The road to August's $1 million Hambletonian Stakes resumes this weekend with a slew of harness racing, including the first appearance of the year by early-season Hambletonian favorite Southwind Frank. And trainer Ron Burke, who conditions Southwind Frank, couldn't be happier. "I'm excited," Burke said. "I'm ready to get going. I'm glad he's racing. "You want to start seeing if he's as good as you think he is. If not, you want to know what you need to work on. But I'm hoping that right off the bat it's good and it just stays good. We just need a little luck and I think he'll take care of the rest. He trained down super and seems great." Southwind Frank, who finished his 2015 campaign with 10 consecutive victories, makes his seasonal debut in Friday's opening round of the New Jersey Sire Stakes for 3-year-old male trotters at the Meadowlands Racetrack. Southwind Frank and driver Yannick Gingras will start from post four in a 12-horse field and are the 7-5 morning line favorite. Other Hambletonian-eligible trotters in the race are Bar Hopping, Brooklyn Hill, Dominion Beach, Honor Above All, Jack Vernon, Metatron, Promise Delivered, Sigmund, and Southwind Flash. Last year, Southwind Frank won 11 of 12 races and earned $786,419. His wins included the Breeders Crown, Peter Haughton Memorial, and William Wellwood Memorial. In addition, his time of 1:52.2 in a division of the International Stallion Stakes set the world record for a 2-year-old male trotter. He received both the Dan Patch and O'Brien awards for best 2-year-old male trotter. Southwind Frank was owned last year by the Burke Racing Stable, the partnership of Mark Weaver and Mike Bruscemi, Our Horse Cents Stables, and J&T Silva Stables. This season he races for the Southwind Frank Partners, which includes the previously mentioned owners as well as Diamond Creek Racing. A son of Muscle Hill out of the mare Flawless Lindy, Southwind Frank was purchased as a yearling for $100,000 at the 2014 Lexington Selected Sale. His family includes Dan Patch Award winner Cayster as well as stakes-winners Giant Hit and Program Speed. Southwind Frank heads to the New Jersey Sire Stakes off a 1:54 qualifier win on May 14 at the Meadowlands. He finished second in an earlier qualifier, which came a week after being held out of qualifying because of a quarter crack. "Other than that everything has been picture perfect with him, totally uneventful," Burke said. "The quarter crack could have turned into an issue and it didn't. I think it's no longer a worry." This is the second consecutive year that Burke brings a top contender onto the Hambletonian trail. Last year, it was filly Mission Brief, who battled back woes before challenging the boys in the Hambletonian. She won her Hambletonian elimination and finished second to Pinkman in the final. "He's way more push-button than her," Burke said. "And so far we've had no issues. This colt just gets better and better. But honestly, with (Mission Brief), I was more emotionally involved than I am with him. She's my all-time favorite. The losses with her were horrible, the worst in the world. I like him, but I'm not as attached --- at least at this point --- as I was to her. Certain horses you just dig. You know, that's my horse. She's the one I like the most." During his 10-race win streak, Southwind Frank posted every victory by at least 1-1/4 lengths. Burke said it's hard at this point to determine where the colt's bottom is. "He did everything so easily last year and Yannick did such a nice job protecting him, not showing him off," Burke said. "I think there's a lot more there. He does things once in a while when he's training where you're like, 'What the heck?' You're reading the watch trying to figure out if what he did is possible. He might be something really special this year. "I'm just hoping he stays sound. I think the schedule we have set right now in our minds is perfect for him to be at his best when he hits (Hambletonian Day). If you win that, your whole year is made. That's the ultimate goal. Yannick doesn't have one, I don't have one, so it's very important to both of us." Other races on the road to the Hambletonian are Saturday's two Currier & Ives divisions at The Meadows and one New York Sire Stakes division at Vernon Downs. Hambletonian-eligible trotters in the first Currier & Ives division are Desert Runner, Hititoutofthepark, Iron Mine Bucky, and Steed. Hititoutofthepark is the 7-5 morning line favorite. The second division includes Hambletonian eligible Breedlove, Hollywood Highway, and Leggs Matter. At Vernon Downs, three Hambletonian-eligible trotters compete in the second of two New York Sire Stakes splits. They are Chukkar, Reve Royale, and The Perfect Lindy. For a "Hoof Beats" magazine feature on Southwind Frank, click here. Ken Weingartner
When last seen in these parts, Pinkman was exiting the harness racing winner's circle following his 2015 Hambletonian victory. The altered son of Explosive Matter returns to The Meadowlands in the sixth race on Friday, May 13 to face six foes with his sites set squarely on next week's opening leg of the Graduate Series. Pinkman's 2015 season resulted in his being named as the Dan Patch three-year-old trotter of the year. He danced virtually every dance, winning eleven of seventeen starts including the Canadian Trotting Classic and Kentucky Futurity to go along with the Hambo win while banking over $1.8 million. Leaving from post four tomorrow night, Pinkman comes in off of a pair of conditioning qualifiers for Jimmy Takter who trains him for owners Christina Takter, Jon & Jim Fielding, Joyce McClelland and Herb Liverman. Yannick Gingras will drive. Transitioning into the summer meet, all of The Meadowlands outdoor attractions are now open for business including Victory Terrace with its spectacular NYC skyline views and a fashionable bar crowd. Directed toward that demographic is Friday's $50 Spring Handicapping Contest providing an arena for new fans to compete for cash prizes. The guaranteed horizontal wagers are in place, free program pages for the late Pick-4 are available courtesy of Trackmaster and the last race Hi-5 Super Jackpot stands at $212,593 to open the weekend. Post time is 7:15 p.m. Meadowlands Media Relations
For the second consecutive year, harness racing trainer John Butenschoen is bringing a son of stallion Yankee Glide and the mare Celebrity Liza on to the Hambletonian trail, but there is little family resemblance between last year’s colt, Boots N Chains, and this year’s hopeful, Hititoutofthepark. “It’s kind of like watching “Twins” with Danny DeVito and Arnold Schwarzenegger,” Butenschoen said with a laugh. “Physically they’re nothing alike. Hititoutofthepark reminds me more of the Yankee Glide colt I had, (state-bred stakes-winner) Valley Of Sin; kind of about the same gait, same size. “Boots N Chains was a little heavier, thicker type of horse. He was really kind of laid back. This horse here can get a little aggressive on the track at times. They’re two completely different kinds of colts.” Hititoutofthepark is among 15 Hambletonian-eligible trotters competing in Saturday’s (May 14) Pennsylvania Sire Stakes divisions at The Meadows. Hititoutofthepark is in the third of four $41,000-plus divisions and will start from post five with Corey Callahan in the sulky. He is the 5-2 morning line favorite. The seven-horse field also includes Hambletonian hopefuls Granite State, Treasure Keys K, Milligan’s School, and Desert Runner. Milligan’s School, a multiple open stakes winner last season, is the 7-2 second choice. Hititoutofthepark won his 2016 debut on May 7 at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono, beating defending Pennsylvania Sire Stakes champion Lagerfeld by a head in 1:55. Last year, Hititoutofthepark won five of 11 races and earned $128,820 for owners Give It A Shot Stable, Kurt Welling, and VIP Internet Stable. His victories included divisions of the Pennsylvania Sire Stakes, Pennsylvania All-Stars, and Tompkins-Geers Stakes. He was scratched sick from the Pennsylvania Sire Stakes championship because of a 103-degree temperature. In his start prior to the PaSS final, Hititoutofthepark won by three-quarters of a length over Lagerfeld despite going off stride early in the race. “He had a real good year last year,” Butenschoen said. “We could have had a little bit more money on his card. We didn’t really know what we had. We raced him in Pennsylvania mainly and gave him one shot in Lexington. He raced well there (finishing second in an International Stallion Stakes division) and we turned him out. “Hopefully he’ll be OK for this summer and we’ll have some fun with him.” In addition to the Hambletonian, Hititoutofthepark’s stakes schedule includes the Arden Downs, Currier & Ives, Keystone Classic, Matron, and Yonkers Trot. “We’re not trying to gear up only for the Hambletonian,” Butenschoen said. “It’s just a shot at it. There are a bunch of partners in on him and we thought we’d give it a try and see what happens. We try to zig when other people zag. If it fits his schedule when it comes up we’ll take a look at it then. “I’ve looked forward too many times in the past. I’ve had all kinds of great plans coming out of (winter training in) Florida and horses get sick or making breaks and you’re left scrambling, so I try not to look too far ahead. I kind of knew where his first three starts where going to be and then we’ll see what happens afterwards.” Butenschoen hoped to have Boots N Chains pointed toward last year’s Hambletonian, but the colt never got on a roll after a 2-year-old campaign that saw him win a division of the Simpson Memorial Stakes and post runner-up finishes to French Laundry in the Kindergarten Classic championship and Muscle Diamond in a division of the International Stallion Stakes. “I thought he was going to come back really well, but he just didn’t seem to get any faster from (age) 2 to 3,” Butenschoen said. “He didn’t make that next jump up. Hititoutofthepark, we’ll see. Hopefully he’ll make that jump. But they’ve both made money for me, so I’m not going to complain about either one.” Other Hambletonian-eligible trotters competing on Saturday in the Pennsylvania Sire Stakes are morning line favorites Tight Lines (3-1 in the first division) and Mikkeli Hanover (5-2 in the second division) as well as Alexander Hanover, Breedlove, Hollywood Highway, Lagerfeld, Love Matters, Marion Gondolier, Sliding Home, and Southern Cross. Tyson is the 2-1 morning line pick in the fourth division, followed by Lagerfeld at 4-1. by Ken Weingartner, Harness Racing Communications
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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 email@example.com
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