Forty-three notes for the 43rd Hambletonian in New Jersey

by Bob Heyden

1. Ake Svanstedt, 64, is the only driver to win three million-dollar races after turning 55. He won two Hambletonians and a Yonkers International Trot. He can extend his own record to an amazing four with Up Your Deo.

2. Triple Crown races #503 and #504, all time, are on Hambletonian Day 2023. It’s the Hambletonian and the Cane Pace, respectively. The Cane debuted in 1955 the same year of the first Triple Crown winner Scott Frost.

3. Ron Burke and Yannick Gingras swept both Hambletonian elims this year with Point Of Perfect and Celebrity Bambino. This marks the fifth time that a trainer has swept the Hambletonian elims at The Meadowlands:

Milton Smith (1993) with American Winner at 4-5 and Hi Noon Star at 3-1 and. They finished first and third, respectively, in the final.

Chuck Sylvester (1998) 1-2 in both elims and 1-2 in the final. Muscles Yankee and Armbro Rotary in the first elimination. Silver Pine and David Raymond in the second one and then Muscles Yankee and David Raymond in the final with Silver Pine and Armbro Rotary, respectively, bringing up the rear.

Trond Smedshammer (2006) with Mr Pine Chip and Here Comes Herbie. It didn’t help in the final as Herbie was sixth and Mr Pine Chip was last.

Marcus Melander (2019) Greenshoe the 1-5 favorite and Green Manalishi at 9-1. They finished second and fifth in the final, respectively.

4. Not a single 2023 Hambletonian finalist is in double digit starts at 3. They are averaging 6.2 per. In 1981, Hambletonian year one at The Meadowlands, they averaged 14 starts.

5. Point Of Perfect was 0-15 at 2. On the pacing side, a couple of colts won the Meadowlands Pace who were also 0-15 at 2. It was Escort in 1976 and Art Official in 2008.

6. Todd McCarthy was unable to qualify for the 2022 Hambletonian with Molotov Cocktail in the same race where Cool Papa Bell was third. But Sears opted for the Hambletonian runner-up Joviality S, the filly, leaving eventual-winner Cool Papa Bell open for McCarthy.

7. On Hambletonian Day in 1981, the first in New Jersey, Ray Remmen won the first race on the card, too, with Hagar The Horrible at $7.80.

8. A couple of guys you might have heard of were born before and after the 1989 Hambletonian dead heat with Probe and Park Avenue Joe.

Scott Zeron, 89 days prior.

Dexter Dunn, 27 days later.

9. In four of the last seven Hambletonians, four different Swedish trainers had the public choice.

Jimmy Takter (2016) with Bar Hopping, who finished fifth.

Marcus Melander (2019) with Greenshoe, who was second.

Ake Svanstedt (2021) won with Captain Corey.

Lucas Wallin (2022) was off the board with Rebuff at odds-on.

10. Tactical Landing looks to be the third first-crop winning Hambletonian sire of the 21st century. His sire Muscle Hill did it with Trixton in 2014, and Andover Hall did the same in 2007 with Donato Hanover. Before that there was Self Possessed by Victory Dream in 1999, Victory Dream by Valley Victory in 1994, Mack Lobell by Mystic Park in 1987, Duenna by Green Speed in 1983 and Timothy T by Ayres in 1970.

11. In his first three years, Burke took quite a dip into the Hambletonian deep waters.

In 2015, favored Mission Brief was second to Pinkman.

In 2016, he lost by a nose with Southwind Frank to Marion Marauder.

In 2017, he was DQ’d with What The Hill.

12. Andy and Julie Miller are no strangers to long prices or favorites come Hambletonian time. French Wine this year is yet another big ticket into the final. No other trainer in The Meadowlands Hambletonian history can say they have had the Hambletonian favorite and the longest shot in the field in another year.

Devious Man was the favorite at 2-1 in 2017 and was second, and The Chancellor was fourth in 2009 at 78-1.

13. Miller time? David is catching up to Del Miller with starters in the Hambletonian final. It’s 26 for Del and David has his 23rd with Ghostly Casper.

14. In the 39 Hambletonian finals at the Meadowlands, (not counting the three race-offs), 25 out of 39 times the first quarter was the fastest of the race. Only four times was the last quarter the fastest.

15. Tim Tetrick was the first to be in 17-straight Hambletonian finals, from 2007-2023.

16. There will be MacDonalds at The Meadowlands on Hambletonian Day. Anthony, Mark and James will all be there. 

17. Walner had five fillies in the 2022 Hambletonian Oaks and won it. He has four colts in the 2023 Hambletonian and looks to double up.

18. How did the 2023 Hambletonian sires do themselves in the Hambletonian?

Muscle Mass was seventh in his elim in 2008.

Muscle Hill won in 2009.

Resolve was fifth in the final in 2014 at 48-1.

In 2017, Walner was not in it.

In 2018, Tactical Landing was first in his elim and third in the final.

Bar Hopping, who has since died, was fifth as the favorite in 2016.

19. Daniel Plouffe will try to do what has not been done in 48 years, own a Hambletonian winner (French Wine) after having owned a pacing Triple Crown winner (Blissful Hall, 1999). Stanley and Rachel Dancer did it in 1975 with Bonefish in the Hambletonian and pacing Triple Crown king Most Happy Fella in 1970.

20. Chapter Seven did something last year in the Hambletonian not done in the prior 26 years. He sired the 1-2 finishers in the Hambletonian, a colt and a filly — Cool Papa Bell and Joviality S. It last happened in 1996 with Valley Victory’s Continentalvictory and Lindy Lane.

21. Nancy Takter, trainer of Tactical Approach, is continuing on in dad’s absence. Jimmy Takter is the all-time money leading trainer in Hambletonian history. He cashed in each of his last nine Hambletonians (2010-2018).

22. Muscle Hill will send out his fifth Hambletonian favorite, Celebrity Bambino, hoping for better results than with last year’s odd-on choice Rebuff. Ramona Hill carried the mail all the way in 2020 as the chalk, Bar Hopping was the choice in 2016 (fifth) and Mission Brief started it off finishing second in 2015 as the fave. Muscle Hill is the only sire in Meadowlands Hambletonian history to have two fillies as the favorite. The record for most favorites as a Hambletonian sire belongs to Stars Pride with eight.

23. Humble beginnings? I’d say so. Check out these brand names and how they started out in the Hambletonian:

Stanley Dancer 18-10-12-9-11-6-9

Billy Haughton 18-11

Herve Filion 8 (lone appearance)

Ake Svanstedt 10-9-10

Yannick Gingras 7-10-10-11-7

Berndt Lindstedt 12-6-5-13-25-14-7

Cat Manzi 7-8-9

Bill O’Donnell 9-13-23

Brian Sears 10-7-4-10

Hakan Wallner 13-9-13-8-8-11-12

24. “Photo” finished 1-2 in the 2005 Hambletonian when Vivid Photo won over favored Classic Photo. Their sire and grandsire did not make it to this special day. S Js Photo or Photo Maker. As an oddity, only one “photo” horse did make it to a previous Hambletonian final, Fast Photo who was fifth in 2000.

25. It’s been 11 years since Tim Tetrick’s Hambletonian win with Market Share in the last $1,500,000 test. But 11 is not the record for years in between wins. Del Cameron had a 12-year gap, 1953-1965. Sep Palin had 12 years from 1935-1947 and Ron Pierce went 14 from 1993-2007. Jim Campbell set the trainer standard of 27 years last year with Tagliabue in 1995 and Cool Papa Bell in 2022.  

26. There are two female Hambletonian trainers in 2023. In 2021, five of the 10 starters in the final were trained by women. There were 10 in the last 30 years or 33 per cent. Before that? There was 15 out of 160 just 9 per cent.

27. Who nose? Eight of 97 Hambletonians have been decided by a nose and that doesn’t count the 1989 dead heat. Four Hambletonians have been decided by a head and seven by a neck. So, 19 of 97, 20 per cent, were tight, again not counting the tightest of them all in 1989.

28. Guy Axworthy won the first two Hambletonians as a sire at age 24 and 25. He was 1-2 in 1926, 1-2-3 in 1927 and 2-4-5 in 1928. He was the leading sire of 1926 and 1927.

29. Sub :27 home in the Hambletonian? Glidemaster and Chocolatier are the only 1-2 finishers to each do this in the Hambletonian in 2006. They went :26.4 and :26.3, respectively. Sutton, a fast closing third, did it in 2016 in :26.4. Lagarfeld went :26.3 the same year and was seventh. Three in under :27 home in 2019 finishing second, third and fourth, Greenshoe :26.4, Gimpanzee :26.2 and Soul Strong :26.4.

30. Walner has a good shot at the Hambletonian if history is a guide. Winning the Hambletonian as a stallion without racing in it himself.

Other stallions who sired Hambletonian winners:

Forbidden Trade by Kadabra in 2019.

Royalty For Life by R C Royalty in 2013.

Market Share by Revenue S in 2012.

Vivid Photo by S Js Photo in 2005.

Amigo Hall (2003) and Yankee Paco (2000) by Balanced Image.

Victory Dream (1994), Continentalvictory (1996) and Muscles Yankee (1998) by Valley Victory.

31. David Miller and Gingras, the two members of the $200 million driving club, are both looking for their first Hambletonian.

32. Deo Volente won the first two Triple Crown races of 2023 at Yonkers. Up Your Deo is back in to try for leg two of the Trotting Triple Crown.

33. Chris Ryder is no stranger to a top female trotter. He won the Breeders Crown back-to-back with Mystical Sunshine a decade and a half back. He has Walner Payton in this year’s Oaks.

34. No son of Muscle Hill has ever sired a Hambletonian winner. Tactical Landing, Resolve, and Bar Hopping will try to break through this year.

35. Oh Canada. Yannick Gingras, Matt Bax, Doug McNair, Scott Zeron and James Macdonald are all natives of the Great White North.

36. The last five Hambletonians had 68 per cent Swedish trainees. The first five Hambletonians in Meadowlands history had 18 per cent Swedish trainees.

37. Walner Payton and Instagram Model both have several New York lines on their recent form. This almost worked in the 2022 Hambletonian for Joviality S. All of her lines were in New York prior to the Hambletonian elims last year. Duenna in 1983 was also a New York regular prior to her move to East Rutherford where she won the first million-dollar trotting event the Hambletonian.

38. Walner’s lineage suggests he has a huge shot of siring this year’s Hambletonian winner:

The son of HOY Chapter Seven was fourth in 2011 Hambletonian.

Windsong’s Legacy was a Triple Crown winner in 2004.

Conway Hall was fourth in the 1998 Hambletonian.

Garland Lobell’s siring credits include Andover Hall, Angus Hall, Armbro Trick, Emile Cas El, Etc.

Super Bowl the 1972 Triple Crown winner had none until Windsong’s Legacy.

Stars Pride with an astounding eight Hambletonian winners from his first 15 crops.

Worthy Buy was second in the 1943 Hambletonian.

Volomite was second in the 1929 Hambletonian.

39. Todd McCarthy is on the sidelines unable to repeat his 2022 Hambletonian upset, meaning John Campbell’s 1987-1988 back-to-back Hambletonian wins — Mack Lobell, Armbro Goal — mark hasn’t been duplicated since then.

40. Walner Payton’s not the first Hambletonian Day starter named for a very famous football player. Walter Payton retired as the all-time leading rusher and passed away in 1999. Herschel Walker was second in the elims and third in the 1992 Hambletonian final.

41. Favorites have won just two of the last nine Hambletonians. But the first 30 editions they took 15 of 30 or 50 per cent.

42. Jorgen Jahre is in the Oaks this year as the breeder of Secret Volo. Nineteen years ago, he owned Oaks upsetter Silver Springs.

43. George Brennan has had some huge Hambletonian days — in 2006 with Holborn Hanover in 1:46.4 and he took both the Hambletonian and the Oaks in 2011. He’s now a member of the $200 million-dollar driving club.