Focus on the Messenger, Yonkers Trot and the Triple Crown

Focus on the Messenger, Yonkers Trot and the Triple Crown

September 1, 2018

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by Bob Heyden

The first time that both the Yonkers Trot and Messenger were held at the same oval same night was 1988 at Yonkers. Southern Newton and Matts Scooter were the winners, respectively.

Huge longshot to four favorites

From post 10 in the second tier at Roosevelt Raceway, 71-1 Thor Hanover lit up the board (1-5 favorite Adoras Dream was second) in the 1962 Messenger, but he was not the longest shot on the board. 77.80-1 Buxton Hanover was sixth for Billy Haughton.

Following the $144.00-winner Thor Hanover in 1962, the next four Messengers went to the odds-on favorite:

1963 — Overtrick ($3.20)
1964 — Race Time ($3.80)
1965 — Bret Hanover ($2.40)
1966 — Romeo Hanover ($2.60)

Father and son

In the 1956 Messenger, Billy Haughton drove Belle Acton to victory. In 2013, his son, Tommy Haughton, trained the winner Ronny Bugatti. Tommy was born the year after the Messenger debuted in 1956.

Ronny Bugatti had twice as many 2-year-old wins as 3-year-old wins going into the 2013 Messeanger. But, he picked a very good time to get hot. His 1:52.1 Yonkers qualifier— his lifetime mark — came the start before his Messenger win that year.

It all began in the Messenger

Hall Of Famer Blair Burgess kicked off his major race-winning career with a 1986 Messenger win with Amity Chef.

Redskin’s Messenger moment

Redskin set the 2-year-old earnings record of better than $1.4 million in 1986 that still stands. His lone Triple Crown win came in 1987 in the $447,310 Messenger for John Campbell, one of Campbell’s eight wins in this Triple Crown event, more than any other driver in any other Crown event.

Messenger on the move

The first six years of the Messenger the race was contested in a different month each time.
Twenty-three times a harness racing Triple Crown event has been held at a different track, with six of those being Messenger sites:

1956-1987 — Roosevelt
1988 — Yonkers
1989 — Freestate
1990-1994 — Rosecroft
1995-2003 — The Meadows
2004 — Harrington
2005-current — Yonkers

Triple Crown droughts

If Stay Hungry does not win the 2018 Messenger, it will mean that we’ll have gone at least 15 years without a pacing Triple Crown winner, the longest gap of all time on the pacing side. (It was 32 years between Trotting Triple Crown winners Super Bowl in 1972 and Windsongs Legacy in 2004).

There was a quarter-century between trainer Jerry Silverman winning the Messenger with Romeo Hanover in 1966 and Die Laughing in 1991.

Stellar field

In 1964, eight of the top nine drivers in the Messenger made the Hall Of Fame:

1. Ralph Baldwin
2. George Sholty
3. Vernon Dancer
4. Del Insko
5. Billy Haughton
7. Stanley Dancer
8. John Chapman
9. Clint Hodgins
(Clarence Martin finished 6th)

Girl power

Continentalvictory was the last female to win two Trotting Triple Crown legs. She won the 1996 Yonkers Trot and Hambletonian.

The richest

Marion Marauder is the only Triple Crown winner in standardbred history to surpass $3 million in lifetime earnings.

Golden anniversary

This is the 50th anniversary year of Rum Customer and Nevele Pride winning their respective Triple Crowns in 1968. It was the only year it happened on each gait. Nevele Pride was 67 57-4-3 $873,238 lifetime and a three-time Horse of the Year. Rum Customer set the record for most starts by a Triple Crown winner in either standardbred or thoroughbred racing — 141 52-27-27, $1,001,648.

Two-horse Triple

Trainer Jimmy Takter won the 2014 Trotting Triple Crown for with two different horses — Trixton and Nuncio.

And finally…

The two speed marks — maybe the two most notable ever — were Niatross’ 1:49.1 time trial of 1980 and then, eight years later, the 1:48.2 mark by Matts Scooter, also in a time trial, to lower the all-time standard. In both cases, their first start after was the Messenger. In 1980, Niatross won the Triple Crown en route to his second straight HOY title. Matts Scooter entered the 1988 Messenger with earnings of $1,248,289 — more than double the entire field — yet his HOY title would come the following year.

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