For a small breeder, having one foal make the Breeders Crown final is exciting. Paul “Pete” Spears’ Windsong Stables came to prominence in 2004 when Windsongs Legacy captured the Triple Crown of trotting for trainer Trond Smedshammer. The Windsong name will be in focus on Saturday night with two foals from the late Bax Machine figuring prominently in both the $250,000 Crown Mare Trot and the $500,000 Crown 3-year-old filly trot. “I recall we purchased Bax Machine in 2001 at the Harrisburg Sale,” said Spears. “She was in foal to Muscles Yankee and I think we paid either $18,000 or $19,000.” While the daughter of Earl seemed to have a nondescript pedigree, Spears actually favors that approach. “I especially like to purchase hard-hitting mares that race in Canada,” Spears said. “It really doesn’t matter to me what the sires name is.” Diversity has been the watchword at Windsong and it has helped cultivate a brand that continues to perform at a high level. Bax Machine has been a model of consistency no matter what cross Spears chose for her. With 10 foals on the racetrack, Bax Machine was the proverbial sure thing in the breeding shed. “It doesn’t show up on the USTA site, but her 2005 foal by S Js Caviar (Bring Me Back) was a top colt in Sweden,” said Spears. What does show up under her pedigree is an extraordinary array of talented trotters from diverse stallion pairings. Her first colt by Muscles Yankee, named Q Forty Five, was exported and raced well overseas. She was then bred to Angus Hall, Dream Vacation, S Js Caviar, Broadway Hall, Cantab Hall, Windsongs Legacy, Kadabra and Credit Winner. On Saturday night Bax Of Life, the true Windsong-bred mare—being a daughter of Windsongs Legacy and Bax Machine—appears to have the best chance of success. The 5-year-old mare, trained by Jerry Duford and driven by John Campbell landed post three fresh off an impressive 1:52.4 victory in last week’s Crown elimination. The gritty mare has improved with age, earning more than $300,000 over the last two years, a far cry from the just under $90,000 she banked as a 2- and 3-year-old combined. Trainer Jim Raymer entered Bouncing Bax in the Crown because he believed the daughter of Credit Winner deserved a chance. She entered last week’s Crown eliminations on the strength of a five-race winning streak that included the $225,000 New York Sire Stakes final at Yonkers. Though that streak ended with a fifth place finish in her Breeders Crown elimination, driver Howard Parker seemed undeterred. “I thought she raced very well,” said Parker. “She got a little fumbly on the final turn and I had to steady her. She’ll race better next week.” The New York Sire Stakes program has helped Bouncing Bax earn $367,713 in her first two years of racing. “She’s very good gaited and she’s very comfortable on the half-mile track,” said Raymer. “I think she’ll be a little better next year.” While Bax Machine has yet to produce a world champion, she’s given more to the sport in the longevity her foals have had on the racetrack. Just look at Never Bax Down, her second foal by Ontario-sire Angus Hall who raced 180 times between 2007 and 2011. Baximum, Bax Machine’s 2007 foal by Cantab Hall, was a Grand Circuit winner as a 2- and 3-year-old and is approaching $400,000 in career earnings. The saga for owner Spears came to an end last year when Bax Machine was injured prior to foaling her Muscle Massive-sired colt. “She foaled on three legs,” said Spears. “Mares generally don’t get better after that.” Bax Machine did her motherly duty and nursed her foal until the youngster was weaned some three months later. “We could have done a procedure on her,” said Spears, “But it was risky with no guarantee of success.” Bax Machine ultimately was humanely put down and her final foal—Fighting Bax—goes on the auction block Nov. 4 at the Standardbred Horse Sale at Harrisburg. Spears says he’s had fun naming the foals of Bax Machine, who was named as a tribute to Ontario horseman John Bax, who trained the $2.1 millionaire Goodtimes. Spears is grateful for the success of Windsong Stable mares, having had the good fortune to do well with mares others cast aside. He’s bred a diverse group to a wide range of stallions and come up with solid stakes trotters. Triple Crown winner Windsongs Legacy’s dam Yankee Windsong died prematurely after her champion was born. Bax Machine’s greatest accomplishment, producing two exceptional Breeders Crown finalists, comes a year after her passing. On the positive side, the bloodlines of Windsongs Legacy and Bax Machine will be around for some time, especially if two of Windsongs Legacy’s more famous sons —Chapter Seven and Lucky Chucky—turn out to be successful in the breeding shed. Win, lose or draw, Windsong Stables has carved out quite a niche on the trotting breed. By Jay Bergman for the Breeders Crown
Nancy Johansson is hoping she and the "Gator" can do something she never accomplished while working for her father, trainer Jimmy Takter. Win a Breeders Crown. Johansson took care of a number of top horses while working for her dad, including 2010 Hambletonian winner Muscle Massive and world champion Tom Ridge, but never one that won a Crown. It seems difficult to believe because Takter has the leading stable in Breeders Crown history, with $6.42 million in purses and 15 trophies. Now a trainer on her own, the 32-year-old Johansson sends Western Vintage into Saturday's eliminations for the $600,000 Breeders Crown for 2-year-old male pacers at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs. Western Vintage, aka Gator, competes in the second of three $25,000 elims and is the 2-1 morning line favorite in his division. The top three finishers from each division advance to the final on Oct. 19 at Pocono Downs. "It's exciting to have my first Breeders Crown as a trainer," said Johansson, who works with her husband, driver Marcus Johansson, and is based in central New Jersey. "Hopefully I can follow in my dad's footsteps a little bit there. If I can do as well as he's done, that would be great. It's exciting. Like they say, it all comes down to the Breeders Crown, so we're happy to be a part of it. "It's one of the few races I haven't won as a groom, so hopefully I can get it done as a trainer. We'll see." Western Vintage has won five of seven races this year, including the $150,000 New Jersey Sire Stakes championship and a $76,750 division of the Bluegrass Stakes, and finished second in the $648,850 Metro Pace. He has won $316,838 for the Johanssons, owner Perry Soderberg and driver Yannick Gingras. "We trained him down and I remember Marcus always telling me 'We have the best colt in the country' and I would always tell him he was crazy because we only have two pacers and (what were the chances) one of them would be the best one," a laughing Johansson said. "But he is one of the best ones now. Marcus knows what he's talking about, I guess." Western Vintage is a son of stallion Western Ideal out of the mare Major Harmony. He was purchased for $7,000 under the name Unity at the 2012 Lexington Selected Sale. His family includes Silk Stockings (the first filly to be named Pacer of the Year) and 1952 Little Brown Jug winner Meadow Rice. Fourth dam Napa Valley produced Art's Vintage, the mom of former Takter star Vintage Master. "He's just been awesome and he's matured," Johansson said about Western Vintage. "He loves his work and he loves to race more than anything. I'm just thrilled with him. He's never tired, ever. I've tried to wear him out many times and I've never managed to wear him out. I think that's a really good quality to have in a racehorse. He's a sound horse and very smart. He takes good care of himself." And he is almost always a pleasure to be around. "He's a little bit of a biter," Johansson said, laughing. "That's why he gets his nickname Gator. He's never really bitten anybody, though, but he threatens to bite. I think he's just playful; he wants somebody to play with him. He's like any 2-year-old boy." Western Vintage's Breeders Crown elimination includes Ontario Sire Stakes championship runner-up Crafty Master and Takter-trained Bakersfield. The first division is led by International Stallion Stakes winners Somestarsomewhere (5-2 morning line choice) and So Surreal (3-1) while the third elim features Battle of Waterloo champ Three Of Clubs (3-1) and Bluegrass division winner Smack Talk (7-2). "I think the 2-year-old pacing colts are kind of even," said Johansson, who has 14 horses in training. "It's not going to be easy; it never is. That's for sure. "Western Vintage is heading into his elimination very strong," she added. "He's healthy and he raced well in Lexington (in the Bluegrass) so I'm thinking he's going to have a really good shot." by Ken Weingartner for HRC
Lexington, KY --- It is a bull market at a horse sale, as prices remain strong at the Lexington Selected Yearling Sale. Through four sessions, the sale has already surpassed the gross sales of the entire five day auction in 2012 by nearly $2 million, and the average price through the comparable session is up a robust 10.8 percent. The sale topper at $95,000 on Friday was Wanna Get Lucky, a filly from the first crop of Lucky Chucky, who continues his impressive showing at the sale. The filly’s dam, Ucalthisahoneymoon, is a full sister to $1.3 million winning mare Falls For You. Deo Volente Farms will be taking home the filly that was consigned by Kentuckiana Farms. Runner-up honors for the night belong to the Art Major filly Daut Full. Showing no doubt about her prospects, Tony Alagna cast the winning bid of $75,000. It is a strong filly family, featuring dam Thereal Ideal ($168,136), half-sister Lyons Anitacol ($174,767) and second dam Doc’s Girl ($411,890). Hunterton Sales Agency consigned the filly. Next on the leader board was the Conway Hall colt Only My Way, the first foal out of $129,000 winner If And Only If. Richard Berthiaume signed for the colt that was consigned by Peninsula Farms as agent. A total of 156 yearlings passed through the ring on Friday, averaging $21,423. This represents an increase in average price compared to the fourth session a year ago of 27 percent. Session 4 Group-Number-Sold-Total-price-Average-Price-Top-Price-Median-$100,000+ Pacing-Colts-39-$777,000-$19,923-$50,000-$20,000-0 Pacing-Fillies-35-$605,000-$17,286-$75,000-$13,000-0 Trotting-Colts-36-$861,000-$23,917-$70,000-$20,500-0 Trotting-Fillies-46-$1,099,000-$23,891-$95,000-$23,000-0 Total-156-$3,342,000-$21,423-$95,000-$18,500-0 Sale through four sessions Group-Number-Sold-Total-price-Average-Price-Top-Price-Median-$100,000+ Pacing-Colts-140-$6,758,000-$48,271-$150,000-$37,000-22 Pacing-Fillies-129-$5,176,000-$40,124-$180,000-$30,000-10 Trotting-Colts-144-$8,017,000-$55,674-$475,000-$40,000-18 Trotting-Fillies-163-$6,133,000-$37,626-$260,000-$30,000-8 Total-576-$26,084,000-$45,285-$475,000-$35,000-58 Yearling-Sire-Dam-Sex-Gait-Price-Buyer WANNA GET LUCKY-Lucky Chucky-Ucalthisahoneymoon-F-T-$95,000-Deo Volente Farms DAUT FULL-Art Major-Thereal Ideal-F-P-$75,000-Anthony P. Alagna ONLY MY WAY-Conway Hall-If And Only If-C-T-$70,000-Richard Berthiaume Inc. TONED LADY-Muscle Massive-My Day To Play-F-T-$60,000-Greg Wright, Agent FIVE BELOW-Andover Hall-Day Five-C-T-$52,000-Kelly O'Donnell, Agent INHERIT HIS LUCK-Lucky Chucky-Promising Deal-C-T-$50,000-Alfred S. Ross & Paul Fontaine HEAVENLY TUNES-Rock N Roll Heaven-Three Kilo-C-P-$50,000-Joe Holloway FINISH LINE-Yankee Glide-Calchips Finisher-C-T-$50,000-Trond Smedshammer The Lexington Selected Yearling Sale concludes on Saturday evening at the Fasig-Tipton sale arena. by David Carr for the USTA (www.ustrotting.com)
CAMPBELLVILLE, August 28 – Perry Soderberg is usually a man behind the scenes when it comes to recruiting some of harness racing’s great pacers and trotters, but come Saturday evening at Mohawk, he will be square in the spotlight. The native of Sweden spends many of his summer months visiting North America’s top breeding farms in search of future champions. He’s not selecting the youngsters for himself necessarily, but finding top yearlings for the sport’s top owners. But with the up-and-coming Western Vintage, that wasn’t the case. The youngster was a yearling that Soderberg recommended to all of his clients, but when the hammer fell at $7,000 at the Lexington Selected Yearling Sale last year, it was Soderberg who was the purchaser. One year later, the son of Western Ideal is one of the key contenders in the $683,000 Metro Pace, North America’s richest two-year-old pacing event. “What an unbelievable thrill,” Soderberg said, of racing for the rich purse. “There are a lot of other top colts in the race, but I’m also confident in our guy. Like anything else, we’ll need some luck and all we can do is hope for the best.” Western Vintage was a horse of which Soderberg spoke highly, but his clients thought otherwise. “I told all my clients about him, but no one really seemed interested. I knew the family very well because of Vintage Master and Great Vintage, so I knew what type of horse the family has been known to throw. “He was average-size, but has a lot of muscle tone and stood very well,” Soderberg continued. “He did have a scar on his back right ankle, which was maybe why he scared some people away, but not me. He was also New Jersey-bred, which isn’t in demand with the Sires Stakes program, but he was well worth a chance.” The homework Soderberg did last season has allowed him to reap the rewards to himself this season as Western Vintage has banked $117,250 with a 4-0-0 record from five starts. “I’m not one to buy yearlings for myself because that’s not my business. My business is scoping out the yearlings each year and giving my recommendation to my clients and allow them to make their own decisions to hopefully end up with a champion. In this case, my clients knew I recommended the horse, but nobody jumped, so I did.” After Soderberg purchased the youngster, he quickly received a text message from Nancy Johannson Tatker, daughter of Hall of Fame Jimmy Takter. “Nancy messaged me asking if she could train the horse because that was the direction her and her husband, Marcus, were going. I quickly agreed. I’ve known Nancy for 30 years, so it was an obvious fit. She’s done a fabulous job with this horse and deserves a lot of recognition.” Soderberg's main clients that he recruits yearlings for include Takter, Al Libfeld, Marvin Katz and Brittany Farms to name a few. Soderberg’s results at selecting youngsters speaks volumes as he’s recruited Mr Feelgood, Muscle Massive, Passionate Glide, Pampered Princess, Ken Warkentin, Pastor Stephen, Cabrini Hanover and in recent years American Jewel, Romantic Moment, Father Patrick and Ali Blue. “I have a terrific clientele and it’s not just about spending a lot of money and purchasing the highest price yearling. It’s about finding the correct individual at the right price with the right conformation. “I get a great thrill just being apart of a horse’s career,” said Soderberg, a resident of New Jersey. “I’m not the type to be in spotlight. I’m content being behind the scenes. “On an average year I’ll look at between 1,600 to 1,700 yearlings,” Soderberg continued. “I remember one year I was close to 2,000. I spend a lot of time on the road, but in the end it has paid off very well.” After Soderberg purchased Western Vintage, the training reports he received were always encouraging, but Soderberg remained grounded. “I follow every horse that I pick out for clients and sometimes they turn out and sometimes they don’t, it’s just the way it works. I’ve been down this road before, so I didn’t want to get too high on him until he stepped foot on to the racetrack.” Western Vintage qualified at The Meadowlands, before scoring three straight wins including a $150,000 New Jersey Sires Stakes final. Most recently, Western Vintage scored a 1:51.3 lifetime best victory by two lengths in his Metro Pace elimination, while in the hands of regular driver Yannick Gingras. “He’s really progressed well this season and I was a bundle of nerves in his (Metro) elimination,” said the 53-year-old. “I usually don’t get worked up when he’s racing. I was fine when he raced in New Jersey, but not last week. Maybe it’s the thought of racing for that kind of money.” Soderberg’s hard work and dedication has paid dividends for his clients. On Saturday, he may well be the beneficiary. Greg Gangle – WEG Communications
It might be a longshot for Holmdel's Tom Pontone and his father Lou to visit the winner's circle again in Saturday's $1.2 million Hambletonian Stakes, but that is better than no shot. The Pontones' TLP Stable and Mario Zuanetti's Atlantic Trot share ownership of Banco Solo, who is competing in the third of three Hambletonian elims and is 15-1 on the morning line. Jim Morrill Jr. will drive the colt for trainer Ken Oscarsson. Corky (2-1 on the morning line) and Spider Blue Chip (5-2) are the favorites in the elim. In a return to a format last used in the mid-1990s, the Hambletonian will be contested entirely in one day. The top three finishers from each elim plus the fourth-place finisher with the highest lifetime earnings will advance to the Hambletonian final. The final is scheduled for 4:41 p.m. CBS Sports Network will air live coverage of the Hambletonian from 3:30-5 p.m. "Listen, you have to be there to win," Lou Pontone said. "That's what we're doing." Winning the Hambletonian is something that has become familiar to the Pontones. They won in 2009 with Muscle Hill and made another trip to hoist the trophy last year with Market Share. Only nine owners have won the Hambletonian more than twice in the history of the event, which began in 1926. Banco Solo is winless in seven races this year. He finished third in a 3-year-old open for Hambletonian eligible horses on July 27 at the Meadowlands. The race was won by Corky in 1:54.3. Banco Solo was 4-3/4 lengths back, timed in 1:55.3. He was third in a division of the Currier & Ives at The Meadows and fourth in the Reynolds Memorial at the Meadowlands. He was nosed out for a spot in the final of the $500,000 Beal Memorial at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs despite trotting a 1:53.1 mile. "He's been OK, he's just had some bad racing luck," said Oscarsson, whose younger brother Jim trains and drives Hambletonian contender Aperfectyankee in the second elim. "He seems like he's good enough (to go in the Hambletonian). He feels good and acts like everything is fine. He feels stronger this year; he really grew up and is more mature. He's got the speed to go with them, but hasn't had the racing luck. It's been frustrating." Last year, Banco Solo closed the campaign by winning seven of his last eight starts, including the $206,000 Kindergarten Classic final at Vernon Downs. He finished the season with seven wins in 10 races and earned $157,481. "We didn't think the (Hambletonian) field this year was that strong, like in some previous years," Tom Pontone said. "Who knows what happens. There's not a horse out there that you could really say is the horse to beat. It's not like there is a Donato Hanover or Deweycheatumnhowe or Muscle Hill. We had the possibility to get in the race, so we said why not try it." Muscle Hill won the Hambletonian in 1:50.1, setting the stakes record and equaling the time for the fastest mile ever trotted on a mile track. He was a perfect 12-for-12 as a 3-year-old and was named Horse of the Year. "When you have a horse like Muscle Hill it spoils you," Tom Pontone said. "We never went to a race expecting to lose; we went to every race wondering by how many lengths we were going to win. "You have to come back to reality and hope you can get another good horse that can maybe win some big races. Maybe he doesn't. But you just accept it and go forward and give that horse the opportunity to do the best he can." The Pontones are hoping Banco Solo's best is Saturday. "He's been gradually improving every week," Tom Pontone said, "so we figured we'd give him a shot." by Ken Weingartner
Growing up in a big city there were few things to be envious of. We had it all. Well, as harness fans we had two of the sport’s most iconic tracks in Yonkers and Roosevelt Raceways, but when it came to the sport’s signature event, The Hambletonian, we were miles from where it was happening. In the fall of 1976 The Meadowlands ushered in a new era for the sport. For those of us “half-milers” the one-mile strip had the allure of all of those speedy tracks in the Midwest that annually held State Fairs accompanied by the greatest the sport had to offer. The Grand Circuit’s mile tracks gave the sport’s stars the opportunity to race in heats and generally race faster than they would anywhere else. It just seemed natural that industry leaders would find a way to blend our rich tradition with our obvious future. In 1981 the Hambletonian arrived at the Meadowlands under less than ideal weather conditions. It arrived with many of the same faces that graced the Grand Circuit. It also came with an advanced purse structure more befitting the character the sport had attained in the New York City region. It would be simple to start the history lesson with Shiaway St. Pat’s victory. It’s nice that Ray Remmen, the winning driver remains one of the most respected horsemen at the Meadowlands to this day. Yet my story begins with a man who never won a Hambletonian. However, Carl Allen was hardly a loser that afternoon. He guided longshot Olaf to victory in one heat of the Hambletonian and also guided Pams Key to victory in a heat of the Hambletonian Oaks. Allen’s saga in the Hambletonian is similar to most trotting horsemen. He wanted to win the race more than any other. In 1995 most people thought his time had finally arrived. The homebred C R Kay Suzie was the best filly of her generation and an odds-on favorite to beat the boys in the Hambletonian after capturing the Yonkers Trot. Sure there was a genuine family story line with Carl’s son Rod driving the filly. There was also some dissent because C R Kay Suzie would race with trotting hopples. Purists far and wide (and most Europeans) believed that no true trotter should wear hopples and that they should be prohibited from use in the sport’s most elite race. Maybe like all great inventions, 1995 was too soon for the gear Carl Allen had modified and maximized to be fully accepted. That’s the only plausible reason I can imagine as to why C R Kay Suzie made a break that day as the 1-10 favorite in her Hambletonian elimination. Over the 32 years at the Meadowlands the race has evolved when necessary to more accurately resemble challenges of the day. What has never changed is the openness and availability of the race to those from North America and overseas. The universal appeal of the Hambletonian is something that was nurtured and grew at the Meadowlands. It’s hard to imagine another race having the same allure that would draw a Ulf Thoresen (Nuclear Kosmos 1986) or a Stefan Melander (Scarlet Knight 2001) to come to these shores and succeed. One would have to think that location, location, location is a major reason why Canadians based in Ontario made the pilgrimage to East Rutherford and enjoyed the ultimate prize in 2000 (Yankee Paco), 2003 (Amigo Hall) and again in 2006 with Glidemaster. It is this type of diversity that has set the Hambletonian apart in its stay in New Jersey. In DuQuoin the greats of the sport were prominent with the Dancers and Haughtons winning with regularity. The canvas has been spread much wider since the race arrived in the Metropolitan New York area. While the race isn’t going anywhere for some time, the 2013 edition marks the last time the horses will cross the wire in front of the current grandstand. With building fast reaching its completion the 2014 Hambletonian’s finish wire will be on the current backstretch. Much like the Hambletonian, however, the shift in grandstand will do little to shift the drama and excitement the race creates for the sport each and every year. It’s hard not to look back and recall some of the greatest moments in the sport’s long history taking place in the Hambletonian or on Hambletonian Day. It’s a race that has been filled with epic drama. In 1983 for example Hall of Famer Stanley Dancer’s stable would suffer a crippling blow in July when likely Hambo favorite Dancers Crown would succumb to severe intestinal issues. Dancer enlisted his brilliant filly Duenna to fill the void and her victory was bittersweet to all. The 1983 Hambletonian was the first to offer a $1 million purse putting it on similar footing with many of the Meadowlands other signature events. It was hard to argue with the Meadowlands brass when they called upon the Hambletonian Society to shift eliminations to a week before the final. That move took place in 1997 and it was in response to the creation of a week-long Hambletonian Festival, adding Breeders Crown races, maximizing betting and attracting international simulcasting. Still it was sad at the time to see an end to what appeared to be a time-honored tradition of heat racing. One of the most exciting periods for the race in New Jersey came in the mid-90’s with the emergence of Valley Victory as a unique and powerful presence in the stallion ranks. Valley Victorys hit the ground trotting and changed the landscape dramatically with Victory Dream (1994), the filly Continentalvictory (1996) and Muscles Yankee (1997). But 1999 may stand out as one of, if not the greatest, crop of trotters the sport has seen. At least that’s the way it appeared to be shaking out leading up to the Hambletonian that year. Self Possessed’s (by Victory Dream) 1:51 3/5 record-setting performance on that afternoon still stands out not just for the final time but for the quality of the horses that the colt left in the dust that afternoon. Vivid Photo and Roger Hammer winning the 2005 edition was a moment in time few will forget. For me Roger Hammer seemed the least likely candidate to emerge from the fairs of Pennsylvania onto the big stage. What made this race special is the obvious miscalculation of the experts. Hammer had been known for most of his career as a driver who liked the front end. When he employed the opposite strategy in the first $1.5 million Hambletonian (of his or any other driver’s career) it fulfilled the “No Guts, No Glory” prophecy. It certainly seemed fitting that horses bred in New Jersey would be good enough to take on the world. Muscles Yankee had a streak of his own with his sons Deweycheatumnhowe (2008), Muscle Hill (2009) and Muscle Massive (2010) distinguishing themselves for varied reasons. Deweycheatumnhowe became the first colt to win the race wearing the trotting hopples Carl Allen had mastered. Muscle Hill set the world record of 1:50 1/5 in a dynamic performance that winning trainer Greg Peck still hasn’t stopped talking about. And Muscle Massive became the most expensive yearling ($425,000) to win the race. The race returns to eliminations and final on one afternoon, for two trips around the course this Saturday afternoon. Though the Hambletonian has moved venues in the past, the next chapter in the race’s rich history remains on sound footing. In an era were few things remain the same for long, it’s refreshing that in this case tradition has triumphed with New Meadowlands home sweet home for the Hambletonian. by Jay Bergman for the Hambletonian Society
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. _ Royalty For Life, Wheeling N Dealin and Corky are the favorites in the three Hambletonian eliminations on Saturday afternoon at The Meadowlands Racetrack. The wide-open field of 23 was divided into three $70,000 heats. The top three finishers in each heat, along with the highest money-earner among the fourth place finishers, return later that afternoon for the $1 million final for 3-year-old trotters, the richest race in harness racing. Unlike other heat races, the winner does not have to win twice on the same day. The winner of the final is the Hambletonian champion. This marks the first time since 1996 that Hambletonian heats and final will be raced on the same afternoon. In recent years, Hambletonian eliminations were held one week before the final. Royalty For Life is the 8-5 favorite from post 8, the outside slot, in the first heat. He won the Stanley Dancer at the Meadowlands earlier this month and has captured his last two races. Brian Sears will drive for trainer George Ducharme. Wheeling N Dealin, last season’s champion 2-year-old trotter, is the 2-1 favorite from the rail in the second elimination with eight starters. Sylvain Filion will be in the sulky for trainer Dustin Jones. Seven line up for the third and final heat where Corky, winner of the Beal Memorial at Pocono Downs, is the 2-1 favorite from post 5 with David Miller at the lines for trainer Jimmy Takter. Post time for the Hambletonian final is 4:41 p.m. Eastern. The live card starts at 11:50 a.m. The CBS Sports Network will present a 90-minute live telecast starting at 3:30 p.m. This year’s Hambletonian lacks a clear standout, adding to the drama heading into Saturday. Royalty For Life might get a slight nod as the overall favorite. After starting the season making costly breaks, Royalty For Life appears to have turned the corner in the nick of time. “Now that he’s had a few more starts, he’s starting to behave himself,” Ducharme said. “I really believe we’re back on the right track. I think we’re headed on the right path.” This will be Ducharme’s first Hambletonian starter. immy Takter is old Hambletonian hand, having already won the race twice with Malabar Man (1997) and Muscle Massive (2010). The Hall of Fame trainer sends out a starter in each heat: High Bridge (first), Dontyouforgetit (second) and Corky. “Going into this race is always special,” Takter said. “This is what we’ve been working for.” Chuck Sylvester can make history with Spider Blue Chip in the third heat. Sylvester has already won four Hambos, one shy of the record held jointly by Billy Haughton, Stanley Dancer and Ben White. John Campbell looks for more Hambletonian glory with Possessed Fashion in the third heat. Campbell has driven a record six Hambletonian winners. Bee A Magician is the overwhelming 2-5 favorite in the $500,000 Hambletonian Oaks, the companion event for 3-year-old filly trotters. She is a perfect 8 for 8 this year, and was an easy winner in last week’s Oaks eliminations. Bee A Magician starts from post 2 with Brian Sears driving for trainer Richard “Nifty” Norman, winner of last year’s Oaks with Personal Style in a 57-1 stunner. Mistery Woman, winner of the other Oaks elimination, is the 9-2 second choice from post 4 with David Miller at the lines for trainer Jonas Czernyson. Hambletonian Day will be the final live standardbred program contested before the original Meadowlands grandstand. The facility, witness to so much harness racing history, gets a grand sendoff with a stellar 15-race card that includes 14 stakes. In addition to the Hambletonian and the Hambletonian Oaks, the spectacular lineup includes the $321,700 Merrie Annabelle for 2-year-old filly trotters; the $318,350 John Cashman Memorial, formerly the Nat Ray, for older trotters; the $280,500 Peter Haughton Memorial for 2-year-old trotters; the $250,000 Anthony Abbatiello SBOA New Jersey Classic for 3-year-old pacers; the $217,100 Lady Liberty for Free-For-All pacing mares; the $213,650 U.S. Pacing Championship for Free-For-All pacers; the $125,000 Thomas D’Altrui SBOA Miss New Jersey for 3-year-old filly pacers; the $75,000 Vincennes Free-For-All trot and the $55,000 Ima Lula for 4-year-old trotting mares. Fans can follow all the action at www.meadowlandsracetrack.com, Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr and on Twitter at #Hambo13. by Rachel Ryan
Western Vintage and driver Yannick Gingras captured the 4th race $150,000 New Jersey Sire Stakes Final for harness racing two-year-old pacing colts with an impressive 1:52.1 victory.
Harness racing driver David Miller and breeder William Weaver will be on this summer's ballot for election to the Living Hall of Fame, the U.S. Harness Writers Association announced Monday.
When Jimmy Takter left Sweden three decades ago for a career in harness racing in the U.S., he dreamed of finding success in the sport's biggest races. As he prepares for his induction Sunday in the Harness Racing Hall of Fame, his motivation remains unchanged.