by Bob Heyden
Bret Hanover’s birthday was Saturday (May 19).
He was foaled in 1962 and sold as a yearling at Harrisburg on Nov. 8, 1963 for $50,000, which made him the sale topper despite being hip #770. Both of his hind pasterns were white with spots.
Owned by Richard Downing of Shaker Heights, OH, Bret Hanover, a son of Adios and the second foal of Brenna Hanover, a daughter of Tar Heel. His second dam was Beryl Hanover (daughter of Nibble Hanover), a world record holder at two.
Bret Hanover was an immediate hit for trainer/driver Frank Ervin. The pacer won his first 35 starts, was voted Horse of the Year at two, three and four. He was the first HOY three-peater and is the only pacer to ever accomplish the feat.
1964 — 24 24-0-0 $173,298
1965 — 24 21-3-0 $341,784 (record earnings)
1966 — 20 17-2-1 $407,534 (record earnings again)
Career — 68 62-5-1 $922, 616
His record was a 1:53.3 time trial.
Bret Hanover retired to stud at Castleton Farms with 31 2:00 or better miles, bettering the 30 set by Dan Patch over a half-century earlier. Greyhound was third at 25.
Derby / Hambletonian age comparison
Can we agree that the Kentucky Derby and the Hambletonian are the two biggest races in either sport?
When 52-year-old Mike Smith guided Justify past the wire first in this year’s Kentucky Derby, it marked the first time in 32 years — when 54-year-old Willie Shoemaker did so with Ferdinand in 1986 — that a 50-year-old or older won the Run For The Roses.
But, on the harness side, this is not uncommon.
Consider when the Hambletonian purse was hiked to $1,500,000 in 2005, the first four editions and five of the first six went to a driver 50 or older.
2005 — Vivid Photo with 59-year-old Roger Hammer
2006 — Glidemaster with 51-year-old John Campbell
2007 — Donato Hanover with 51-year-old Ron Pierce
2008 — Deweycheatumnhowe with 50-year-old Ray Schnittker
and again in 2010 with 54-year-old Pierce driving Muscle Massive for $1,500,000.
Add in Ake Svanstedt at 58 in 2017, Mike Lachance at 52 in 2002, Mal Burroughs at 56 in 1997 and 53-year-old Jimmy Takter in 2014 with Trixton and you can see that what was done twice in thoroughbreds since 1986 in their signature event has been done nine times in the standardbred game.