Hollywood’s Hits: A deeper look at the Yonkers Trot and Messenger
by Bob Heyden
This year marks the 63rd edition of the Yonkers Trot. The first year in 1955 yielded the sport’s first trotting Triple Crown winner — Scott Frost.
This year also marks the 25th anniversary of the dead heat Yonkers Trot of 1992 between McCluckey and Magic Lobell.
Jimmy Takter is the last trainer to win this race three straight times — 2009-2010-2011 with Judge Joe, On The Tab and Leader Of The Gang.
Meanwhile, Trond Smedshammer has the unusual distinction of being the only trainer to win the Yonkers Trot back-to-back with neither victory at Yonkers! In 2004, he won at Hawthorne with Windsongs Legacy and in 2005 Strong Yankee won for Smedshammer at Freehold.
Speaking of back-to-back wins, fillies won the Yonkers Trot back-to-back in 1995-96 when favorites C R Kay Suzie and Continentalvictory dominated, respectively.
Driver Jacqueline Ingrassia won the 2000 Yonkers Trot with Goalfish and still stands as the only female to drive a winner in this leg of the Triple Crown.
Jan Nordin won two Triple Crown races in his career — and they were both Yonkers Trots and he did it back-to-back in 1984 and 1985 with Baltic Speed and Master Willie, respectively.
Six different places have called the Messenger home: Roosevelt 1956-1987; Yonkers 1988 and 2006-current; Freestate 1989; Rosecroft 1990-1994; The Meadows 1995-2003 and Harrington 2004-2005.
John Campbell’s eight Messenger victories are the most by any driver or jockey in any Triple Crown event.
Billy Haughton won the first ever Messenger with Belle Acton in 1956. Fifty-seven years later, his son, Tommy, was the trainer of 2013 champion Ronny Bugatti.
Horses Of The Year Keystone Ore in 1976 and Beach Towel in 1990 were both were Messenger runnerups.
From 1967-1976, Stanley Dancer and Billy Haughton won nine of the 10 Messengers contested. Only Lucien Fontaine threw a monkey wrench into this decade of dominance winning the 1973 Messenger with Valiant Bret.
There will be no pacing Triple Crown winner this year with Huntsville not going to the Jug after winning the Cane. The 15-year gap from 2003 to a minimum of 2018 will be the longest ever — 15 years — without a pacing Triple Crown winner. The biggest prior gap was the 14 years from Ralph Hanover in 1983 to Western Dreamer in 1997.
Western Dreamer won the Triple Crown from the first crop of Western Hanover, who in 1992 was denied, by a nose, of the Triple Crown himself when Fake Left won the Jug.