Day At The Track

Hambletonian notebook with Ken Weingartner

03:30 AM 04 Aug 2013 NZST
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Tim Tetrick will try to do what no driver has done in 25 years – win the Hambletonian in consecutive years.

John Campbell, who has won a record six Hambletonians, was the last driver to accomplish the feat. He won in 1987 with Mack Lobell and in 1988 with Armbro Goal.

Billy Haughton, who won with Steve Lobell in 1976 and Green Speed in 1977, is the only other driver to pull off wins in back-to-back Hambletonians in the last 70 years.

Two other drivers won in consecutive years, Henry Thomas in 1937-38 and Ben White in 1942-43.

Ron Pierce is trying to become the sixth driver with at least four Hambletonian wins. Pierce, who drives Spider Blue Chip in the Hambo, would join Campbell, White, Haughton, Stanley Dancer and Mike Lachance on the list. He also would give trainer Chuck Sylvester his fifth trophy, which would tie the record for most wins among trainers.

The last trainer to win the Hambletonian in back-to-back years was Per Eriksson in 1991 with Giant Victory and 1992 with Alf Palema. Linda Toscano, who won last year’s Hambo with Market Share, is without a starter in this year’s event. She will send Market Share into the John Cashman Jr. Memorial (see note below).

This year’s Hambletonian features five trainers who have hoisted the trophy previously. They are Sylvester, Jimmy Takter, Noel Daley, Greg Peck and Ray Schnittker.

The Hambletonian returns to the format it used from 1991 through 1996 with the eliminations and final on the same day and a horse only needing to win the final to be declared the champion. Elim winners, though, came back to win the final in five of those six years. The only exception was Alf Palema in 1992; he was second in his elimination.

Market Share, last year’s Hambletonian winner, is back on Hambo Day in the $318,350 John Cashman Jr. Memorial (formerly Nat Ray Invitational) for older trotters. The 4-year-old is undefeated in three races this season and is coming off a victory in the Maple Leaf Trot. Market Share, who is the 6-5 morning line favorite, will try to become the first Hambletonian champ to win this event since Mack Lobell in 1988.

Of course, as DRF Harness’ Derick Giwner pointed out earlier this week, only one other Hambo winner has competed in the race since then: gelding Vivid Photo. This year’s Cashman has six former Hambletonian finalists in the field, with Guccio, Uncle Peter, Hot Shot Blue Chip, Luckycharm Hanover and Wishing Stone joining Market Share.

Only two horses in 32 years have won the Maple Leaf Trot and Nat Ray in the same year: San Pail (2011) and Rotation (2003).

Five horses share the all-time record of 1:50.1 for trotting on a mile track. Two of those horses accomplished the feat in the Nat Ray: Chapter Seven in 2012 and Lucky Jim in 2009.

While on the subject of fast times, Warrawee Needy, who earlier this year equaled the time for the fastest race mile in history (1:46.4) is the 5-2 morning line favorite in the $213,650 U.S. Pacing Championship for older male pacers. Sweet Lou, who in 2011 became the fastest 2-year-old pacer in history, and Bolt The Duer, the fastest horse ever on a five-eighths-mile track, are 3-1 and 4-1, respectively.

Father Patrick and Nuncio, who have traded head victories the last two times out, are the top choices in the $280,500 Peter Haughton Memorial. Father Patrick, from the stable of trainer Jimmy Takter, is 6-5 on the morning line and Nuncio is 8-5. Jim Oscarsson, who trained last year’s Peter Haughton winner Aperfectyankee, trains Nuncio. Aperfectyankee will appear later on the card in the Hambletonian, along with Takter’s Corky, Dontyouforgetit and High Bridge. Corky was second in last year’s Peter Haughton.

Takter sends four 2-year-old filly trotters into the $321,700 Merrie Annabelle final. Lifetime Pursuit, who is 3-for-3 this season for the Takter Stable, is the 8-5 morning line favorite. Another Takter trainee, Shake It Cerry, is 2-for-2 and a half-sister to Hambletonian starter Dontyouforgetit. She is the 5-2 second choice.

Anndrovette, the two-time defending Dan Patch Award winner for best older female pacer, is the 2-1 morning line favorite in the $217,100 Lady Liberty. Anndrovette, coming off a half-length victory over Drop The Ball in the Roses Are Red Stakes, set the pace in last year’s Lady Liberty before finishing third as Put On A Show set the record for fastest time ever for a female pacer (1:47.3). Drop The Ball is second choice at 5-2.

The $55,000 Ima Lula Series final for older female trotters features five of last year’s Hambletonian Oaks competitors: winner Personal Style, runner-up Win Missy B, Real Babe, Maven and Check Me Out. Maven, who has won five of six races this season, is the 9-5 morning line favorite from post nine. Two-time divisional champ Check Me Out, who was the favorite in last year’s Oaks but went off stride on the final turn and was subsequently disqualified from third to eighth, is 5-2.

Ken Weingartner

Harness Racing Communications

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