by Dean Towers
Each year my recap for the Hambletonian Day is quite easy, because I get up, get ready, and watch every minute. I love this day.
Please allow me to share a few of my thoughts on a wonderful day of harness racing.
Our day started with a bang – if you bet like I do – as the Pick 6 carryover landed in race one. In the lid-lifter, speed looked good with the very tough Billy Clyde going gate to wire, but maybe not quite as good as we’re used to seeing under the daylight. Perhaps we’d see some closers, and some prices?
In the Dr. John Steele Memorial, Bella Bellini did what she didn’t do last week – show up. She’s an absolute monster and Dexter seems thrilled to be able to drive her. Magical.
The Peter Haughton was the next big tilt, and everyone told me that Oh Well was a lock. I thought I’d get the last laugh on them with Carter Michael Deo as my play. We were both wrong, as Kilmister won another big race for Chapter Seven, and did it as easy as a horse could.
I found the Continentalvictory the most exciting race of the day with horses coming from everywhere, culminating with the big move by Misswalner Fashion. Ed DeRosa, who was covering the event for Horse Racing Nation sent me a note, “the finishes here are way more exciting than most thoroughbred races.” On this day, indeed!
I’m happy Jim Campbell got that very talented filly of his to fire finally, and we didn’t know it at the time, but this was a harbinger of things to come.
In the Shady Daisy, Max Contract got the job done, just like she usually does. I thought it was a heads-up drive by Andy Miller. I didn’t have him on point when I handicapped, but he knew where he needed to be. That’s why he drives ‘em and I bet ‘em.
I was convinced Mad Max Hanover would eat Beach Glass for lunch in the Cane. I’m not often right. Beach Glass is not Somebeachsomewhere, but it really looks to me like the connections are having just as much fun.
The Lady Liberty presented us once again with the best the sport has to offer by way of excitement. Two back, Kobe’s Gigi was locked for dear life with a ton of pace, and it happened again, but this time she got out. She’s a nice mare, and they must’ve been thrilled the racing Gods gave them a lane this time.
Who did you like in the Sam McKee, Abuckabett Hanover or Rockyroad Hanover? Someone forgot to tell me Catch the Fire was ready to roll and roll he did. Black Magic Racing has put a ton of money into the sport and it’s nice to win some big ones. Congratulations!
The first jewel of the day – The Oaks – was kind of disappointing when Warrawee Xenia broke and Venerable wasn’t herself, but one of the fastest filly trotters I have seen the last couple of years was a deserved winner. I thought that was a very sharp drive by Mr. Tetrick.
The 13th was the Jim Doherty, and the scorching :55.1 half might’ve set something up for someone, and the beneficiary was Instagram Model, another daughter of Chapter Seven. This race, frankly, was the highlight of my day, and it’s a big reason why I love the sport. In the post-race interview, Annie Stoebe was beaming, and you could tell how much it meant to her; you could feel the pride she had in her horse. Way to go Annie.
Alrajah One. I watch his races and I think he’s in a bad spot. He’s never in a bad spot.
Last up, at about 6:45 eastern, we raced one of the best, if not the best race in the world, the Hambletonian.
When Rebuff pulled out of the three hole after the glacial :28 first panel I said, “he doesn’t look very good”, but a few strides later he settled in, and I would’ve bet him at 1-9 at the half.
But harness racing is funny like that. Things can and do happen; horses fire and then they don’t. It’s what keeps us coming back; betting, buying yearlings, or entering a race where we may be 50-1. What a day for Jim Campbell and his crew. A hearty congratulations.
I sit on the couch and watch the Hambletonian. But I know how difficult it is to pull this day off. To the Hambletonian Society and everyone at the Big M – well done. Thank you for representing this sport so well. It was a fantastic day.