by Bob Heyden
What horseman/woman had the greatest day ever — of all time? This would be a good contest for a magazine or a track to run, spurring some interest and research, and likely unearthing some great memories.
Here are 10 possibilities that come to mind immediately:
1. Bill O’Donnell on Aug. 16, 1984. The last person to drive two Horses of the Year on the same day — Fancy Crown (1984) and Nihilator (1985). It was a 10-winner day for the Magic Man, which included the richest race ever contested — the $2,161,000 Woodrow Wilson won by Nihilator —and each of the rich consolations going for $200,000 and $150,000.
2. Bob Key’s 1993 Hambletonian Day. That day he won with everything — American Winner and Hi Noon Star.
3. Brian Sears’ 2009 Hambletonian Day. He set the Hambletonian record with Muscle Hill (1:50.1) and then the Peter Haughton mark by a full second too with Holiday Road. Sears’ take? $1.6 million on the day, a new record for a single driver on a single card.
4. Jimmy Takter’s 2015 Breeders Crown night, taking 50 per cent of the races, a mind-boggling 6 of the 12 Crowns contested.
5. Bill O’Donnell’s 1985 Hambletonian Day, setting the all-time record with the first ever sub-1:55 winner Prakas. And then the all-time race record with a 1:49.3 effort from Nihilator.
6. John Campbell’s 1987 dominance on “Million Dollar Babies Night,” a night where he vaulted into first place all-time — surpassing Herve Filion — on the all-time earnings list.
7. Mike Lachance on June 23, 1987 at Yonkers, winning six by day and another six by night on their double header card.
8. Brett Pelling on Aug. 10, 1996. He took the Adios in the afternoon ($442,844) and then at night at the Meadowlands, he captured the Woodrow Wilson with Jeremys Gambit for $800,000, the Mistletoe Shalee for $392,250 with Mystical Maddy, and he hit the board in the $665,400 Sweetheart.
9. Stephane Bouchard’s March 8, 2003. It was a day for the ages. He won with 11 straight drives. The last three at Freehold in the afternoon and the first eight at Yonkers at night. This had not been done before and has not been matched since.
10. Jimmy Takter’s 2014 and 2015 Hambletonian Days. He won both the Hambletonian and Hambletonian Oaks both years, plus a handful of other stakes on both cards. In 2014, Takter’s Father Patrick even made a break and the trainer still went 1-2 with Trixton and Nuncio.