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Saturday, August 2, 2014

Lawrence's Take on the Hambletonian

by Pete Lawrence, VFTRG Contributor

It's easy, like takin' candy, from a baby" ...

Trainer - and oft-times driver - Jimmy Takter has already won two Hambletonian Trots in his Hall of Fame career, Malabar Man in 1997, and Muscle Massive in 2010.

Now, he stands within reach of number three in this year's million-dollar three-year-old trot, which will be raced on Saturday at the "new" Meadowlands in New Jersey. This will be the first Hambletonian raced in front of the slimmed down grandstand that debuted last November.

(For those watching on TV at home, or elsewhere, via simulcast, or, especially, live in East Rutherford, the famous former grandstand is still very much in evidence, right where it's stood since the track initially opened its doors in 1976.)

Takter is in the enviable position of having not just the 4-to-5 morning-line favorite in Father Patrick, who starts from post ten with Yannick Gingras in the bike, but also 7-to-2 morning-line second-choice Trixton, who will get underway from post seven with Takter himself steering ... AND 9-to-2 morning-line third choice Nuncio, John Campbell in the bike from post five.

Remember the catchy 1966 hit song, "1-2-3," memorably sung by Len Barry? It immediately suggested itself to me - as Father Patrick, Nuncio and Trixton took the 1-2-3 finish spots in the final Hambo prep race, the Stanley Dancer Memorial (the former Beacon Course Trot) - on July 12.

I've been humming "1-2-3" to myself ever since.

"That's so elementary, it's gonna be ... it's easy, like takin' candy, from a baby."

While the one-beaten Father Patrick, who has only lost to Nuncio, last year, before they were Takter stablemates, may be the best colt of the three, it wouldn't be a huge upset (to this itinerant observer, anyway) if one of the other two won, especially as the prospective favorite starts from that scary ten-hole spot in the one-dash eleven-horse race.

Nuncio and Trixton each have their own stellar respective resumes, and if Father Patrick gets roughed up, makes a misstep, or simply has a bad day at Black Rock, either of the other two could easily win.

But what is that old expression ... there are a hundred things that can happen to the favorite between now and his reaching the winner's circle; and 99 of them are bad?

Team Takter entered the Hambletonian eliminations two years ago with three very nice colts, Uncle Peter (who, in fact, went off as the favorite in the final), Little Brown Fox, and Guccio.

None of them won the race, which was taken by the emerging star, Market Share. (Or, maybe Market Share already was a star, but he wasn't yet what he soon became, and still is.)

Well, there are other contenders besides Takter's trio, and conceivably all three could lose to one of them, the most like being Datsyuk. Or so this corner says.

For the record, the rest of the field will be, if there are no scratches, Resolve, J.J. Alex, Doncango, Royal Ice, Il Sogno Dream, Harper Blue Chip and Don Dorado.

It's a horse race, and anything can happen, of course. There can be bad steps taken, aches and pains we don't yet know about, a possible :25.3 first quarter, with the favorite receiving the worst of that from post ten. And, y'know, that sort of stuff.

Who knows? It should be a good race. Or, it might be a yawner if the favorite, or someone else, somehow steals easy fractions.

Might be a coronation, or something else entirely. That's why they race 'em before handing out the purse money and the trophies.

And the big, closing day undercard ... the Hambletonian Oaks, the U.S. Pacing Championship, the John Cashman Memorial, the Peter Haughton, the Merrie Annabelle, et cetera, et cetera?

I'm already exhausted, just thinking about it all.

First race post time is noon, and the Hambletonian is slated for 4:00 p.m.

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