Never too early for some Hambletonian nuggets

by Bob Heyden

David Miller, the leading money-winning driver in the sport among active reinsmen, got on the board in the Meadowlands Pace in 2018, his first ever on-the-board finish despite debuting in the race 23 years earlier.

But, the Hambletonian still looms as the one major race he has yet to capture, and to say his past in this race is unusual is quite an understatement.

He is the only driver to win this race then be disqualified (2017 — What The Hill). That colt did go on to win divisional honors.

Miller drove exactly one 2-year-old champion in the Hambletonian elims at 3 — Ken Warkentin — but that one went on an untimely break in 2005 and did not make the final.

In 14 finals, never was Miller lower than 8-1-and only three times has he been lower than 10-1.

A brief summation:

• In 2016, Laugerfeld (127-1) had the fastest last quarter :26.3, but finished seventh.
• Uncle Lasse hit the board at 39-1 in 2015, finishing third.
• Miller was not in the 2014 final.
• He was also third with Corky at 8-1 in 2013 for Jimmy Takter.
• He was not in it 2012, but Luckycharm Hanover was sixth in 2011 for Tommy Haughton at $45.80
• In 2010, 53-1 shot Temple Of Doom got the last check.
• In 2009, 21-1 shot Symphonic Hanover finished fifth the year Muscle Hill dominated.
• Velocity Hall was sixth at a healthy 75-1 in 2008.
• The three years prior to 2008, Miller had a longshot each year and did not get a check — Too Salty (50-1, seventh); Capetown Hall (48-1, ninth); and Mr Dream Om (232-1, sixth).
• It all began for Miller in the 1999 Hambletonian. He had two shots at making the final, but Super Shade finished eighth and Big Z Crown was ninth. That just so happened to be the world record 1:51.3 Self Possessed year.

Miller could be in some very good company should he win the 2019 Hambletonian.

The last time a driver that was already in the Hall of Fame won his first Hambletonian was Billy Haughton. He as a 1968 inductee that won the 1974 Hambletonian and then went on a roll taking the race again in 1976, 1977 and 1980 as a driver and in 1982 as a trainer. Haughton was also the sport’s leading active money-winning driver when he scored his first Hambletonian victory in 1974 with Christopher T.

Nice showing for another Miller

In the last three Hambletonians, trainer Julie Miller has hit the board with her husband, Andy, in the bike — two of the three doing so at long prices —2016 with Sutton; 2017 with Devious Man and 2018 with Mets Hall.

Filion shut out

Herve Filion never got any money in the Hambletonian, appearing only once in 1983 with Premium Lobell (8th in his elimination).

Gingras on an Oaks roll

Yannick Gingras is riding one heck of a Hambletonian Oaks streak. He has won the race five straight years with Takter trainees.
In 2014, Gingras won with Lifetime Pursuit by 2 ½ lengths in a 1:50.4 stakes record. She paid $22.
In 2015, Wild Honey, the $4.60 favorite, won by 1 ¾ lengths.
In 2016, All The Time, the $9.20 third choice, won by 3 ¾ lengths.
In 2017, Ariana G, the $2.40 choice, won by 4 ¾ lengths.
In 2018, Manchego, the $4.40 second choice, won by 1 ½.

Meanwhile, the last six Hambletonian Oaks — with the addition of the 1:51.4 victory by Bee A Magician in 2013 — have been the six fastest Hambletonian Oaks of all time.

Only two sires have accounted for the last five Oaks winners — Cantab Hall (2) and Muscle Hill (3) and remember that Mission Brief opted for the boys in 2015.

Takter holds a most unusual daily double in a major stake. The most Hambletonian Oaks wins in a row and the most time between victories. He has won the last five consecutively, but it was nine years between his Oaks victory with Gleam in 1992 and the Oaks win by Southwind Allaire in 2003.