by Bob Heyden
1. For the first time ever two females were favored in the two richest races on the calendar. In the $1 million Mohawk Million, Donna Soprano was 80 cents on the dollar (and finished second to Venerate trained by Julie Miller). In the $1 million Hambletonian, Ramona Hill was the favorite and winner for trainer Tony Alagna. The last time a female horse was the favorite in a million-dollar race with the boys was in 2000 when Moni Maker was the bettors’ choice in the first $1 million Breeders Crown event. She was the lead part of an entry sent off at 50 cents on the dollar. She finished second to Magician. Before that, it was in the 1992 Hambletonian when Armbro Keepsake went off the lukewarm 2.20-1 choice but was fourth in the Alf Palema year.
2. The likely 1-2 or 2-1 finishers in the Horse of the Year balloting won the very same race in the same time — the Tattersalls in 1:47.2. Tall Dark Stranger (for Nancy Takter) and Party Girl Hill (for Chris Ryder). Never has this happened before with a male and female horse.
3. For the second time in three years, the fastest 2-year-old was a filly. Test Of Faith recorded a 1:48.4 mile two years after Warrawee Ubeaut won in a 1:48.3 world record.
4. Nancy Takter won three Breeders Crowns and was the unanimous selection as Trainer of the Year. Takter has won five Crowns in two seasons and eight overall. She’s likely to also win her second Horse of the Year trophy with her trainee Tall Dark Stranger the favorite.
Freshmen separated by a hair
Look at the results from Metro Night in Canada and the Breeders Crown at Hoosier, freshmen only. In eight features the combined margin of victory over both tracks was just 2 ¼ lengths.
Exploit won the Metro by a half-length over Bayfield Beach. The She’s A Great Lady was won by a head, even though there was a DQ and Caviart Audrey was declared the winner. On A Streak won the William Wellwood by a head over Southwind Tyrion. Venerate won the Mohawk Million by ¾ of a length over Donna Soprano. On Breeders Crown night, Lady Chaos won by a head in the 2YOFT, On A Streak won the 2YOCT by ¾ of a length, Perfect Sting and Summa Cum Laude dead-heated in the 2YOCP and Fire Start Hanover won the 2YOFP by a head.
McCarthy on the clock
Attention Andrew McCarthy: No driver has won the Hambletonian back-to-back since John Campbell did so in 1987-1988 with Mack Lobell and Armbro Goal, respectively. In the 21 years since, the record for the previous year’s winning driver is 0-3-2 and 11 times the previous year’s winning driver did not make it to the final the following year.
No driver going for two straight Hambletonians in 32 years has been favored to do so, either.
McCarthy won this year’s Hambletonian with Ramona Hill. Can he break the streak in 2021?
The great beyond
Six of the 13 winners in the Breeders Crown this year were sired by a horse who have left us. Somebeachsomewhere had four winners, and Sebastian K and Mach Three one each. This is the most of any single Crown year.