by Bob Heyden
Here is a look at some of the most intriguing first times in the sport’s history:
- Jack Moiseyev in 1991 — in a three-week stretch — won both his first Meadowlands Pace and his first Hambletonian with Precious Bunny and Giant Victory, respectively. In fact, Moiseyev had never driven Giant Victory prior to the Hambletonian. To make it even sweeter, they finished 1-2 in the Horse of the Year balloting.
- Jacqueline Ingrassia guiding 13-1 Goalfish to victory in the 2000 Yonkers Trot. How unusual is this? Well, how many drivers get a standing ovation in the Yonkers paddock upon returning? No other female driver had won the Yonkers Trot before — and none have since. No women have ever driven in the Hambletonian in its 96 years.
- Ron Waples and Tim Tetrick. The first to win their first two million-dollar drives. Waples did it with two different horses and Tetrick with the same colt. Waples did so four days apart in 1983, taking the Sweetheart first-time driving Shannon Fancy, then the Meadowlands Pace with his own Ralph Hanover. In 2007, Tetrick won the $1 million Art Rooney with Southwind Lynx, then came back to win the Meadowlands Pace with the same colt.
- Mickey McNichol had never driven Alf Palema going into the 1992 Hambletonian. Since he was 2-for-17 lifetime going in, nobody really noticed. But he gets the best-ever timing award taking the only heat he needed to — the final — and thus the 1992 Hambletonian trophy. By that point, a decade had passed since McNichol had been photoed out by Speed Bowl with Jazz Cosmos in the 1982 Classic. His reversal of fortune came by the very same photo.
- Mike Lachance in 2001 did something it’s not easy to forget. He won the first ever $1 million Metro Pace ($1,123,340, actually) with Mach Three his first time driving.
- We are now 30 years from Joe Holloway’s first million-dollar win — the 1992 North America Cup. It’s safe to say nobody expected it. But Holloway was into firsts that year. He also dead heated in the Yonkers Trot with McCluckey (with Magic Lobell), the first, and only, Yonkers Trot tie. Oh, and Holloway upset the powerhouse Presidential Ball in the Woodrow Wilson with longshot Americas Pastime. It was Holloway’s first time competing in the Wilson.
- The 1981 Hambletonian marked a couple of firsts — a purse exceeding $800,000 year one at The Meadowlands for Ray Remmen and Shiaway St Pat. It was the first time the Hambletonian was raced in New Jersey.
- Brett Pelling won the 1991 Cane Pace with a horse he did not have the previous week — Silky Stallone. Dream Away in 1997 winning the Meadowlands Pace was the first year Pelling was in the race.
- Mark Macdonald winning the first time he competed in the Jug in 2006 with Mr Feelgood.
- Mickey McNichol had hurt his back. O’Donnell was called, but was too far away. So, Ron Waples wound up with Fake Left first time in 1992 in the Jug. He wound up holding off heavy favorite Western Hanover by a nose. Waples had added incentive — it had been nine years since anyone had won the Triple Crown and it was his own Ralph Hanover in 1983.
- The 1995 Yonkers Trot was the first time a filly won the race. Some had tried before, but C R Kay Suzie was in town and she dominated in the 41st edition. Continentalvictory duplicated the feat in 1996.
- First Messenger: Belle Acton in 1956 for Billy Haughton. First World Trotting Derby: Panty Raid for Stanley Dancer in 1981. Both of these firsts for Haughton and Dancer came with fillies.
- The first time any race will go for $1 million or more 40 straight years will be the 2022 Hambletonian.
- The first two William Wellwood Memorials went to his daughter in 2005 and 2006 with Was It A Dream and Laddie, respectively.
- The first time a female driver competed in the Little Brown Jug? June Weller did so during the 50th anniversary year in 1972. Dads Time was 10th and 9th.
- The first horse to win the Triple Crown and all six finals he was in one magical year? Windsongs Legacy in 2004. He won the Goodtimes, Canadian Trotting Classic and the Stanley Dancer, in addition to the Kentucky Futurity, Hambletonian and Yonkers Trot.
- Firsts twice? Linda Toscano did so with Molly Can Do It, becoming the first female trainer to win a Breeders Crown in 2002. Then she won the first edition of the Golden Girls the very next year with — you guessed it — Molly Can Do It. Both times Jack Moiseyev drove.
- The first Tattersalls was held in 1971. It resulted in the first sub-1:55 race mile: Albatross in 1:54.4. The next two editions went in 1:58.2 (Strike Out) and then in 2:00.4 (Keystone Smartie).