by Dean Towers
As I do often in this column, I’ll recap (one of my favorite) a big day’s races and events, minute by minute.
Noon: The early two races were sparkling, as older trotters kicked off the double and — despite the scratch of pre-race favorite Sutton — the pick 5 cracked a very healthy $88,000. The fireworks were completed in race two, where Youaremycandygirl looked sensational in a stunning 1:48.2. This talented lass seems to have found her feet in her last two. I’ll be watching for her late in the season.
1:22 – Greenshoe is an absolute beast, but as we see so often with the trotters, early speed and being handy wins a lot of races. Don’t Letem’s debut was impressive, signalling he might be something special, and that he is. His 1:51.4 stroll in the Haughton was as good as it gets.
1:44 – In the sophomore trotting division it’s the year of the filly, but in the freshman ranks it might not be the case. In the Doherty, Ice Duchess won fairly easily off a troubled trip in the prep in 1:53.4. It seems she was the handiest of the bunch, and the others maybe need a little more time. Johnny Takter wins his second of the day.
2:14 – Hannelore Hanover from the 12 was a risky play at low odds, but when she made the lead and got a 29 second rest in the third panel, you’d have to think you were home. Former Hambletonian champion Marion Marauder had something to say about that. As Greg Reinhart pointed out on Twitter, Marion Marauder has now won a Hambletonian elimination and final, had a second in the Cashman, and a Cashman win on the last three Hambletonian Days.
2:40 – So far today it looks like you have to be in the mix to nab a victory, and in the Cane Pace, the drivers sure seemed to think it was the right move. The blazing early speed took its toll, and Doug McNair with a sneaky drive grabbed the chocolates with Stay Hungry.
3:04 – Did you handicap Atlanta going :26, :53.2 on an easy lead? Neither did I. I expect the chatter between now and the final will no doubt be about what that took out of her. Crystal Fashion has been super-sharp of late, and that was a really nice mile by the Jim Campbell trainee. Handle on the race was $552,000.
3:30 – I’ve heard of some old racetracks being converted to smash up derby tracks, but I didn’t expect it at the Meadowlands. Were these the two most bizarre eliminations in Hambletonian history? Perhaps. Regardless, great job by the Takter stable getting Tactical Landing in the winner’s circle.
4:44 – With the lack of an open draw, most analysts had the Oaks as a possible merry-go-round race with Yannick and Manchego leading the charge. And that’s just about how it went. What the race lacked in action, it made up for in class. Three very good fillies trotted their hearts out, almost beating the 1:50 barrier. Manchego was superb.
Handle for the Oaks was solid, with a sizeable increase in the win pool versus last year (where the odds on Ariana G made betting straight cumbersome).
5:20 – In the Hambletonian Final, Atlanta came, saw and conquered. I saw a lot of discounting of the filly recently, but a 1:50 trotter will beat horses who can’t trot that fast more often than not. What made her effort perhaps more remarkable, was that she did it off the stiffest fractions ever seen in an elimination only an hour earlier. In my view, she deserves every bit of our praise. Well done Atlanta.
The pools were better this year versus last year, perhaps due to the popularity of the filly; or maybe more so that bettors are getting used to the heats and final on the same day. Not having a printed program for a race final is always an issue with Hambletonian handle, however, with heats, there is little that can be done about it.
Notes – I thought Gabe Prewitt’s work was superb, and hearing (I did not see it) that Greg Blanchard was on the CBS Sports Network coverage was a nice surprise. Greg and Gabe are two of the best.
I’d like to see a little more handicapping on the simulcast show next year. I feel there was some opportunity missed by focusing so much on the sport between the races.
That must have been a real thrill for the WEG circuit’s Bob McClure with his win in the Steele with Dream Together. Congratulations Bob.