The absolute final look at Hambletonian Day 2020
by Bob Heyden
The first time driver Andrew McCarthy appeared at the Meadowlands for Hambletonian Day was also the last time all the eliminations and the Hambletonian final went to the favorites — 2007.
That year, the elimination winners were: Donato Hanover ($2.40), Adrian Chip ($3.40) and Pampered Princess ($3.40). The final was won by Donato Hanover ($4.00).
This year, it happened again. The eliminations were won by favorites Ramona Hill ($4.40) and Ready For Moni ($4.40). The final was won by Ramona Hill ($2.80 — the lowest win price in the Hambletonian since 2009, when her sire Muscle Hill returned $2.60)
Peter Haughton Jinx — no denying the numbers
Peter Haughton was at his best with trotters, winning the last two Roosevelt Internationals he was in with Cold Comfort and Doublemint in 1978-1979, respectively. He was and is the youngest driver to win any Triple Crown race doing so in 1976 winning the Kentucky Futurity with Quick Pay at age 22.
But, the 2-year-old trotting colt stakes race named for him in 1981 has not been a sign of things to come in the following year’s Hambletonian.
The first 25 years yielded no Haughton winners that went on to win the Hambletonian.
Donato Hanover did so in 2006 and 2007, and then Muscle Hill the same in 2008-2009. And that’s it. None of the last 11 Peter Haughton winners have doubled up.
2019 — Real Cool Sam did not make it to the 2020 Hambletonian.
2018 — Dont Let Em finished last in the 2019 Hambletonian
2017 — Youknowyoudo didn’t make it to the Hambletonian.
2016 — What The Hill was DQed in the 2017 Hambletonian.
2015 — Southwind Frank was nosed out by Marion Marauder in 2016 in the Hambletonian final.
2014 — Centurion AM didn’t make it the following year.
2013 — Father Patrick broke at the start from Post 10 in the 2014 Hambletonian and lost all chance.
2012 — A Perfectyankee managed fourth money in the next seasons Hambletonian.
2011 — Weingartner didn’t make it to the Hambletonian.
2010 — The Lindy Reserve didn’t make it the next year.
2009 — Holiday Road was last the following year after setting the Peter Haughton record of 1:54 at 2.
Driver Yannick Gingras has three times finished second in the Hambletonian. Ready For Moni was valiant trotting in 1:50.2 this year, joining Mission Brief 2015 and Southwind Frank in 2016, as those who were second best. The last driver to have three seconds in the Hambletonian was John Campbell — 2010 Lucky Chucky, 2014 Nuncio and 1999 Angus Hall.
ID now required
The average age of the driver who won the Hambletonian from 2005-2015 was 47.7 years of age.
The average age of the driver who won the Hambletonian from 2016-2020 is 35.
Second tiers or tears?
Sometimes it works out. In the first ever $1 million Hambletonian in 1983, both elimination winners did so from post 12 — Duenna and Joie De Vie. Stanley Dancer en route to his last Hambletonian as a driver the same year John Campbell made his Hambletonian debut.
But in 2020, Hypnotic AM drew post 12 and got caught in a terrible flow and had to flip into another gear just to get second in the $600,000 Hambletonian Oaks won by Sorella. Brian Sears did the navigating on Hypnotic AM.
The final check in the 2020 Hambletonian went to Hollywood Story, 16 and a quarter lengths back and over three seconds behind Ramona Hill, yet he still earned $50,000 for his connections.
That margin is the furthest back of any check-getter in Meadowlands Hambletonian history.
Previously, Cotton Hanover in 1987 was fifth, 16 lengths back for Dick Richardson, Jr. in the Mack Lobell-won Hambletonian. Another who got the final check in another zip code was Cherry Hills in 1999, 13 3/4s back in Dave Palone’s lone Hambletonian check.
Meeting of the board
Or should I say on the board.
Scott Zeron just became the youngest driver to hit the board three times in a Hambletonian final. He is 31. Tim Tetrick also did so at 31, but was 31 years nine months and Scotty is 31 years 3 months.
Back Of The Neck was third this year after Zeron scored twice in his 20s with Marion Marauder in 2016 and Atlanta in 2018.
Tetrick was second with Crazed in 2008, won it with Market Share in 2012 and then was runner-up with Smilin Eli in 2013.
For the record, Billy Haughton was 41, Stanley Dancer 47, Mike Lachance 44 and John Campbell 32. Noteworthy is that Brian Sears’ first time on the board in the Hambletonian came at age 41 (2009 first with Muscle Hill).
Andy McCarthy did some things no one else has done in the 2st century:
1. He won the Hambletonian with a favored female (Ramona Hill, $2.80).
2. He is the first driver since 1999 to win the Hambletonian after also having driven the winning sire,
Muscle Hill. He and brother Luke both did, with Luke winning the $540,000 World Trotting Derby of 2009 with the HOY Muscle Hill.
Tim Tetrick now has driven in 14 straight Hambletonian finals.
Shartin N has won three straight Lady LIbertys.
Dealt A Winner is the only horse to ever make it to six straight Hambletonian Days! (10th this year). He debuted in 2015 winning the Cane Pace as the Triple Crown for pacers kicked off in East Rutherford that year.
Muscle Hill has won the last three Peter Haughtons in a row as a sire and the last five Hambletonian Oaks.