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Friday, March 29, 2013

A Early Season Look at the Hambletonian Contenders

VFTRG contributor Joe F takes an early look at this year's Hambletonian:

During the Hambletonion’s first 55 years a trotter could be required to complete four heats for a win; for the next ten years—from 1981-1991—the race maxed out at three heats; and from that point on it became possible to win the Hambletonion while capturing a single heat. His year the race will revert back to the same day format employed from 1991 to 1997. The winner of a single heat can still take the prize, but the eliminations and final will now be raced on the same day. If 13 or fewer enter the race there will be a single dash. If an elimination round is necessary for the Oaks, it may or may not be held the previous week. 
Last year there was much hand-wringing over the absence of Googoo Gaagaa from the race. He wasn’t nominated, but his owner/trainer didn’t appear to have much interest in it anyway. The previous year it was Dejarmbro who wasn’t nominated. In that case the connections would have liked to have their colt in there and they did supplement him to the BC and the Kentucky Futurity. As it was, Dejarmbro won more money than MOMM or Chapter Seven that year, and Goo earned more than all but five of his classmates in 2012.

This year the Crazed gelding, Tirade Hanover, is not among those eligible. He beat Explosive Action in a $30,000 NYSS event at Tioga, and won a $58,000 split of the Lou Barasch at Yonkers, over 1/5 favorite Fashion Blizzard. And he was second to that one in the $225,000 Night of Champions at Yonkers. His dam is a sister to the dam of Some Girls. Tirade earned 95% of his $194,000 bankroll in the NYSS and he will  make plenty of dough there this year, but not in the Hambletonion. (The Yonkers Trot is now one week prior to the Hambletonion, and with no eliminations clouding the calendar this year that race may draw a respectable field.)
Creampuff MacDaddy, who won two OSS-Gold legs as well as upsetting Murmur Hanover in the OSS Super Final, wasn’t nominated either. Other absentees of note are Mystical Dew, Russell Mania, Powerful Poe, Majestized, Boy Meets Girl K and Natural Herbie. The important players are all eligible.

Of the top performers from last year’s freshman C&G class who are staked to the race, Cantab Hall has three: prohibitive favorite—at this early date—Wheeling N Dealin, the winner of the PA Championship, Dontyouforgetit, and My Man Can. Credit Winner has a strong pair in Night of Champions winner Fashion Blizzard and ISS winner Pine Credit, while Yankee Glide has the Haughton winner, Aperfectyankee, as well as Bluegrass winner All Laid Out.
Wheeling N Dealin was a perfect nine for nine, with wins in the BC, Champlain and Wellwood. He won both the Dan Patch and O’Brien. He drew off from all but second place finisher Royalty For Life in the BC. The two top fillies went faster than he did and he doesn’t have a live cam in his stall  or a contest built around him, but he was just as convincing a class leader as Captaintreacherous was.

Aperfectyankee, winner of the Haughton for Jim Oscarsson, held the fastest mark of all the boys. He also won a division of the Tompkins Geers and a $112,000 division of the PASS. He was second to WND in the Champlain. On the downside, he had no kick while finishing out at 1/5 in his Wellwood elimination and scratched out of the final. He didn’t race after that. And while Oscarrson uses catch drivers for his Master Glide colt, Banco Solo, he always drives this one himself.
Royalty For Life had a strong season in the NYSS and got even better in the fall. He beat even money favorite Dontyouforgetit in the ISS at Lexington, and finished second to Wheeling N Dealin in his BC elimination and the final. He banked $334,000 on seven wins and eleven board finishes in fourteen starts, and it’s noteworthy that more than 60% of his income was generated from non-restricted races. His division of the NYSS was strong last year with the likes of Fashion Blizzard,  Tirade Hanover and Explosive Action. This big, strong colt should be heard from.

The little Cantab Hall colt, Dontyouforgetit, was the scourge of the PASS. He beat Major Athens in the $200,000 PA Championship at The Meadows; won a $104,000 division of the Florida Pro; won a $79,000 division of the Hickory Pride; and won another $112,000 PASS division. He finished second behind Royalty For Life in the ISS, and he was the 5/2 second choice in the BC but finished out. He then finished out as the 1/5 favorite in the Matron. He didn’t do so well when he moved into open waters.
The Andover Hall colt Major Athens earned $310,000 on seven wins and 10 board finishes in 12 starts. His dam is half to Miss Wisconsin. He won his Haughton elimination for Sears as the even money favorite but finished out in the final. He won a division of the Bluegrass and was third  in the ISS, won a $78,000 division of the Hickory Pride, won a $111,000 event at Harrah’s, won the Keystone Classic as the 1/9 favorite at The Meadows, finished second in the $200,000 PASS final as the 6/5 favorite, and won a couple of other PASS races at Pocono.

There really is no traditional GC type in the mix. Wheeling N Dealin comes closest in that he never left Canada to race in the PASS, but that also resulted in him skipping races like the Haughton, Bluegrass and ISS that a typical GC colt would participate in.
The fact that Jim Campbell’s Credit Winner colt Fashion Blizzard earned 35% of his $300,000 bankroll in open stakes is very good. He made the board ten times in twelve starts for Campbell and Jim Morrill. He broke coming to the gate from the eleven post in the BC but prior to that he won the $225,000 Night of Champions Trot at Yonkers as the 3/5 favorite. This one was highly regarded all year. He finished second behind Tirade as the 1/5 favorite in a division of the Lou Barasch at Yonkers, and he won a $48,000 NYSS event as the 2/5 favorite at that track. Fashion Blizzard was second in his Haughton elimination and finished third from the ten post in the final. He was ahead of Royalty For Life for most of the season in performance and perception.

All five of Murmur Hanover’s wins came in the OSS but the $400,000 winner has plenty of gate speed and he used it to get a third behind Wheeling N Dealin in the Champlain, a second behind that one in the Wellwood and a third place finish in the BC at 75/1, from the ten. He was the 3/5 favorite in the OSS Super Final but Creampuff MacDaddy, who is not staked to the Hambletonion, beat him. In August Murmur nosed out Creampuff in a series record :55 in an OSS Gold Final at Mohawk. The Majestic Son colt was a $70,000 yearling purchase.
Erv Miller’s Credit Winner colt, Pine Credit, was an easy winner in a division of the ISS and also won the Harriman at Vernon. He also took a $57,000 division of the Lou Barasch at Yonkers. Lewayne Miller drives.

Corky, the NJSS champ, won the $150,000 NJSS final, was second behind Aperfectyankee in the Haughton and was second in the Simpson and Reynolds. The son of Muscles Yankee made all his starts at the Meadowlands…..The Cantab Hall colt, My Man Can, only won once--his Wellwood elimination—and he finished third behind WND and Murmur in the final.  He finished second in the Champlain and had some strong board finishes in the PASS......The Glidemaster colt, Puxsutawney beat Bluto in a $112,000 PASS event at 44/1. The latter is a Donato Hanover colt who showed some promise. He won a $112,000 division of the PASS. The problem is that Jimmy Takter likes to drive him: Guccio all over again. Donato and Dewey have plenty of colts nominated but they didn’t show much last year. Maybe $825,000 yearling Detour Hanover will come alive…….Noel Daley’s Yankee Glide colt, All Laid Back, had a good win in the Bluegrass over My Man Can and Fashion Blizzard.

Here are some pre-season odds on the colts I consider the primary contenders in this year’s race.

Wheeling N Dealin….4/5

Royalty For Life……..5/2

Major Athens………...3/1


Fashion Blizzard…….5/1


Pine Credit……………12/1

Murmur Hanover…15/1

All Laid Back…………20/1

My Man Can………..20/1

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