The action moved east after a thrilling Adios Final at the Meadows. Tonight there were four eliminations for the Hambletonian Oaks; three eliminations for the Hambletonian. At the start of the evening's program the track was fast with a temperature of 80 degrees. Only one early change in the Hambletonian Oaks. In the fourth elimination, John Campbell gets the drive instead of Luc Quellette.
On with the review of the races.
Hambletonian Oaks - 1st Elimination
One elimination, one Oaks favorite gone. OK to Play took the first elimination in 1:53.3 rather easily with the ear plugs never being pulled. Seaside attempted to keep up with OK to Play but faltered. Jersey AS finished second with I Wanted Wings finishing third to advance to the final. Windsong Soprano? She was flat and never fired finishing a disappointing fifth.
Hambletonian Oaks - 2nd Elimination
Elusive Desire won her elimination in 1:53.2. The odds on favorite won the race like a 3-5 should, in hand (though pressured to the 3/4 pole by Moonlight Kronos who finished second). Moonlight Kronos impressed me coming out of quarantine; got to wonder how she would have done if she got to the States earlier and was not in quarantine. She had faltered to third late in the race yet came back to finish second. Celebrity Athena finished 3rd but failed to make the final.
Hambletonian Oaks - 3rd Elimination
While not the fastest elimination, it was quite a chess match between Raising Rachel and Honorable Daughter. Jackie Mo' heads to the Hambletonian Oaks with Raising Rachel after a 1:54.1 victory. Raising Rachel hit the quarter in :29 and just after the half, Honorable Daughter took the lead and to the field to the half in :56.4. At that point, the two of them just slugged it out with Raising Rachel getting to the 3/4 pole in 1:25.4 and then hitting the wire in 1:54.1. Honorable Daughter finished second with Be My Baby finishing third. Honorable Daughter now presents an interesting dilemma for next week. Was this second start back the race she needed to get ready for the Oaks or does it show she does not have her ability from last year? Next week will tell.
Hambletonian Oaks - 4th Elimination
Well, I was right that Margarita Momma did not look like a winner to me. My only problem was my selection jumped off stride before the start. Only good thing was my long shot second selection did not beat me (oh how often that happens). Broadway Schooner took the lead after the quarter to win in 1:53.3. Margarita Momma finished second but was never in contention for the win. Timelesswinner Two finished third and gets in to the final. Celebrity Deville, the other elimination favorite jumped in the first turn and was done for the evening.
The field, not in post position, for the Hambletonian Oaks is: OK to Play, Jersey AS, I Wanted Wings, Elusive Desire, Moonlight Kronos, Raising Rachel, Honorable Daughter, Broadway Schooner, Margarita Momma, Timelesswinner Two. At this point, I suspect the pre-race Oaks favorite will be Elusive Desire.
Hambletonian Stakes - 1st Elimination
Explosive Matter won his elimination of the Hambletonian in a solid 1:52.3. A funny thing happened on the way to second, Hot Shot Blue Chip actually stayed flat the whole mile to finish 2nd. While he finished well, he was still babied around the turn so his erratic nature is still of concern. Reinsman Hanover finished 3rd. NF Quotable got jammed up after being a factor early in the race but was able to get back to fourth at the wire. Unfortunately, he will not advance.
Hambletonian Stakes - 2nd Elimination
The bridge jumpers got hurt bad in the second elimination of the Hambletonian with the shocking defeat (awful performance) of Federal Flex. Symphonic Hanover upset the field in a 1:54.1 mile coming off a victory in a qualifier. Now if you look at the replay, you will see in the first turn his left sulky wheel was inside the pylons but no inquiry was called for. Judge Joe finished 2nd in the race bringing honor to the NYSS program with Calchips Brute finishing third. Federal Flex took the bridge jumpers with him to finish fourth folding in the stretch. I suspect we may find illness issues plaguing Federal Flex once again as the first two quarters each went in :28.1. That being said, Federal Flex squeaks into the final.
Hambletonian Stakes - 3rd Elimination
Order returned to the universe with the performance of Muscle Hill in an impressive 1:52.3. All Muscle Hill did was stay clear of the early action and then easily pick them off one by one. It was a very impressive performance. Triumphant Caviar stepped up to finish second. The Chancellor managed to stay flat to pick up the third spot. Airzoom Lindy while finishing fourth does not advance to the final next week.
The field, not in post position, for the Hambletonian will be: Explosive Matter, Hot Shot Blue Chip, Reinsman Hanover, Symphonic Hanover, Judge Joe, Calchips Brute, Federal Flex, Muscle Hill, Triumphant Caviar and The Chancellor. With the disasterous showing for Federal Flex, it looks like the Hambo is Muscle Hill's to loose. Explosive Matter seems to be the only horse that may be able to give the Hill a challenge but he will have to go the race of his life.
Golden Girls FFA (Mares)
We would be remiss not to discuss the feature race of the evening, the $214,000 Golden Girls FFA pace. Southwind Tempo, as expected, led the field home in a crisp 1:50.1. Hana Hanover who took the field to the quarter was able to secure a great trip to finish 2nd behind Southwind Tempo who kept Hana Hanover bottled up in the stretch for as long as possible; obviously the return to the States helped Hana Hanover. A and G's Confusion picked up third place. With this victory, Southwind Tempo now has lifetime earnings just under two million dollars.
If you still have not had your fill of harness racing this weekend, try to catch the Drivers Championship at Tioga Downs Sunday afternoon. A free program for the card may be found here.