Day At The Track

Blais aims for Hambletonian win No. 2

03:34 AM 04 Aug 2020 NZST
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Threefiftytwo, harness racing Whose Blues, harness racing
New Image Media photo
Whose Blues
New Image Media photo

Only once since 1992 has a trainer won the Hambletonian in consecutive years, but Luc Blais hopes he can accomplish the harness racing feat Saturday.

Blais won last year's Hambletonian with Forbidden Trade, who upset favorite Greenshoe to win harness racing's premier event for 3-year-old trotters. This year, he sends Threefiftytwo to the $1 million final at The Meadowlands. Threefiftytwo finished second to Ready For Moni in his Hambletonian elimination this past weekend and is 6-1 on the morning line.

Jimmy Takter is the most recent trainer to win the Hambletonian in back-to-back years, with Trixton in 2014 and Pinkman in 2015.

"We've got a chance, that's for sure; we're in," Blais said, adding with a laugh, "The first part is to be in. The second part is tougher. Everything needs to be perfect that day. A healthy horse, the best trip, everything needs to be perfect."

The Hambletonian is the first jewel in the Trotting Triple Crown. CBS Sports Network will air a delayed one-hour broadcast of the Hambletonian from 6-7 p.m. (EDT) Saturday. The stakes-filled card at The Meadowlands starts at noon.

Threefiftytwo has won five of 13 career races and $167,818. His victories last year included a leg of the Define The World Series and two legs of the Ontario Sire Stakes Gold series. He finished fourth in the sire stakes final.

This season, Threefiftytwo has a win and a second in four races. His triumph came in a conditioned race at Woodbine Mohawk Park in 1:52.3. In his start prior to the Hambletonian elim, he went off stride in a division of the Ontario Sire Stakes Gold series.

The colt is owned by Determination stable, which also owned Forbidden Trade. Threefiftytwo is a son of 2013 Hambletonian winner Royalty For Life out of Four Damsals and was trained by Royalty For Life's conditioner George Ducharme before being purchased by Determination following his first start.

"He's a nice horse," Blais said. "He was a tricky horse a little bit in the beginning. I think it took us a little time to figure him out. We made a few changes. I think this year he is more mature. I know he made a break the start before (the elimination) but I think he went too fast in the turn. Two weeks ago, he raced super good and the other night he looked good again. He raced very good."

For the past seven years, the Hambletonian eliminations and final were raced on the same day. This year, the format returned to contesting eliminations the week prior to the final, which Blais said is a benefit to Threefiftytwo.

"He's a different horse than Forbidden Trade," Blais said. "He's more anxious, he's not a cool horse. To have the elimination and then the final the week after is perfect for him. That is better than a doubleheader, that's for sure."

Hambletonian elimination winners Ramona Hill, one of two fillies taking on the boys along with Sister Sledge, and Ready For Moni were guaranteed starting spots in posts one through five for the final. Ramona Hill will start from post five and is the 5-2 morning-line favorite. Ready For Moni will start from post one and is 3-1.

Threefiftytwo will start from post six. Scott Zeron drove the colt in his elimination, but also is listed to drive 4-1 Back Of The Neck in the final.

"That's a good draw for him," Blais said. "He likes to leave a little bit and that's a good place for him. He will be very focused for that.

"It's exciting all the time to race in this kind of race," Blais added. "It is a big race. We enjoyed the moment (last year)."

In addition to having Threefiftytwo in the Hambletonian, Blais has long shot Whose Blues in the $600,000 Hambletonian Oaks for 3-year-old female trotters. Whose Blues, a daughter of Cantab Hall out of Bright Baby Blues, finished eighth in an Oaks prep this past weekend at The Meadowlands.

Whose Blues won the Pure Ivory Series last year. She has won six of 13 career races and $92,874 for owner Determination. She is 20-1 on the Oaks morning line.

"She raced just OK," Blais said. "I'm going to try to work on that."

$1 Million Hambletonian
1-Ready For Moni-Yannick Gingras-Nancy Takter-3/1
2-Back Of The Neck-Scott Zeron-Ake Svanstedt-4/1
3-Hollywood Story-Tim Tetrick-Marcus Melander-15/1
4-Big Oil-Andy Miller-Julie Miller-15/1
5-Ramona Hill-Andrew McCarthy-Tony Alagna-5/2
6-Threefiftytwo-Scott Zeron, Luc Blais-6/1
7-Capricornus-Tim Tetrick-Marcus Melander-15/1
8-Rome Pays Off-Mattias Melander-Marcus Melander-15/1
9-Sister Sledge-Brian Sears-Ron Burke-12/1
10-Amigo Volo-Dexter Dunn-Nifty Norman-12/1

$600,000 Hambletonian Oaks
1-Crucial-Yannick Gingras-Ron Burke-15/1
2-Next Level Stuff-Tim Tetrick-Jim Campbell-9/2
3-Reba Blue Chip-Verlin Yoder-Verlin Yoder-20/1
4-May Baby-James Yoder-James Yoder-10/1
5-Tricky Sister-Corey Callahan-Andrew Harris-20/1
6-Whose Blues-Daniel Dube-Luc Blais-20/1
7-Sorella-Yannick Gingras-Nancy Takter-7/2
8-Fortune Starlet-No Driver-George Ducharme-15/1
9-Solsbury Hill-Scott Zeron-Rick Zeron-12/1
10-Ab'sattitudexpress-Tim Tetrick-Lucas Wallin-20/1
11-Panem-Dexter Dunn-Nancy Takter-6/1
12-Hypnotic AM-Brian Sears-Marcus Melander-5/2

by Ken Weingartner, for the USTA

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