This year, Hambletonian Day features a solid card of fifteen races with only two overnights. While this card is short of marquee players, particularly in the Nat Ray where defections and injuries have kept some of the trotting elite from the race, we have for the first time in four years a wide-open Hambletonian and Hambletonian Oaks. The evenness of the races should provide not only for exciting races, but the potential of solid payoffs. From what it looks to me, this will not be a year of a parade if odds-on favorites.
Of course, with the uncertainty facing the Meadowlands, the mood will likely be somewhat subdued which is understandable. Many horsemen will be wondering if we will ever see a race card such as Saturday's ever again. Of course, that is the million dollar question. I am pretty sure there will be racing at the Meadowlands next year and the Hambletonian and the Meadowlands Pace will probably be on the stakes calendar, but one would be naive to think the Meadowlands will be able to offer all these stakes next year without a subsidy.
But there is time to talk about this at another time. If you can drive to the Meadowlands, make every effort to attend. Sitting in front of a computer on a day like this does not cut it when you have the possibility to be there live. In the meanwhile, here is my analysis of this year's Hambletonian card.
1st Trot - $75,000; Paris-Vincennes - Invitational
1 - Rembrandt Spur (8-1) - Meadows shipper has been sharp of late and draws the rail. May be good enough to compete here.
2 - Don't Know Chip (9-2) - Finished 2nd to Southern Rocketop in last and reels off fast final quarters. Legitimate threat.
3 - Likeabatoutahell (7-2) - Raced well in last against #2. Can reverse with a decent trip.
4 - A Crown For Lindy (15-1) - Just missed in late closing event at the Spa. Tested for class here.
5 - Hurrikanebiggeorge (10-1) - Half mile specialist appears to be filler. Pass.
6 - Misterizi (3-1) - Defeated Define The World two back but was dull in last versus open company. Can't ignore.
7 - Lubbock (12-1) - Broke three out of last four. Talented when stays flat. Your guess.
8 - John Paul''s Legacy (10-1) - Has tailed off from early season success.
9 - Armbro Continental (15-1) - Meeting better off scratched-sick. Pass.
10 - Neighsay Hanover (6-1) - Spa winner returns home and gets the worst of it in the draw. May get in exotics.
2nd Trot - $100,000; Perretti Farms Matchmaker - FFA Mares
1 - Jersey AS (15-1) - Breaking issues of late. Passing despite clean qualifier.
2 - Yursa Hanover (12-1) - Improved in Miss Versatility. Lands share with trip.
3 - Highscore Kemp (15-1) - Not the place to be looking for first win of the season.
4 - Southwind Wasabi (8-1) - Recent efforts have been dull. Pass.
5 - Windsong Soprano (4-1) - Solid efforts of recent. Can win it all.
6 - Buck I St Pat (7-5) - Has the class but came up empty in last. Take a chance at 7-5?
7 - Autumn Escapade (8-1) - Been following Windsong Soprano in recent. Likely again.
8 - Rose Run Keepsake (10-1) - Did not get needed post relief.
9 - Elusive Desire (5-1) - Miss Versatility winner draws outside where she has been ineffective.
3rd Trot - $437,000; Merrie Annabelle - 2yo fillies
1 - Hey Mister (4-1) - Upset winner in career debut. Question of seasoning.
2 - Thatsnotmyname (9-5) - Open length winner in her elimination. The one to beat.
3 - Creme De Cocoa (12-1) - Running over horses two back. Last was dull. Not today.
4 - Refuse To Lose (15-1) - Filly appears to be in deep here. Pass.
5 - Redwhitenbluestone (8-1) - Nice effort in return of a scratched sick. A possibility here.
6 - Grace Marie (8-1) - Has yet to show a closing kick.
7 - Fitness Girl (5-1) - Much better effort in second start. Should land a share.
8 - Tango Dancer (15-1) - A different horse since hoppled. Tough post to work with.
9 - Medusa Blue Chip (15-1) - Has raced decent against stakes caliber horses. An upset possibility.
10 - Angelette Hanover (15-1) - Doesn't show the closing kick she'll need from out here.
4th Pace - $182,500; US Pacing Championship (1st division) - FFA
1 - Foiled Again (8-1) - Half miler specialist at a disadvantage here. May still land share.
2 - Hypnotic Blue Chip (6-1) - Had no chance at Chester. Potential to improve off of tightener.
3 - Shark Gesture (1-1) - Is the horse to beat but note the odds and a three week layoff.
4 - Oliver Cleo (3-1) - Been away a month and meets better but be wary of the trainer.
5 - Annieswesterncard (5-1) - Could be a value play here with two seconds and a start last week.
6 - Lisagain (10-1) - A dark horse who would wouldn't be a shock. Consider.
5th Pace - $275,000; Mistletoe Shalee - 3yo fillies
1 - Seriously (5-1) - Heat winner has one horse to beat; #3.
2 - Higher And Higher (12-1) - Drawing inside of #3 not likely to help this one.
3 - Put On A Show (1-1) - Is the likely winner if she runs into no trouble.
4 - A And Gs Princess (8-1) - Nice filly that lacks a closing kick. Be warned.
5 - Western Moonlight (15-1) - Not likely even with expected improvement. Pass.
6 - Cannae Cammie (15-1) - Doesn't seem to be up to it.
7 - Best Boss (20-1) - Has not been able to get close to the morning line favorite.
8 - Rock N Soul (12-1) - Seems to have improved since in the States. May land share.
9 - Dancinwiththestarz (6-1) - Chased Put On A Show in last. Must be closer earlier to factor.
10 - Wenditions (20-1) - Lucky to make the final. That's as good as it gets.
6th Trot - $500,000; Peter Haughton Memorial - 2yo colts and geldings
1 - Pastor Stephen (7-2) - One of two undefeated Takter trainees draws the rail. May have more in the tank with second start over the oval.
2 - Leader Of The Gang (2-1) - The second Takter trainee won the fastest elimination last week Can't ignore.
3 - Neal (8-1) - Parked entire mile in last to finish second to #2. Don't ignore.
4 - Charlie De Vie (10-1) - Colt tossed a clunker last week.
5 - Magnum Kosmos (15-1) - Just qualified. Pass.
6 - Orlando (12-1) - Seems to lack a closing kick.
7 - Evil Urges (8-1) - Just qualified but what a recovery last week after early miscue. May be a factor in the exotics.
8 - Broad Bahn (5-1) - Will be gunning early. May not get there.
9 - The Lindy Reserve (15-1) - Post makes this a tough spot for the colt.
10 - Whit (20-1) - Drew the worst of it. Pass.
7th Pace - $25,000; Non-winners of $15,100 in last five starts
1 - Casimir Camotion (12-1) - Veteran seems up against it here despite the rail.
2 - Mr Excellent (9-2) - Steps up off a victory and gets a trainer change. May land share.
3 - All My Life (15-1) - Crosses the river and drops down. Note he has a lifetime mark at the Meadowlands.
4 - Mr Hallowell (8-1) - Has had terrible trips. Moves inside and can shock them all with a trip.
5 - Laguna Beach (15-1) - Shows little of late.
6 - Noble Falcon (7-2) - Buckeye just missed in last. May be second best.
7 - Onthewingsofnangel (15-1) - Old Hilltop shipper seems to be outmatched.
8 - Lilsharkshooter (6-1) - Tough post to be gunning from. Share with best.
9 - Southwind Lynx (3-1) - Gets needed class relief. Would feel better with an inside post.
10 - Clear Vision (10-1) - Another Hilltop shipper who will be flying late. Question of how close when drive begins.
8th Trot - $300,000 - Nat Ray - Invitational
1 - Lanson (7-2) - Was cooked in last. Expect better with a slower tempo.
2 - In Focus (15-1) - Pocono winner meets better today.
3 - Tac's Delight (15-1) - Have a nice horse if you disregard last. Don't ignore.
4 - Looking Hanover (8-1) - Lost a race he shouldn't have last time.
5 - Slave Dream (8-1) - Jumped and DQ'd to third in Maple Leaf. Likely would have been third if he stayed flat.
6 - Enough Talk (3-1) - Was ready to make move last time before he suffered an equipment break. One to beat here.
7 - Big Boy Lloyd (10-1) - Two race win streak should come to an end here.
8 - ABC Mercedes (12-1) - Pride of Indiana deserves a shot but will likely come up short.
9 - Reven Damour (10-1) - Foreign invader may be this good. Upset chance.
10 - Southern Rocketop (9-2) - Impressed many last year against Muscle Hill. Will be top FFAller; next year.
Selections: 9-6- 3-10
9th Trot - $750,000; Hambletonian Oaks - 3yo fillies
1 - Boinga (6-1) - Pulled off a shocker at 36-1 last time. Not this time.
2 - Poof She's Gone (5-2) - Winner of fastest elimination last week. Legitimate favorite.
3 - Springtime Volo (4-1) - Won despite being parked last time. A victory not out of the question here.
4 - Behindclosedoors (10-1) - Developing a case of seconditis.
5 - Bar Slide (7-2) - Needs front end to have a shot. Not out of the question.
6 - In The Mean Time (15-1) - May have peaked earlier. Pass.
7 - Bramalea Hanover (15-1) - Improved since back on the larger oval. Needs a trip to be a factor.
8 - Southwind Samurai (12-1) - Been jumping in the stretch. Pass.
9 - Ultimate Cameron (8-1) - Minor spoils with best effort from Trevor Ritchie.
10 - Fashion Feline (10-1) - Post eliminates completely.
10th Trot - $1,500,000; Hambletonian - 3yo open
1 - Cassis (7-2) - Will be foot on the pedal. A question of pace.
2 - Lucky Chucky (5-2) - Should be following Cassis and make his move in the stretch. Photo finish?
3 - Pilgrims Taj (9-2) - Elimination winner meeting better here. Can't ignore.
4 - Mystery Photo (10-1) - May be hard pressed to get his rail trip.
5 - Wishing Stone (12-1) - Still looking for seasonal victory. Not here.
6 - Muscle Massive (8-1) - Outsider is not out of it. Don't ignore in exotics.
7 - On The Tab (15-1) - Yonkers Trot winner just qualified. No triple crown winner this year.
8 - Hard Livin (15-1) - Third Takter trainee in the field is an outsider.
9 - Temple Of Doom (15-1) - If looking for a longshot, look here. Coming off two seconds.
10 - Holiday Road (6-1) - Paying big time for faltering in elimination with ten post. Needs someone to carry him into contention.
11th Pace - $115,500; Oliver Wendell Holmes (1st division) - 3yo colts and geldings
1 - Fred And Ginger (6-1) - Had no chance in last but has three weeks off.
2 - Rock N Roll Heaven (7-5) - Sharp qualifier, but seems to falter in big money situations.
3 - Aled Hanover (10-1) - Had success against second tier but this is tougher. Pass.
4 - Cambassador (15-1) - Another second stringer trying their luck.
5 - Western Thorn (15-1) - Tries stakes caliber first time this year. Don't see.
6 - Piece Of The Rock (8-1) - Freshened with victory at Georgian Downs. Ignore at your own peril.
7 - Rockin Image (4-1) - Adios contender must be respected.
8 - BG's Folly (5-1) - The hot horse with four straight wins but gets bad post.
12th Pace - $185,000; US Pacing Championship (2nd division) - FFA
1 - Won The West (9-5) - Scratched lame three weeks ago. Your choice.
2 - Vintage Master (5-2) - Has finally come into his own with the FFAllers. One to beat.
3 - Blueridge Western (8-1) - Reels off two straight at the Hilltop. Has not had success against these this year.
4 - Mr Wiggles (5-1) - May land share with best effort.
5 - Jeremy's Successor (6-1) - Appears outmatched here.
6 - Bettor Sweet (8-1) - Is this the race this year comes together for him? Don't think so.
7 - Corky Baran (12-1) - Seems over his head.
13th Pace - $248,000; Lady Liberty - FFA Mares
1 - Ramona Disomma (10-1) - Even ignoring last start mare appears to be outmatched.
2 - Not Enough (8-1) - Understandably short last time. Should be tighter. Upset chance?
3 - Fox Valley Topaz (15-1) - Racing for a piece.
4 - Dreamfair Eternal (5-2) - Winner last week in dominating effort. The one to beat.
5- Shacked Up (10-1) - Fits here. Lands share with a trip.
6 - On The Glass (5-1) - Followed #4 last time. May try to track once again.
7 - Tug River Princess (3-1) - Beat #4 last time and given a week off. Will that week cost her?
8 - Yellow Diamond (12-1) - Has yet to show her 3yo form.
9 - Shanghai Lil (15-1) - Fringe player. Pass.
10 - Ginger And Fred (8-1) - Saddled with the worst post.
14th Pace - $115,500; Oliver Wendell Holmes (2nd division) - 3yo colts and geldings
1 - Valentino (9-2) - Will fire out but racing against better.
2 - Razzle Dazzle (8-1) - Talented colt will need to step it up to be competitive.
3 - Delmarvalous (4-1) - Shocked them in the Adios. Has had little success over the mile oval.
4 - Blue Rock (10-1) - Followed #5 in Adios consolation. Will need a trip to be a factor.
5 - Tobago Cays (8-1) - Adios consolation winner has just been missing. Perhaps this is the time he breaks through?
6 - Lord Terror (15-1) - Stepping up to meet better. Passing.
7 - All Speed Hanover (5-1) - Meeting easiest field in a while but been off almost a month. What to do?
8 - One More Laugh (9-5) - Meadowlands Pace winner makes returns off of brief break.
15th Pace - $25,000; Claiming Handicap $50-60,000 AE: N/W $125,000 lifetime draw with $50,000 claimers
1 - Just That (15-1) - Scratched sick off of a poor effort. Enough said.
2 - Vlos (5-1) - Was over matched in last but drops down into a more realistic spot. Lands share.
3 - One False Move (10-1) - Has not been able to finish his miles.
4 - Lennon Blue Chip (6-1) - Better than he looks. Can compete with a trip.
5 - Art At Heart (15-1) - Minor spoils with best effort.
6 - Montanez (10-1) - Pocono winner trying better.
7 - Pick A Trail (15-1) - Don't see off of recent.
8 - Cole Diddy (4-1) - Two moves in last. Will land a major share in day's finale.
9 - Cheyenne Barry (15-1) - Yonkers shipper draws poorly. Pass.
10 - J A's Outlaw (2-1) - Won last time from this post.