The colorful and storied history of the Yonkers Trot

The colorful and storied history of the Yonkers Trot

June 30, 2022

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by Bob Heyden

Windsongs Legacy, the 2004 Yonkers Trot winner and Triple Crown champ, may have left his biggest mark on this year’s Yonkers Trot. Windsongs Legacy died in 2008 at the age of 7, but not before siring Chapter Seven, the 2012 Horse of the Year. This year’s Yonkers Trot field features Chapter Seven offspring in each of the three outside posts. Two others in the field are grandsons of Windsongs Legacy, courtesy of being sired by Walner, a son of Chapter Seven.

TAKTER POWER

Jimmy Takter is the only trainer to win the Yonkers Trot 3 straight years (2009-2011). Judge Joe got it going in 2009 in the $670,779 edition, which was Takter’s debut in the race. The trainer won it in 2010 with On The Tab and in 2011 with Leader Of The Gang. Takter then won it again in 2014 with Nuncio and (sort of) took down the Trotting Triple Crown of Trotting that year with two different colts. Nuncio also won the Kentucky Futurity and Trixton won the Hambletonian.

DISTANCE ISSUES

The first eight Yonkers Trots were at a 1 and one 1/16 miles. The 2004 edition was held at Hawthorne and the 2005 at Freehold while the Yonkers slots renovation was still ongoing. Oddly, the two times Trond Smedshammer won it were away from Yonkers Raceway — in 2004 with Windsongs Legacy and in 2005 with Strong Yankee.

RUNNER-UP REVENGE

It happened twice in a row in 1971 and 1972 when the Yonkers Trot runner-up went on to win the Horse of the Year title in another season. Savoir was the ’71 Yonkers Trot runner-up and ’75 HOY. Delmonica Hanover was second in the Trot in 1972 and was voted HOY in 1974.

DOUBLING UP (OR EVEN MORE)

Four times a trainer has won the Yonkers Trot back to back. Ake Svanstedt (Johan De Palema in 2021) looks to be #5 in 2022 with Justice. Jan Nordin did it in 1984-1985 for his father Soren (we counted this as a Nordin double), Jimmy Takter won three straight in 2009-2011, the Dancers did it three straight with Vernon going first in 1970 then Stanley back to back. Billy Haughton also did so in 1976-1977 when his Steve Lobell and Green Speed turned the trick.

FAMILY BOOKEND

The 1990 Yonkers Trot was won by Carl Allen and Royal Troubador. The 1999 Yonkers Trot was won by his son, Rod Allen with C R Renegade.

Rod also drove C R Kay Suzie in 1995. She was the first female to win the Yonkers Trot.

MACK ATTACK

After a brilliant 2-year-old season, where he raced 20 times, Mack Lobell got a long rest and came back in mid-season form debuting as a sophomore in 1987 and winning the Yonkers Trot by 3 3/4 lengths over a colt named Sir Taurus that Bill O’Donnell drove for Jimmy Takter.

The time of 1:57.4 was a track record. It also equaled the world mark, but was a little shy of the sophomore half-mile record of 1:57 flat from Armbro Devona, who, like Mack Lobell, was also a Chuck Sylvester trainee.

WHAT WERE YOU DOING THE DAY YOU TURNED 30?

Marcus Melander (born July 1, 1992) hopes he is winning the Yonkers Trot.

Melander is looking for a double in the Yonkers Trot. He won it in 2019 with Gimpanzee.

This year, he hopes to be the third trainer to capture the Yonkers Trot with a filly: Joviality S.

Melander was only 27 when he did something that might not be repeated in the next century. He got three checks in a single Hambletonian without winning it. That came in 2019 when Greenshoe was second, Gimpanzee was third and Green Manalishi was fifth. Melander is also the only trainer under 30 to ever get money in four consecutive Hambletonians (2017-2020).

THE CATMAN

Cat Manzi turned 72 on June 27. He will likely be watching the Yonkers Trot with fondness, maybe with a sprinkle of reminiscing thrown in. He won the Yonkers Trot three times — 1994 Bullville Victory; 2004 Sugar Trader for John Brennan (who was born one day before from Manzi in 1950) and then Green Day in 2007. With over 95,000 career drives (the most ever), it is almost a certainty that The Catman would include these moments at or near the very top. 

TRIPLE CROWN FACT

Never has a Triple Crown winner — trotter or pacer — sired a Triple Crown winner.

Meadow Skipper did not win the Triple Crown in 1963. He won the Cane Pace and was second in both the Messenger and the Jug. Yet, not a single Pacing Triple Crown winner since 1970, when his first crop appeared at 3, has won a Triple Crown without tracing directly back to Meadow Skipper.

THIRTY YEARS SINCE YONKERS TROT DEAD HEAT

On July 11, 1992, McCluckey and Magic Lobell dead-heated in the Yonkers Trot.

Joe Holloway and Per Henriksen trained — Mike Lachance and Lorenzo Baldi drove.

Over 20 minutes, five prints were needed to determine it was a dead heat.

This came three years after the 1989 Hambletonian dead heat when Probe and Park Avenue Joe tied on the wire.

Lachance is the only driver to have driven in both races. He drove Bon Vivant, who was fourth in the 1989 Hambletonian.

SKIPPED A YEAR

Neither the Yonkers Trot nor the Messenger Stakes were held in 2020 due to COVID-19.

Messenger memories

The Messenger Stakes is the most nomadic of any Triple Crown race. From 1987 to 2004 it was held at six different tracks:

1987 Roosevelt

1988 Yonkers

1989 Freestate

1990-1994 Rosecroft

1995-2003 The Meadows

2004 Harrington

EIGHT IS ENOUGH

John Campbell and Billy Haughton each took home eight Messengers — Haughton won his between 1956 and 1976. Campbell won his between 1986 and 2004.

HUGH WAS HUGE

Owner Hugh Grant took three of the first five Messenger editions:

1957 Meadow Lands

1958 O’Brien Hanover

1960 Countess Adios (who is the only female to win both the Messenger and the Cane Pace)

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