throughout his career and has the dual capacity to race near or from off the pace and still finish his miles with strength. Without question having Hambletonian experience is a major factor in getting to the race again and succeeding. Both Ducharme and Sears have been here before which in a sense takes some of the pressure off. Wings Of Royalty is as good as he’s going to be, whether that’s good enough won’t be known until sometime late on Saturday afternoon. Jay Bergman
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. _ Jimmy Takter kicked off his Hambletonian weekend with a victory as Whom Shall I Fear produced a dominant win Friday night in the $50,000 Townsend Ackerman Stakes at Meadowlands Racing & Entertainment. It was the prelude to Saturday, a warm-up act for the biggest afternoon in harness racing anchored by the $1 million Hambletonian and the $500,000 Hambletonian Oaks. First post is noon on the fun-filled day that also features pony rides, face painters and live music. Paid admissions can take home a baseball cap for adults or a Foiled Again Breyer Stablemate for kids, while supplies last. Takter has five entrants in the Hambletonian in the bid for a fourth training victory in the classic for 3-year-old trotters. The win by Whom Shall I Fear, a full brother to Takter star Father Patrick, could be an omen of good things to come on Saturday. The victory was an encouraging effort by a colt who has failed to meet lofty expectations following a $475,000 purchase as a yearling by the Whom Shall I Fear Stable. The win in the Townsend Ackerman for Hambletonian eligible colts and geldings snapped a six-race losing streak. Whom Shall I Fear took charge immediately with Yannick Gingras at the lines. He dictated the fractions in the lifetime-best 1:52 4/5 mile as the 7-10 favorite, beating Crescent Fashion by 2 ¾ lengths with Iron third. He paid $3.40 to win. The evening also featured a pair of $30,000 divisions of the Duenna Stakes for 3-year-old trotting fillies. Both were also career-best victories Ontario invader Muscle Baby Doll was an easy winner of the first split in 1:52. She was not eligible to the Hambletonian Oaks, so this was her chance to strut her stuff here on trotting’s biggest weekend. She is 6 for 7 this year for trainer Tony O’Sullivan and Bellino & Sons. David Miller picked up his third driving win of the night. Muscle Baby Doll took charge down the backstretch and drew off to a 6 ¾ length over Marion Millionair with Scented Roses third. Her Canadian reputation preceded her to the Big M as she paid only $2.80 to win. It was much closer in the second division as Meadowbranch Wendy held off Lindy Land by a neck in 1:53 3/5. It ended a string of three straight hard-luck losses for the filly trained by Jenny Melander and owned by Hans Enggren. Brett Miller guided her to a third win in 19 starts. She paid $21.40 for the upset victory. Pick 5 Carryover Leads To Massive Pool Entering the Friday racing program, there was a $29,460 carryover in the Pick 5, beginning with the first race. The bettors came out in force and despite four scratches there was $131,164 wagered into the sequence, bringing the total pool to $160,624. The sequence proved formful, returning $170.15 for a $.50 cent ticket. Hambletonian Day features a carryover of its own and one that will also sport a mandatory payout. The Jackpot Super Hi-5 in the 16th race, features a $231,000 carryover with just an eight-percent (8%) takeout rate. The pool will pay out in it's entirety. Hambletonian Day also features no less than five guaranteed pools, all with fifty-cent minimums all. The first race kicks off a $50,000 Guaranteed Pick Five. Race three starts a $50,000 Pick 4. Race three begins a $75,000 Pick Five while races nine and 13 kick off $100,000 Guaranteed Pick Four wagers. All five guaranteed pools include a takeout rate of just 15-percent. Darin Zoccali
Hall of Fame driver John Campbell will be on the sidelines for the Hambletonian for the first time since 1982, ending his record streak of 32 consecutive years of participation in harness racing's top race for 3-year-old trotters, but he remains intrigued by this year's event. Saturday's $1.2 million Hambletonian features numerous plotlines, starting with filly Mission Brief attempting to become the first female trotter since Continentalvictory in 1996 to win the race. Mission Brief is the 6-5 morning line favorite in the second of two $100,000 eliminations. Pinkman is the 8-5 choice in the first division despite starting from post No. 10. The top five finishers from each elimination advance to the $1 million final, scheduled for approximately 5:15 p.m., at Meadowlands Racetrack. First race post time for Hambletonian Day is 12 noon and coverage of the Cane Pace, Hambletonian Oaks and Hambletonian will air from 4-5:30 p.m. on cable's CBS Sports Network. "Pinkman has been the most consistent and best colt so far and he's drawn (post) 10. That's an unknown," said Campbell, who suffered a broken wrist in an accident during qualifiers on July 31 at the Meadowlands. "Mission Brief going against the boys is an unknown. She drew well. I think she's going to be a factor. "But just those two things right there are going to make it intriguing. There are a lot of variables going into it." Mission Brief was the 2014 Dan Patch Award winner for best 2-year-old female trotter and has won 12 of 17 career races and earned $791,417. She also holds the world record for the fastest time for any 2-year-old trotter in history, 1:50.3. This year, she has won three of four races while dealing with back woes, which have improved in recent weeks thanks to chiropractic work. She enters the Hambletonian off a 1:51.4 win in the filly division of the Zweig Memorial on July 26 at Vernon Downs. "She's got a good chance," said Campbell, who has won the Hambletonian a record six times. "She's going to race well, I think. Her last race at Vernon was very strong. "But it's a tougher competition. There's no question the colts are tougher than the fillies this year. It kind of depends on how much she improves for this next race, that's another unknown. It's going to be tougher for her to get to the front than it was at Vernon. But ability-wise she's right there with the colts." Campbell, who did not require surgery for his injury, is uncertain when he will return to action but expects to be sidelined for at least three weeks. He has earned $2.97 million in purses this year, which ranks 16th among all drivers in North America, despite having the fewest starts of any driver in the top 50. His top horses have included Doo Wop Hanover, JL Cruze, Melady's Monet, Muscle Diamond, The Show Returns, and Wild Honey. "The year had been going extremely well up to this point," Campbell said. "I had some really good horses to race in the stakes coming up this weekend and going forward through the rest of the year. I was really looking forward to that. We'll have to re-evaluate, reassess, and hopefully I get some of those mounts back or pick up new ones when I get back to work." * * * * Jimmy Takter sends out five horses in the Hambletonian -- Pinkman, The Bank and Canepa Hanover in the first elimination and French Laundry and Uncle Lasse in the second elimination -- as he tries for his fourth win in the race as a trainer. Billy Haughton, Stanley Dancer, and Ben White share the record of five training wins. Chuck Sylvester is next on the list with four. Takter also is bidding to become the first trainer since Per Eriksson in 1991-92 to win the Hambletonian in consecutive years. The only other trainers to accomplish the feat are Haughton (1976-77), Frank Ervin (1966-67), White (1942-43) and Henry Thomas (1937-38). In addition, Takter, who drove Trixton to victory in last year's Hambletonian, could become the first trainer-driver to repeat in the race since Haughton. Campbell is the most recent driver to win in consecutive years, in 1987-88. * * * * Mission Brief is the 161st filly to start in the Hambletonian, but only the fourth since Continentalvictory's win in 1996. Pampered Princess, who finished seventh-placed-sixth in the 2007 final won by Donato Hanover, was the most recent. Thirteen fillies have won the Hambletonian, but only Continentalvictory and Duenna (1983) have accomplished the feat since Kerry Way in 1966. The Hambletonian Oaks, solely for 3-year-old filly trotters, began in 1971. * * * * Broadway Donna is the 3-5 morning line favorite in Saturday's $389,450 Jim Doherty Memorial (formerly the Merrie Annabelle) for 2-year-old female trotters. The Jim Campbell-trained filly has won all five of her races this season, with a combined margin of victory of 23-1/4 lengths. She won her Doherty elimination in 1:53.3, which is the fastest time of the season by a 2-year-old trotter. "I'm not going to talk her up," said David Miller, who has been her driver in every start. "I'll just let her do the talking." Miller also has the morning line favorite in the $215,400 U.S. Pacing Championship for older male pacers. State Treasurer, who is the 2-1 pick, starts from post five. The field also includes JK Endofanera, Doo Wop Hanover, and harness racing's all-time richest horse Foiled Again. "He's in good shape," Miller said. "He's been here all week and that's definitely a plus instead of shipping in a couple days out (from the race). He usually gives a good account of himself. He's easy to get along with. He's a good horse and he shows up to work every time. You can't knock him." Among Miller's other Hambletonian Day drives, Wind Of The North drew a tough assignment in the $301,500 John Cashman Jr. Memorial for older male trotters. Wind Of The North will start from post No. 10 in a 12-horse field going 1-1/8 miles. Market Share is the 3-1 morning line favorite followed by Elitloppet winner Magic Tonight at 4-1. "That's about as bad as you can draw," Miller said about Wind Of The North, who is 6-1. "Either way you do it, if you take back or you leave, it's going to be a tough trip. There's some speed inside of me. He can leave too, but you've got 11 horses inside of you that you've got to get around. And they're going to keep coming and removing. Unless you get absolutely lucky, it's a tough spot." Miller will drive Fashion Creditor in the first of the day's two Hambletonian eliminations and Uncle Lasse, the 5-2 second choice to Mission Brief, in the second elimination. He also has Bright Baby Blues in the $500,000 Hambletonian Oaks. She is 8-1 from post three. Wild Honey is the 5-2 favorite. "She raced really well in her elimination," Miller said. "I was happy to see her draw inside. It gives me a few options depending how the race unfolds. She's coming into the race in good shape. She's a bit of an outsider, but I think that race is pretty wide open. I think it could work out good." * * * * Southwind Frank is the 8-5 morning line favorite in the $349,850 Peter Haughton Memorial for 2-year-old male trotters. The Ron Burke-trained colt has won three of four races this season, including the New Jersey Sire Stakes championship in 1:53.4. * * * * Anndrovette, who won the Golden Girls at the added distance of 1-1/8 miles on July 18 at the Meadowlands, is back for another extended distance try, this time in Saturday's $251,250 Lady Liberty for older female pacers. Anndrovette is the 5-2 morning line favorite in the 11-mare race, which also includes defending champion Rocklamation. The victory in the Golden Girls was only Anndrovette's second win in 17 races at the Meadowlands. Her previous triumph came in the 2012 Overbid final. * * * * Bee A Magician, who has won eight of nine races this season, is the 4-5 favorite in the $181,450 Fresh Yankee for older female trotters. The race attracted 11 horses and will be contested at 1-1/8 miles. Bee A Magician was the 2013 Horse of the Year and is joined in the field by Dan Patch Award winners Classic Martine and Shake It Cerry. By Ken Weingartner Harness Racing Communications USTA
Freehold, NJ --- Fashion Creditor is heading to Saturday’s $1.2 million Hambletonian Stakes for 3-year-old trotters at the Meadowlands off the fastest winning mile of his life and trainer Tom Fanning believes the colt could take another step forward on harness racing’s biggest stage. The Hambletonian is the first jewel in the Trotting Triple Crown and attracted a field of 18 male trotters and one female -- world champion Mission Brief. She is the 6-5 favorite in the second of two $100,000 elimination races on Saturday, with Pinkman being the 8-5 favorite in the first division. The top five finishers from each elimination return later in the day for the $1 million final. Coverage of the Hambletonian will air from 4-5:30 p.m. on CBS Sports Network. Fashion Creditor won on July 31 at the Meadowlands in 1:52.3. He is 20-1 on the morning line in the first elimination and will start from post six with David Miller as his driver. Pinkman, the favorite, starts from post No. 10 on the extreme outside of the gate. “We felt if he was sharp going into the race we would put him in there,” said Fanning, who trains Fashion Creditor for owner Joe Smith. “We tried to get him sharp for this time of year. He’s good right now, that’s for sure. “He likes the Meadowlands. When he won last week it wasn’t really his trip being on the front like that. I think if he gets his trip, which is to follow along and sprint at the end, I think he’ll trot significantly faster this week. Whether it’s fast enough, I don’t know.” In addition to Pinkman starting on the outside, Canepa Hanover, who is 3-1, is in post nine while Centurion ATM, who is 9-2, leaves from post eight. Pinkman has won six of seven races this year and 12 of 15 in his career while earning $1.18 million. He was voted harness racing’s best 2-year-old male trotter last year. “I think there will be a lot of horses flat-out leaving or floating out of there, especially with the two horses in the nine and 10 holes,” Fanning said. “They’re not going to get away ninth or 10th. We can leave also a little bit. (Fashion Creditor) can find an early spot and hopefully they mix it up a lot. With those horses on the outside, I think they will mix it up.” Mission Brief is bypassing Saturday’s $500,000 Hambletonian Oaks, which is solely for 3-year-old filly trotters, to attempt to become the first female to beat the boys and win the Hambletonian since Continentalvictory in 1996. Mission Brief was voted the sport’s best 2-year-old female trotter last year and has won 12 of 17 career races. She also holds the world record for the fastest time for any 2-year-old trotter in history, 1:50.3. This year, she has won three of four races while dealing with back woes, which have improved in recent weeks thanks to chiropractic work. Fashion Creditor has won three of 18 lifetime races and earned $96,497. He has not finished worse than third in any of his four most recent starts. He will try to become the 56-year-old Fanning’s first Hambletonian finalist. Fanning and Smith sent Possessed Fashion into the 2013 Hambletonian eliminations, but the horse failed to advance to the final. “We want to do good but we know we’re a little bit on the outside looking in,” Fanning said. “(Fashion Creditor) has to get a little bit lucky and he has to be at his very best.” Following are the fields for the Hambletonian eliminations in post order with drivers, trainers and morning line odds. The Hambletonian final is Race No. 13: $1.2 million Hambletonian-$100,000 1st elim.-Race 8 HN-Post-Driver-Trainer-Line 1. Donatomite by Donato Hanover, Trond Smedshammer, Trond Smedshammer, 15-1 2. The Bank by Donato Hanover, Johnny Takter, Jimmy Takter, 8-1 3. Workout Wonder by Conway Hall, Daniel Dube, Ake Svanstedt, 12-1 4. Habitat by Conway Hall, Brian Sears, Ron Burke, 6-1 5. Total Darkness by Muscles Yankee, Tim Tetrick, Jonas Czernyson, 20-1 6. Fashion Creditor by Credit Winner, David Miller, Tom Fanning, 20-1 7. Jacksons Minion by Explosive Matter, Tom Jackson, Tom Jackson, 30-1 8. Centurion ATM by SJS Caviar, Ake Svanstedt, Ake Svanstedt, 9-2 9. Canepa Hanover by Muscle Hill, Jimmy Takter, Jimmy Takter, 3-1 10. Pinkman by Explosive Matter, Yannick Gingras, Jimmy Takter, 8-5 $1.2 million Hambletonian-$100,000 2nd elim.-Race 9 HN-Post-Driver-Trainer-Line 1. Billy Flynn by Cantab Hall, Scott Zeron, Staffan Lind, 15-1 2. Mission Brief by Muscle Hill, Yannick Gingras, Ron Burke, 6-5 3. Cruzado Dela Noche by Muscle Massive, Orjan Kihlstrom, Nancy Johansson, 20-1 4. Aldebaran Eagle by Muscle Hill, Corey Callahan, Jonas Czernyson, 20-1 5. Wings Of Royalty by RC Royalty, Brian Sears, George Ducharme, 12-1 6. French Laundry by Muscles Yankee, Brett Miller, Jimmy Takter, 4-1 7. Uncle Lasse by Donato Hanover, David Miller, Jimmy Takter, 5-2 8. Southwind Mozart by Muscle Hill, Ake Svanstedt, Ake Svanstedt, 20-1 9. Muscle Diamond by Muscle Hill, Tim Tetrick, Brett Bittle, 8-1 by Ken Weingartner, Harness Racing Communications
The Hambletonian, to be raced for the 90th time on Saturday, has a rich family heritage. Page through the pedigrees of today's finest horses and you can take a trip back in time and find the greatest trotters of the last century. Family means everything when it comes to harness racing equine pedigree and it means even more to those heavily invested in the sport. Charlie Keller III, the recent Hall of Fame nominee, helped guide the fortunes of Yankeeland Farm, a breeding operation in Maryland begun by his father in 1955. Though the farm has closed operations, Keller III hasn't lost his urge to find a quality trotter and compete at the highest level. On Saturday, Muscle Diamond, a horse he owns in partnership with his son and nephews, is among 19 looking to capture the $1 million Hambletonian. Ironically it was Keller that went back in time to pluck the yearling by Muscle Hill from the 2002 Hambletonian Oaks winning Windylane Hanover for $40,000 in the fall of 2013. "I just fell in love with the pedigree," said Keller. "I mean he had Yankeeland blood all over on both sides." On the dams side was Windylane Hanover, a daughter of Lindy Lane owned by Yankeeland and ironically a mare that was sold off. A close look at the production information surrounding Windylane Hanover lets you believe she was an absolute early failure as a broodmare. "She actually had a foal that won a $100,000 race in Europe," said Keller. "I believe that happened before this colt (Muscle Diamond) sold." Windylane Hanover had been bred to Andover Hall and his son Donato Hanover but the breeders elected to go with Muscle Hill and the combination has clicked. "I loved Muscle Hill," said Keller. "He's got a tremendous amount of Yankeeland blood himself." Indeed Muscle Hill, the 2009 Hambletonian winner is by the 1998 Hambletonian champion Muscles Yankee. Muscles Yankee was bred by Yankeeland and sold for $200,000 as a yearling. Hall of Famer Chuck Sylvester developed Muscles Yankee. "We sold him as a yearling and then we bought shares in him after his racing career ended," said Keller. Yankee Blondie, a daughter of Yankee Bambi is the dam of Muscle Hill. Yankee Bambi was a sister to Yankee Bambino, runner-up to Bonefish in the four-heat 1975 Hambletonian at DuQuoin. Yankee Bambino was named after the legendary Babe Ruth. Yankee Duchess, the dam of Yankee Bambi was a foundation mare for the Yankeeland Farms producing for more than 20 years. Trainer, part-owner Brett Bittle wasn't overly excited when he first looked at Muscle Diamond prior to the yearling sale. "There was nothing special about him," Bittle said. "What impressed me was when I watched his video." Bittle, Keller's nephew, was also the conditioner of Windylane Hanover when she won the Oaks in 2002. "Ronnie (Pierce) gave her a great drive that day," said Bittle recalling the victory. Windylane Hanover had finished second in her elimination for the Oaks and her regular driver Mike Lachance opted for race favorite Cameron Hall for the final. Pierce had the mount behind the 25-1 Windylane Hanover and he worked out a perfect trip behind Cameron Hall to score the upset. Unlike his dam Windylane Hanover, Muscle Diamond's three-year-old season has been anything but smooth to date. A runner-up to Pinkman in last year's Breeders Crown, Muscle Diamond was expected to be among the elite three-year-olds in North America this year. Muscle Diamond was ready and on schedule but after his first start in New Jersey Sire Stakes action Bittle discovered an abscess in a hind foot that proved to be a minor setback. Then came a tendon injury while Muscle Diamond was out in a paddock that set the horse back another four weeks. It's hard to play catch up in the three-year-old trotting ranks but when you have a horse with Muscle Diamond's talent you just have to take the bumps and move forward and that's what Bittle has done. Finally going in the right direction Muscle Diamond made just his second start of the year on July 26 in the Zweig consolation at Vernon Downs. Hall of Fame pilot John Campbell put him on the front and the colt was a convincing 1:53 2/5 victor. "John was very happy with the way he raced," said Bittle of the Zweig. While Campbell was a major part of the structure behind Muscle Diamond he won't be able to drive the colt on Saturday. The Hall of Famer was injured in a qualifier on Friday, July 31 and will be sidelined. "John's been such a big part of this horse. It's a shame he has to miss out," said Bittle. In his place will sit Tim Tetrick, a future Hall of Famer. Tetrick's assignment wasn't made easy by the post draw as Muscle Diamond landed in the second $100,000 elimination on Saturday afternoon, race nine and the post position nine. "I think he's an easy horse to drive," said Bittle, "There aren't any quirks to him." Yet Bittle is clearly concerned about the catch-up game and whether the best in Muscle Diamond is ahead of August 8. "At least he's had 10 days to prepare after the Zweig," said Bittle. "We were able to get some work into him and I think that will help." With the revised Hambletonian format Muscle Diamond will have to first qualify for the final heat by finishing in the top five in his division, a race that includes the sensational filly Mission Brief, then race a second time for the money. "None of them have had to go two heats," said Bittle answering the obvious question whether Muscle Diamond will have the stamina to return. "I would have liked to have six starts in him. That was the plan," said Bittle. For Keller, Bittle and Yankeeland it has been a long bumpy road this year to reach the Hambletonian. It would be fitting for the legacy that a second son or daughter of Muscle Hill would capture the sport's biggest prize and a bit more special if the name on the trophy said-Muscle Diamond. By Jay Bergman
Two horses enter Saturday's $1.2 million Hambletonian Stakes at Meadowlands Racetrack having already posted harness racing victories at the Big M on Hambletonian Day - colt Centurion ATM and filly Mission Brief. Centurion ATM won last year's Peter Haughton Memorial while Mission Brief captured the Merrie Annabelle, both in world-record-equaling times. On Saturday the two will compete in the Hambletonian, marking only the second time that the winners of the Meadowlands' top races for 2-year-old trotters have returned in the same year for the premier event for 3-year-olds. The first occurrence was in 1986 when filly Britelite Lobell and colt Express Ride finished third and fifth, respectively, in the Hambletonian. Mission Brief, who won the 2014 Merrie Annabelle (renamed this year the Jim Doherty Memorial) in 1:52.2, is bypassing Saturday's $500,000 Hambletonian Oaks, which is restricted to 3-year-old filly trotters, to attempt to become the first female to beat the boys and win the Hambletonian since Continentalvictory in 1996. Mission Brief was the 2014 Dan Patch Award winner for best 2-year-old female trotter and has won 12 of 17 career races and earned $791,417. She also holds the world record for the fastest time for any 2-year-old trotter in history, 1:50.3. This year, she has won three of four races while dealing with back woes, which have improved in recent weeks thanks to chiropractic work. Mission Brief is the 6-5 morning line favorite in the second of two $100,000 Hambletonian eliminations. Yannick Gingras will drive the filly. "Maybe financially it would have been better to go to the Hambletonian Oaks, but pride-wise and for the sport, it would be better to go to the Hambletonian," said Ron Burke, who trains and co-owns the filly with Our Horse Cents Stables, J&T Silva Stables, and the partnership of Mark Weaver and Mike Bruscemi. "If we won the Hambletonian Oaks, we'd have been happy, but it's not going to change anybody's life. We've all done things like that before. We thought this for some of us would be a lifetime experience, so we said let's go. "If you don't believe in your horse, you might as well not even show up. I've always believed in her. She's given me every reason to believe in her. When she's sound she's as good as anyone." Centurion ATM, who won the 2014 Peter Haughton by 3-3/4 lengths over Uncle Lasse in a world-record-equaling and stakes-record 1:53.2, will try to join Donato Hanover (2007) and Muscle Hill (2009) as the only Peter Haughton winners to also win the Hambletonian. Last year, Centurion ATM won three of eight starts, missed the top three only once, and earned $241,640. This season he is winless in four races. In his most recent start in the Stanley Dancer Memorial on July 18 at the Meadowlands, Centurion ATM went off stride on the backstretch but rallied to finish second to The Bank. It was the first time in his career that Centurion ATM made a break. "I don't think that's going to happen again," trainer/driver Ake Svanstedt said. "He's been good. Everything is normal. He is coming into good form." Centurion ATM competes in the first of the two Hambletonian eliminations. He will start from post No. 8 and is 9-2 on the morning line. Jimmy Takter-trained Pinkman, the 2014 Dan Patch Award winner for best 2-year-old male trotter, is the 8-5 favorite despite drawing post No. 10. Pinkman's stablemate, Canepa Hanover, is 3-1 and starts from post nine. The top five finishers from each elimination return later in the day for the $1 million Hambletonian final. "When you train (Centurion ATM) he feels like just a normal horse, but if you train more, the other horses get tired and he never gets tired," Svanstedt said. "He gets better and better. I think he can handle (two races in a day). But he must go to the final first." A bay colt by SJ's Caviar out of the mare ENS Tag Session, Centurion ATM is a full brother to world champion stakes-winner Triumphant Caviar, who finished eighth in the 2009 Hambletonian. Centurion ATM was purchased for $100,000 as a yearling, under the name Triumphant Session, and is owned by Knutsson Trotting Inc. and Courant A B. Svanstedt is in his second year of competing in North America. He was Sweden's Trainer of the Year five times and Driver of the Year on three occasions prior to moving his stable to the U.S. in the winter of 2013. His father, who was in the timber business, used horses for work and raced cold-blooded trotters. Svanstedt began his professional harness racing career at the age of 24 and within several years was the champion at his home track in Bergsaker. During his career overseas, Svanstedt won many of the top races in Europe. He captured the Elitlopp twice, with Torvald Palema in 2009 and Gidde Palema in 2004; the Copenhagen Cup three times and both the Oslo Grand Prix and Olympic Trot four times. Svanstedt's hopes for Hambletonian glory do not ride solely with Centurion ATM. He also is sending Workout Wonder and Southwind Mozart to the race. Workout Wonder is 12-1 in the first elimination, with Dan Dube driving from post three, and Southwind Mozart is 20-1 in the second division, with Svanstedt driving from post eight. Workout Wonder is by Conway Hall out of the mare Dear Abs. He was purchased as a yearling for $70,000. His family includes 1987 Hambletonian winner Mack Lobell and 1930 Hambletonian winner Hanover's Bertha, as well as Marla Bar, who is the dam of 2010 Hambletonian Oaks winner Bar Slide. In his most recent start, Workout Wonder finished third behind Pinkman and Canepa Hanover in the Zweig Memorial. His two wins this year have come on the New York Sire Stakes circuit. "He was very strong, but not so fast (to start the year)," said Svanstedt, who trains Workout Wonder for Juha Paavola's All Laid Out Stable. "His last race, though, he finished in (1):52.1 and came home very fast. So he has learned to go very fast. He always was a strong horse, but now he's learned to go fast. He is improving. He was good the last race, so we will take a chance and try." Southwind Mozart is by Muscle Hill out of the mare Missymae Bluestone. He was purchased for $40,000 as a yearling and is owned by Tore Borgersen's Wolfgang A Stable. His sire, Muscle Hill, won the 2009 Hambletonian. His family includes stakes-winner Have You Ever, who finished fourth in the 2004 Hambletonian Oaks. In his most recent start, Southwind Mozart won a conditioned race in 1:54.3. Two weeks earlier, he finished fifth in the Beal Memorial. "He didn't do so much last year because he was sore," Svanstedt said. "But now he's better and he raced good in his last race." Post time for Hambletonian Day's first race is noon. Cable channel CBS Sports Network will air coverage of the Cane Pace, Hambletonian Oaks and Hambletonian from 4 to 5:30 p.m. (EDT). Following are the fields for the Hambletonian and Hambletonian Oaks with drivers, trainers and morning line odds: $1.2 million Hambletonian-$100,000 1st elim.-Race 8 HN-Post-Driver-Trainer-Line 1. Donatomite, Trond Smedshammer, Trond Smedshammer, 15-1 2. The Bank, Jimmy Takter, Jimmy Takter, 8-1 3. Workout Wonder, Daniel Dube, Ake Svanstedt, 12-1 4. Habitat, Brian Sears, Ron Burke, 6-1 5. Total Darkness, Tim Tetrick, Jonas Czernyson, 20-1 6. Fashion Creditor, David Miller, Tom Fanning, 20-1 7. Jacksons Minion, Tom Jackson, Tom Jackson, 30-1 8. Centurion ATM, Ake Svanstedt, Ake Svanstedt, 9-2 9. Canepa Hanover, Jimmy Takter, Jimmy Takter, 3-1 10. Pinkman, Yannick Gingras, Jimmy Takter, 8-5 $1.2 million Hambletonian-$100,000 2nd elim.-Race 9 HN-Post-Driver-Trainer-Line 1. Billy Flynn, Tim Tetrick, Staffan Lind, 15-1 2. Mission Brief, Yannick Gingras, Ron Burke, 6-5 3. Cruzado Dela Noche, David Miller, Nancy Johansson, 20-1 4. Aldebaran Eagle, Corey Callahan, Jonas Czernyson, 20-1 5. Wings Of Royalty, Tim Tetrick, George Ducharme, 12-1 6. French Laundry, Brett Miller, Jimmy Takter, 4-1 7. Uncle Lasse, Johnny Takter, Jimmy Takter, 5-2 8. Southwind Mozart, Ake Svanstedt, Ake Svanstedt, 20-1 9. Muscle Diamond, Tim Tetrick, Brett Bittle, 8-1 By Ken Weingartner Harness Racing Communications USTA
The 2015 Hambletonian Day card on Saturday, August 8 at the harness racing meeting at The Meadowlands has all the elements necessary to be one of the great events in harness racing history. The races will begin at noon with a $40,000 Open Pace and over the next six hours 164 horses will compete in 16 races for purses of just over $4 million, led by the $1.2 million Hambletonian and the $500,000 Hambletonian Oaks. The story line for the Hambletonian became far more interesting when trainer Ron Burke entered the great filly Mission Brief in the open event, bypassing the Oaks and taking on last year's Hambo winning trainer/driver Jimmy Takter's five horse armada in the process. The drama increased when Yannick Gingras, the regular driver for Mission Brief and Takter's top contender Pinkman, was named on both horses for the race. The two drew into separate divisions of the eliminations heats which will allow Yannick to drive each in their respective elimination before having to make a choice for the final, assuming both qualify. Pinkman's late season rally as a freshman made him the champion of the division at two and he has defended his title with nearly flawless form this season. The most accomplished of the Takter five, Pinkman has won the Earl Beal, Stanley Dancer and Harry M. Zweig Memorials (all major stakes) in his last three start and has made well in excess of $1 million over his career for owners Christina Takter, John & Jim Fielding, Joyce McClelland and Herb Liverman. He is saddled with the far outside post ten in the first elimination. Mission Brief has found the form that dazzled fans last season and was really keen to go in her most recent start, the Filly Zweig Memorial. The Muscle Hill lass is poetry in motion when on her game and has drawn the favorable post two in the nine horse second division for Burke Racing, Our Horse Cents, J&T Silva and Weaver Bruscemi. The $1,000,000 Hambletonian final is race 13 and is scheduled to go to post at 5:15 pm. The Hambletonian Oaks is a very well matched group of ten talented fillies. With the defection of Mission Brief to the main event and the tragic demise of elimination winner and consensus "horse to beat" Spirit To Win in a Monday morning training mishap, the race becomes a wide-open affair. Lock Down Lindy won her split in 1:51.4, starts from the inside for owners Mystical Marker Farms, Crawford Partners, Joe Sbrocco and In The Gym Partners and is currently doing her best work. Wiggle It Jiggleit, currently the most exciting horse in harness, will race in the $319,400 Cane Pace, the first leg of pacing's Triple Crown (race 10). Wiggle It Jiggleit has been absolutely monstrous all season long and is coming into the Cane fresh off three weeks rest. He is a family project with young Montrell Teague driving the Meadowlands Pace winner for his father George's stable and trainer Clyde Francis. The $109,500 Shady Daisy for the sophomore pacing fillies is another chapter in a season that has seen a very evenly matched group slug it out over the past two months with no filly able to rise above the others just yet. The very best aged performers in the game are out in force on Saturday and account for several of the most competitive and entertaining races on the program. Eleven pacing mares will race the route distance of nine furlongs in the $251,250 Lady Liberty (race 3). These mares may parade like ladies but when the starter says "Go" the gloves come off and the girls throw down. The Bamond family's absolutely iron-tough Anndrovette has won four division titles, $3.3 million and the Golden Girls stake last month here against many of these at the same distance when it looked like she may have lost a step. Well, she hasn't. This year's edition of the US Pacing Championship is up next and offers a purse of $215,400 to a field of nine really good horses...make that eight really good and one great horse. The venerable $7 million winner Foiled Again has recently shown flashes of his best form after a slow start to the season for Burke Racing, Weaver Bruscemi and JJK Stables. He raced about as good as he ever has in the Haughton Memorial three weeks ago and had plenty of pace but no place to use it in last week's TVG Open. Foiled is also being honored with a Breyer likeness giveaway to all the kids that come out on Saturday. The $301,500 John Cashman Memorial (open) and $181,450 Fresh Yankee (mares) feature trotting's elite in bulky fields at a mile and one eighth in races 5 and 6. All the stars of the division are on the racetrack in these trotting classics. Magic Tonight returns home a champion, having won this year's Elitlopp in May for Swedish owner A. O J Konsult and trainer Roger Walmann. The expatriate son of Andover Hall faces a very deep field of eleven rivals including 2012 Hambletonian winner Market Share who is competing at the highest level on Hambo Day for a remarkable fourth consecutive season. The Fresh Yankee is a brand new stake for mare trotters and the inaugural edition just could not have drawn a more stellar field. "Queen" Bee A Magician is the undisputed monarch of her division having won seven of eight starts this year including several versus mixed company while passing the $3 million career earnings mark along the way for owners Mel Hartman, Herb Liverman and Dave McDuffee. "What about the young horses," you may ask. Well, the $389,450 Jim Doherty for fillies (race 2) and $349,850 Peter Haughton (race 7) for colts memorialize two of the game's legends with the first high-dollar opportunity for the freshmen. Broadway Donna looks like a top filly, having dispensed of all competition with minimal effort thus far, including the fastest Doherty elimination last week for Jules Siegel's Fashion Farm. Woman's Will and Kathy Parker were the other elim winners and will seek the upset. Southwind Frank is the favorite going into the Haughton, having won three of four thus far including both the NJSS final and his Haughton elimination with the greatest of ease. He is another from the Ron Burke barn and races for the same partnership as Mission Brief on what could be a huge day for those connections. You want Wagering opportunities? We got 'em. There are $275,000 worth of guaranteed pools spread over several horizontal wagers and the day ends with a $231,403 carryover on the 8% take-out Jackpot Hi-5. With this the close of the 2015 Championship Meet, this wager takes on "Mandatory Pay Out" status which will create huge interest and great value, potentially driving the pool into seven figures. Programs will be available here and in the Daily Racing Form. If you can't make it live, the Hambletonian will be broadcast on the CBS Sports Network from 4:00 to 5:30pm and is available in Hi-Def on TRN. The races are also available via live streaming from The Meadowlands website. There are a ton of promotions going on throughout the plant all day long including the ever-popular Hambo hat giveaway. It's the greatest day of the year in harness racing and it all happens at The Meadowlands on Saturday. Nick Salvi