Let’s take a look at drivers that have a “Jr.” on the end of their name in the program and how they fared in races carrying a seven-figure purse.
In the 1981 Meadowlands Pace, Dr. John Hayes, Jr. came from 10th to first with Conquered after qualifying with a third-place finish. This was the colt’s only Meadowlands victory. Hayes also the first edition of the North America Cup with Legal Notice, but that was before the purse was $1 million.
In the 2001 Canadian Trotting Classic that went for $1,120,250, 59-year-old Bob Blanton, Jr. won with S Js Caviar. Blanton, known mostly as a skilled blacksmith, drove and trained the colt to divisional honors. He and Roger Hammer (2005 Vivid Photo in the Hambletonian) remain the oldest to drive a horse to victory in a million-dollar race.
In the 2004 Meadowlands Pace, Jimmy Morrill, Jr. won with Holborn Hanover at 58-1. Holborn Hanover is the longest priced winner in the 40 editions of the race.
In 1981, John Simpson, Jr., was a nose back of McKinzie Almahurst with Lon Todd Hanover in the $1,760,000 Woodrow Wilson, the fourth richest race in harness racing history. Simpson, Jr. with Timothy T in 1970 is the last “junior” to win the Hambletonian. No “junior” has ever won the Little Brown Jug.
In 1986, Jim King, Jr. was second with Ali Khan to Cullin Hanover for $1,561,250.
Who was the first “junior” to drive in a million-dollar race? Jack Parker, Jr. in the $2,011,000 Woodrow Wilson in 1980. Parker, Jr. was favored with Slapstick, but finished fifth in the race won by Land Grant.
This ain’t thoroughbreds, my friends
In the thoroughbreds, California Chrome, Seattle Slew, Affirmed, Secretariat, American Pharoah and most others have their stardom centered around the Triple Crown. Even Alydar is best known for his Triple Crown races and his memorable duels with Affirmed in 1978 event, though he fell a buck short.
That’s not the case in harness racing, where some of the richest performers have not had much success in Triple Crown races.
Look at the last seven pacers who set the single season earnings record — all three-year-olds.
In 1985, Nihilator won the Jug and earned $1,864,286 on the year.
In 1990, Beach Towel won the Jug, and was second in the Messenger and earned $2,091,860.
In 1991, Precious Bunny won the Jug and earned $2,217,222.
In 1993, Presidential Ball was on the board in all three Triple Crown legs without winning one. He earned $2,222,166 that year.
In 1994, Cams Card Shark won the Messenger and earned $2,264,714.
In 2000, Gallo Blue Chip was second in the Jug and earned $2,428,836.
In 2008, Somebeachsomewhere won the Messenger and earned $2,449,003.
Add to this list the name of Rocknroll Hanover, whose name appears on the all-time list of top single-season earners. He earned $2,233,257 in 2005 and did not win a Triple Crown race. As a matter of fact, he’s the last Horse of the Year to have suffered two defeats in the same day. On Jug Day in 2005, he twice lost to the winner, P Forty Seven.
The horse(s) God loved?
On July 5, 1975, in consecutive races, Rambling Willie and his brother Rambling Shorty appeared at Sportsman’s Park. Willie, a foal of 1975, won while his senior brother (by two years) was fifth. “Shorty” was a chestnut and both were out of the dam Rambling Rebel. Willie had a mark at that time of 1:57.4 while his brother managed a 2:01 record.
Talk about shining moments
When Helicopter won the 1953 Hambletonian for 29-year-old Harry Harvey and Del Miller it marked the first time the sport had a $100,000 race. The year before, Sharp Note and Good Time were the first single-season $100,000 earners. But get this: even though the purse was $117,117, neither Helicopter ($85,028) nor Harvey ($96,874) made it to $100,000 for the year.
Stat of the day
Stanley Dancer never won a Breeders Crown, but he bred the horse that won the most Breeders Crowns — Peace Corps, the four-time winner.
You probably know Mark O’Mara from Jate Lobell’s name. But in 1987, he won the American National that year with three different horses.
Glider tied the 1:58 stakes record for freshman pacing fillies, Firm Tribute won the three-year-old trotting colt event that was going for more than $100,000 for the first time and Jate Lobell won the sophomore pacing colt division in 1:53, which was a new stakes mark by one-and-four-fifths seconds a year after Jate Lobell won the freshman pacing colt American-National in 1:55.2, which was a new stakes record by two full seconds.