Jimmy Takter is about to embark on four attempts at a three-peat: in the Hambletonian, Hambletonian Oaks, Kentucky Futurity and the Kentucky Filly Futurity.
NJ Classic on tap: Only five entered for Saturday’s $150,000 Anthony Abbatiello New Jersey Classic, all of them sired by Rocknroll Hanover.
John Campbell won the first ever NJ Classic in 1980 with Bold Rush. The $300,000 purse was his biggest money victory at the time. Sunday marks the 29th anniversary of Campbell surpassing Herve Filion on the all-time earnings list at just over $59 Million (July 31, 1987).
Oaks notes: Ake Svanstedt’s five Hambletonian Oaks elimination fillies is impressive but not as impressive as having five different sets of owners.
Jules Siegel is hoping for lightning to strike twice. He won the 2009 Oaks with Broadway Schooner by the slightest margin ever — most thought she’d lost. Now-her daughter Broadway Donna goes for the same pot.
Valley Victory’s purse sweep: This year marks the 20th anniversary of sire Valley Victory getting all five checks in the 1996 Beacon Course (now the Stanley Dancer) with a full 10-horse field. The finish was Lindy Lane-Act Of Grace-Continentalvictory-Mr Vic-Pietro Pan.
More anniversaries: This year also marks the 30th anniversary of Chuck Sylvester winning the Meadowlands Pace with Laughs and Buddy Gilmour. Sylvester then followed that up a year later with Mack Lobell winning the 1987 Hambletonian en route to the Horse of the Year title.
Scott Frost: Saturday’s fifth race at the Meadowlands is a Reynolds named in honor of Scott Frost. He was the first repeater as Horse of the Year 1955-1956. He was the first Triple Crown winner (1955) and he is the only horse to not be named Horse of the Year despite getting the most first place votes (1954) when he got named on more first-place ballots than Stenographer, but lost to her in the final tally due to total points.
Name that driver: Guess which driver was named on the most freshmen in the Peter Haughton and Jim Doherty eliminations? Give up? Matt Kakaley (four).
Sing for Wing: Happy 68th birthday on Saturday to Ted Wing, the leading driver at the Meadowlands in 1978 (after missing by one win the year before to Benny Webster).
Throwback Friday? It must be. Tonight’s 12th race at the Meadowlands has five, count ‘em five, trainer/drivers in one race: Don Swick (Sigmund), Jan Johnson (Oakie), Trond Smedshammer (Free Willy Hanover, Ray Schnittker (Northern Sweetie) and Ake Svanstedt (Millbrook Hanover).
Also Friday’s card is notable because 37 trainers were born outside of the United States.
Big Muscles: Muscle Hill has 19 sons or daughters in this weekend at the Meadowlands. Headed by Southwind Frank, Muscle Hill’s impact is one that matches the siring legends of the sport. His first three crops have seen him right in the mix with 2014 winner Trixton, 2015 favorite Mission Brief and now the clear cut choice of 2016 Southwind Frank.
Second-tier champs: Next week’s U.S. Pacing Championship should be interesting as the three greatest free-for-alls in the sport all renew their rivalry. Wiggle It Jiggleit, Always B Miki and Freaky Fete Pete. Remember, in 1980, this was and remains the only race in the Meadowlands history where all three on-the-board finishers were second tier starters — #13 Niatross #11 Storm Damage and #12 Royce.
Best name of ‘16: Candidate for the best-named horse of 2016: Bucketlist Hanover. The sophomore trotter won last week at the Meadowlands and is Hambletonian eligible. How great would that be? One of the owners is Brad Maxwell, who fulfilled his first “Bucket List” request the week before winning his first ever Meadowlands Pace with Control The Moment.
Big money DH: The first dead heat between John Campbell and Dave Miller — the two richest active drivers in the sport — happened last Saturday at the Meadowlands with Intheblinkofaneye and Yippity Hanover.