Hannelore Hanover guns for International fame

The talented mare will start from the rail in Saturday’s $1 million Yonkers International Trot representing the United States.

by Tom Pedulla

A willingness to spend $2,000 more than was budgeted for a modest Indiana-bred may lead to an historic accomplishment when the mare Hannelore Hanover tries to beat the boys in the $1 million Yonkers International Trot on Saturday at Yonkers Raceway.

Trainer Ron Burke and Frank Baldachino, one of his owners, set a limit of $30,000 for the daughter of Swan for All—High Sobriety. They thought the well-built yearling might be a nice fit for Indiana’s program for state-breds — nothing more. When the bidding reached that mark, they hesitated, but only for an instant.

“Me and Ron looked at each other and said, ‘Let’s go one more tick,’” Baldachino said. “We were fortunate the other bidder did not go to $33,000 or $34,000. I don’t know if we would have gone to that number.”

When the hammer fell, Burke and Baldachino never imagined the bargain they had just discovered. Hannelore Hanover has developed into a brilliant trotter, a mare more than capable of defeating males on the grand stage the International provides.

“She is the type of horse that can make history,” Baldachino said.
Hannelore Hanover is listed as the second choice in the morning line at 4-1 after drawing the rail as part of a field of 10 scheduled to go to the starting gate at approximately 3:20 p.m. ET. She will have 3-1 favorite Resolve, also representing the U.S., beside her in post two.

Interestingly, Ake Svanstedt, Resolve’s trainer, said of Hannelore Hanover, “She is the horse to beat.”

Eight mares have combined for 11 victories in the 37-year history of the International. The race was first run in 1959 at old Roosevelt Raceway. Yonkers Raceway revived it last season after a 20-year absence in its ongoing effort to establish itself with fans abroad.

Hannelore Hanover is enjoying a fantastic four-year-old campaign, winning 15 of 17 starts with a pair of runner-up finishes while banking $896,111 of her $1,201,685 career earnings.

“There are a lot of horses in the race that are in the upper echelon and she’s certainly one of them,” said her driver Yannick Gingras. “I’m super confident in her. She’s been razor sharp for five or six months now.”

The ability to continue to perform at such a high level month after demanding month is a testament to Burke and, of course, the mare.

“She’s got all the tools,” Gingras said. “She’s got a very efficient gait. She’s big and strong. She has big lungs. She is the total package.”

Hall of Fame driver John Campbell must start in the second tier from post nine with Tano Bork of Denmark. He finds consolation in knowing he will be able to follow Hannelore Hanover. There is every reason to expect her to get away quickly from the rail in her first race over a half-mile track.

“She’s a great mare. She’s one of the best aged mares we’ve seen,” Campbell said. “She is in the Bee A Magician class, put it that way. So she is up there.”

Then again, Bee A Magician was unsuccessful in last year’s International, finishing sixth, as Papagayo E. gave Norway its first victory in the prestigious race. Papagayo E. was unable to return to defend his title due to an injured suspensory ligament.

Although Burke and Gingras are confident Hannelore Hanover can handle the mile-and-a-quarter distance and the configuration of the track, she will surely be tested by those elements. Baldachino is more concerned about the configuration of the Yonkers oval than anything else.

“She’s never raced the half before. That would be my only reservation, not that she’s good enough but whether she can get around that tight track at Yonkers,” Baldachino said. “She is such a big, long-striding mare, those turns come up on you as soon as she gets in gear.”

Even with a great trip, Resolve figures to provide stiff competition. The five-year-old son of Muscle Hill—Anikawiesahalee placed second to famed Nuncio at Elitlopp. He displayed his mettle when he wore down pace-setting Hannelore Hanover by a length-and-a-half in the Maple Leaf Trot at Mohawk on Sept. 17.

“I thought I had that horse beat,” Burke said, “and he never quit.”

Svanstedt chooses his words carefully in discussing Resolve’s prospects. “We need the horse to perform and a little bit of luck, too,” he said.

The trainer, who will drive Resolve, believes it will be vital to secure a good early position that will have him in striking distance of the leader.

“It’s going to be a European race, not an American race,” he said. “You saw last year how the race was. It’s going to be the same this year.” Papagayo E. benefitted from a pocket trip behind dueling leaders before mounting a successful late charge.
Obrigado, trained by Paul Kelley and driven by Mark MacDonald, completes a strong U.S. contingent. He drew post six and is rated at 6-1. The six-year-old gelding was the last starter to be invited after Ringostarr Treb of Italy was withdrawn. Obrigado owns six wins in 15 starts this year and boasts $1,362,019 in lifetime earnings.

Most eyes, though, will be on the Indiana-bred that far exceeded expectations. Burke cannot wait to see whether she can add what would be a momentous victory to her gaudy resume.

“I feel I have the best driver in the race, I think I have one of the better horses in the race and I have the best post position,” Burke said. “Obviously, I think I have a shot.”