Long before the pacer became the fastest 2-year-old male in harness racing history with a 1:48.3 victory Saturday at Lexington, KY’s Red Mile, the woman that was instrumental in raising him had great expectations.
by Dave Briggs
Dr. Bridgette Jablonsky said she could predict only one of two scenarios playing out for Elver Hanover when he was a baby romping around the fields at Hanover Shoe Farms — he would either be great or somebody’s pet riding horse. After Saturday’s 1:48.3 world record for 2-year-old pacers at Lexington, KY’s Red Mile, we know how that turned out.
“He wasn’t going to be a 30-claimer,” said Jablonsky, who was key in raising the son of Yankee Crusier—Edra Hanover as Hanover’s former farm manager and current executive vice-president and syndicate manager. “He’s got the temperament to be special and he was either going to apply it to being a great racehorse or he’s going to be somebody’s pet, because he’s just a pleasant horse. Luckily for us, he turned out to be Scenario A.”
Jablonsky, who has raised some 300 yearlings a year in the 23 years she has been with Hanover Shoe Farms — quick math tells us that’s nearly 7,000 yearlings — said Elver Hanover falls into a small, select group of personal favorites.
“I’ve raised a lot of yearlings and very, very few of them come along like him. People have asked me, ‘Who’s your Elver this year?’ You know what, an Elver doesn’t come around all that often. He has a special personality. God doesn’t make horses like him all the time. He’s class. He’s smart, he wants to please and he’s always on our team – whatever the human wants to do, Elver wants to do. With a yearling, that’s hard to find. He never was scared of anything that we tried to teach him. He always had all of his trust in humans. He was, without a doubt, one of the smartest, one of the kindest, most pleasant yearlings that I have ever raised.
“And let’s not get too far off the beaten path of what people look for in yearlings. He has perfect conformation and he’s as handsome as anything. He’s a great-looking horse, though he’s not very big… He’s very striking, so it wasn’t like he was an ugly duckling, ill-bred yearling that just has this great personality that we were trying to sell. He was the whole package, with extra. That’s how I felt.”
It’s the reason Jablonsky asked Elver Hanover’s trainer and principal owner, Ron Burke, if she could buy a piece of the pacer after he sold for $50,000 at the Ohio Jug Sale on Sept. 16, 2018. Elver Hanover is also owned by Jason Melillo and J&T Silva – Purnel & Libby (Elizabeth Jones, Purnel Jones, Jerry and Theresa Silva and Michele Langdon).
“As soon as he sold, I went up to Ronnie and said, ‘Can I get in on this colt?’ He said, ‘I have to see, he’s already sold out.’ They had already planned on buying him and had already pieced him out,” Jablonsky said. “It was about 11:30 that night that I got a text and said, ‘If you want 10 per cent, we can fit you in.’ And I know some people took slightly smaller per cent to get me in. They knew I really loved him and I appreciate that. They really were accommodating and it’s really been fun. We’ve done some road trips to Ohio. We haven’t just been sitting back and watching him on TV. I’ve been to Northfield once, Scioto once, and The Meadows once. I’ve seen him race in half of his starts.
“When I get to see Elver race, it gets me through my work week. It’s the highlight of my week.
“I’m in Lexington now and since I’ve been here I’ve been to visit him three times. After the races (Saturday), I was in the barn with him for an hour. We were just hanging out for an hour afterwards. If you’re outside the stall, his head is over the gate just wanting to be petted. He’s a totally social horse… He’s like a dog, he just loves attention. He’ll actually take people’s arms and put his head under and make you pet him, just like a dog will do.”
Elver Hanover’s dam, Edra Hanover, is a 14-year-old daughter of The Panderosa that earned over $170,000 on the track and had a mark of 1:51 as a 2-year-old.
“She was fast and she hadn’t been quite the broodmare that maybe we hoped prior to Elver, but she had a very good horse in Eddard Hanover (5, 1:48.1s, $563,697) and she had a couple of fillies that showed a lot of speed, but for some reason or another just didn’t put it all together,” Jablonsky said. “I had more than enough confidence in the mare and I felt like he had more than enough breeding to be a really… top Ohio colt.”
Elver is Edra’s eighth foal. She also has a Sweet Lou colt named Ernie Hanover that will sell this November at the Standardbred Horse Sales Company’s yearling sale in Harrisburg, PA and a weanling filly by Fear The Dragon named Elvarg Hanover that Jablonsky named after a powerful dragon in the online video game RuneScape. She said she didn’t name Elver — “I looked it up and it means ‘Baby Eel’ so it’s not a good name.”
As for Ernie, Jablonsky said the yearling is, “bigger than Elver. He has the white like him. He’s also a very kind, nice horse, but he’s not quite as charismatic as (Elver). He’s nice, he does whatever you ask, he’s pleasant, but he’s not quite as interactive or charismatic. He’s more of a normal yearling. Elver was an abnormal yearling.”
As evidenced by the world record, the fact Elver Hanover is undefeated through all eight career starts and sports earnings just shy of $330,000 already. The world record came, with Yannick Gingras at the controls, in an $80,950 division of the Bluegrass. It equalled the freshman mark filly Warrawee Ubeaut set in 2018 at Red Mile. Elver Hanover, who is gelded, holds the record alone for male pacers.
“I was just so happy that he won, first. The time didn’t sink in and then, when I saw the time, I can’t even describe it. It was unbelievable to me,” Jablonsky said. “Then, I wasn’t quite sure what Warrawee Ubeaut had gone in, so I didn’t know if he had beaten her or he had tied her. I was just amazed.
“Quite honestly, we knew that (Elver) was a very good colt, but he was racing regionally (in Ohio) and stepping up on the Grand Circuit on the big stage… Personally, I wanted to see if he could hold his own against the Grand Circuit colts. All of this didn’t really sink in until after dinner when I got back to my hotel last night and I watched the replay. Then I was, like, ‘Wow. I can’t believe I own a small part of the co-fastest 2-year-old colt of all time.’ It’s amazing.”
Jablonsky said Elver has an incredible desire to win.
“Ronnie (Burke) calls him a winner and he is a winner. I’m so happy that he does it, because I know he’s happy when he wins. He feels like he’s done his job for us, so I’m happy for him,” Jablonsky said. “It sounds corny, but I’m the happiest for him. I really love the horse. I think he knows he won. When I went back to the barn, he was just sleeping and eating and was content. I think he’s happy. He’s going to have just one more start… If he has a good week, which I hope he will, he’ll start Saturday and then he’s done for the year.”
The connections opted not to keep Elver Hanover eligible to the Breeders Crown, Jablonsky said.
“In Ohio, they race hard. They race every week and it’s not the end of the world if he hangs it up a little early and gets a break. There’s lots of things we can make him eligible to as a 3-year-old.”