Jazzed for June

by Bob Heyden

Summer is on the doorstep, the 99th Hambletonian is only eight weeks away and the Belmont was run in a new venue. Welcome to June 2024.

Let’s take a look at what the sixth month of the year has brought us in the past and could bring in the future.


Did somebody say Hambletonian? Will Karl and T C I pick it right up at 3? Early indicators say yes. If either wins America’s Classic Trotting Race it’ll be the fewest letters ever in a Hambletonian winner’s name. Currently Ayres (1964) holds that at five. If they finish 1-2 in either order it’ll be by far the fewest combined letters at seven; no other combo is in single digits. The very first New Jersey Hambletonian heat winner had four (Olaf 1981), but he made a couple of breaks after and got third money. Keno was second in the 1931 final, Kuno third in 1940 and Uma was third in 1995 in the elim but she wound up ninth in the final.


What did the 1984 North America Cup have in common with the 1992 Meadowlands Pace? Both had half the field wiped out before the first quarter. In 1984, Ideal Zeke jumped it off from a close-up spot sitting fourth at the eighth-of-a-mile marker, no more than 12 or 13 seconds into the event, knocking all those behind him either temporarily off-stride or very wide. The 1-2 finishers — Legal Notice and Walton Hanover — were also 1-2 at that point. Guts, who wound up as the 1984 Meadowlands Pace favorite, who finished second to On The Road Again, lost all chance. In 1992, in the Meadowlands Pace, second choice Western Hanover — Direct Flight was the slight choice — had no realistic chance. A bit past the eighth-of-a-mile marker about 15-to-16 seconds in, Shipps Purser broke taking essentially every other horse out of contention. Included in there was Western Hanover who wound up seventh in his only off-the-board finish as a sophomore.


June 5, 1991 — Brett Pelling wins at The Meadowlands as a driver in 1:58 flat.

June 6, 1979 — The daily double returned $599 on the strength of two Mike Gagliardi driven $50 horses. Mike Dudley $51.60 and Pop Shekar $59.60.

June 8, 1979 — John Campbell registers his first sub 1:55 victory with New Lew in 1:54.3. Ironically, the very next year Ray Remmen records his first 1:55 ever win with, you guessed it, New Lew in 1:55 flat.

June 9, 1978 — Berndt Lindstedt records his very first Meadowlands win with freshman Spring Dash.

June 10, 1985 — Meadow Road wins the Statue of Liberty in 2:57.3, a track record for a mile and a half. Meadow Road also won the other leg, at a mile, in 1:54.2 in his only two Meadowlands starts. Both resulted in track records. The 1985 edition of the Statue of Liberty was the first of five held at The Meadowlands.

June 13, 1986 — HOY Forrest Skipper time trials in an all-time Meadowlands best for time trials, 1:50.3.

June 14, 1956 — Trevor Ritchie is born. He holds the unique distinction of being either first or second in consecutive years in the same major stake, the North America Cup, by a nose, with winner Quite A Sensation (1986) and Frugal Gourmet second to Jate Lobell (1987).

June 15, 1944 — Doug Arthur born. The man who brought us CAM FELLA turns 80 this year.

June 15, 1988 — Matt’s Scooter steps onto the track for the first time in as a 2-year-old in 1987 and pays $48.60 for Harold Stead.


Some consider these two possibly the best of each breed. Both were champion 2-year-olds and both were syndicated for $6 million before ever taking step onto the track at age 3. Oh, and both ended their careers at 3 at Woodbine in Canada.


Here’s a look at my Top 10 Hambletonian finalists of the past two decades who did not get a dime in the final.

10. Rebuff, sixth in 2022

9. Venerate, eighth in 2021

8. Hot Shot Blue Chip, 10th in 2008

7. Pampered Princess, sixth in 2007

6. Tom Ridge, eighth in 2004

5. Uncle Peter, eighth in 2012

4. Creatine, eighth in 2013

3. Father Patrick, 11th in 2014

2. What The Hill, ninth in 2017 via DQ

1. Mr Muscleman, from the first crop of Muscles Yankee, failed to cash in 2003 but went on to earn over $3.5 million career.


The New Jersey Sire Stakes seems to be rebounding in a big way. Karl is a walking advertisement for it. There used to be a day when NJSS stars automatically did the same on the Grand Circuit.

• In 2010 Rock N Roll Heaven started his HOY season and captured the final in a snappy 1:48.3. His sire Rocknroll Hanover made over $1.1 million in New Jersey alone in 2005, his HOY season.

• Muscle Hill’s only career loss came in a 2YO NJSS event, otherwise he too would have banked better than seven figures just in the Garden State in 2009.

• Rainbow Blue’s only 2YO loss came in a NJSS also in 2003.

• No Pan Intended wasn’t a dominant force during the 2003 NJSS season but represented N.J. well as not only the HOY, but the only Triple Crown/Breeders Crown winner ever!

• Cam’s Card Shark in 1994 and Presidential Ball the year prior were forces of nature in the regional program, as was Precious Bunny in 1991. All three of those for the Bill Robinson stable.

• Let’s not forget Peace Corps in 1989 and Malabar Man in 1996-97.

You can plainly see the profound influence the Garden State has had recently and what it seems on the edge of recapturing.