Five expert handicappers break down the biggest stakes on the Hambletonian Day card.
This afternoon at the Meadowlands Racetrack (post time noon Eastern time), harness racing fans will be treated to another terrific Hambletonian Day card featuring 16 races and over $3.7 million in purses. Apart from the $1 million main event, our experts tackle the $320,000 Cane Pace, the $225,500 U.S. Pacing Championship and the $500,000 Hambletonian Oaks.
Harness Racing Update is proud to bring you handicapping from Sam McKee, the Hall of Fame race caller from the Meadowlands Racetrack; Chad Rozema, a lead standardbred analyst and broadcaster with the Woodbine Entertainment Group; Hall of Fame handicapper, statistician, broadcaster and historian Bob Heyden and HRU columnist Dean Towers, an officer with the Horseplayers Association of North America (HANA) and Meadowlands race caller extraordinaire Ken Warkentin.
Handicapping the Hambletonian Day card over the years has, at times, provided astute handicappers with an ability to take advantage of a track bias. Most times the baked out track under the sun plays to speed, but in some other years it can be tiring. It pays to pay attention early on, and adjust your serial wagers.
Although a great many big stakes days in the sport can lend themselves to a steady stream of favorites, if the chalk is not at their best, it’s bombs away on the tote board – like the year Maven and Check Me Out were out of the top three, spurring both monster horizontals and verticals. Don’t be afraid to pitch a strong favorite if you don’t think he or she will have a good day.
This signature day has produced its fair share of longshots over the years and I wouldn’t shy away from taking a chance in any of the races. With the best drivers and trainers in North America here to compete, watch for someone who gets hot early and ride it throughout the day.
Five points to consider:
1. Drivers, trainers, caretakers, owners — all eyes are on you. If you are planning any Horse of the Year parties, you had better be in the winner’s circle today. Very few horses have been able to fall shy on this day and still get the hardware.
2. The bigger the race, the better the better drivers do. The top five, six, seven drivers in the world are not only feeling no pressure-, hey cannot wait for the clock to strike 12. They want to hear the starter say “go” The lesser drivers on these kinds of days do not want to make a mistake. Thus, they tend to drive a bit more conservatively and take the smaller shares.
3. Speed, speed, speed. Hey, it’s afternoon racing, with the sun out, hopefully. Horses often show a new dimension and some who never left the gate before are suddenly on top to a fast three-quarters. Don’t be afraid to back a horse at a price and, with separate betting numbers, we can even get a price on Takter or Burke.
4. Mile and an eighth races are much worse for the second tier horses than the mile races. Three-to-four horses sprint out of there and get position. You are starting from post 12, next thing you know you’re eighth as the quarter time goes up. The added distance especially on the Meadowlands straightaway for the extra eighth of a mile, brazens up a few drivers and you could be looking at a tough road uphill if you are starting from the second tier in distance racing.
5. “All” button and 10-cent Supers. Remember the NJ Classic where Brett Miller split horses and won by a nose at 90-1? I remember using him on all tickets, 10 cent supers, and not cashing anyway. The point is, that is what the 10 cent super is for — and the “All” button too. Hey, it’s closing day for the meet. Spend it in on the 16-race card. The biggest handle of the year is right in front of you so all you need to do is cash on the right three, four races and you’re in business.
Hambletonian Day truly has something for everybody, great racing moments and wagering opportunities, and family fun. First of all, it’s a day card, and with the warm weather, speed generally holds up and it’s tough to back deep closers. Sixteen of the races are stakes, and there tends to be shorter prices in the two-year-old events and the smaller fields, and more value may be found in the stakes for older horses and overnight races. With the large guaranteed pools, the Pick 5 and first two Pick 4s are certainly worth taking a shot at.
While some shippers have done well in the recent past like Flanagan Memory and Natural Herbie, who are both back this year, the big names simply don’t go away. Ron Burke has 19 on the card and Jimmy Takter has 17 entered, and for the second straight year has five in the Hambletonian eliminations. Last year, Takter advanced four and finished first, third, fourth and eighth. The Hall of Famer is going for a record third straight Hambletonian and owns the day.
Every Hambletonian day, it seems like we see some major upsets such as Dealt A Winner last year. The weather could be a factor. If the current forecast holds true, we’ll get some showers in the morning and then the humidity kicks in. That will hold the moisture in the track and means it’ll be absolutely lightning fast. These are the best horses in the sport so don’t be afraid to take a swing at a price if you’re a believer.
Lock of the Day
Race 12 – 5 WINDOWSHOPPER
Race 10 — 3 MUSICAL RHYTHM
Race 4 — 6 RUBIO
Race 6 — 5 RESOLVE
Race 12 — 7 BROADWAY DONNA
Long Bomb Pick
Race 5 — 9 ROSESAREEXPLOSIVE
or Race 9 — 7 DOMINION BEACH
Race 15 — 11 ANNDROVETTE
Race 10 — 6 WINGS OF ROYALTY
Race 10 — 6 WINGS OF ROYALTY
Race 4 – 3 SNOWSTORM HANOVER
If You Only Have $20 To Bet…
Have some fun and do a show parlay. $20 can turn into some decent money by race five or six if you’re lucky, then you can take some swings at the big races. For others looking to try and turn some small money into big money in one race, how about throwing All the Time and Broadway Donna out of the top three in the Oaks, keying Windowshopper in a 10 cent super, and wheeling Side Bet Hanover for second, third and fourth.
Note: If you are looking for a $20 ticket with this and not an explanation this might work.
10 cent superfectas on the Oaks with Windowshopper and Side Bet Hanover wheeled underneath. 5-4-all-all, 5-all-4-all, 5-all-all-4 for $15.80
$10 Early Pick 4
Race 10 — $5 win and Place 6 WINGS OF ROYALTY
Race 16 — $10 to win 4 HOPE FOR BADLANDS
50-cent Mid Pick 4 Ticket [Races 8-11]
6, 1, 4
2, 3, 10, 6
6, 3, 2
Race 12: $10 win-pace on 7 BROADWAY DONNA
Race 7 – Cane Pace
Dean Towers – SELECTIONS: 1 – 11 – 4 – 8
1 CHECK SIX – This colt has done just about everything right in his last four races, except win, and up against super-fast division leader Racing Hill, that’s not surprising. We can probably expect Yannick to be very aggressive from the wood, and the front end is usually good on Hambletonian Day. I’m aboard.
11 PURE COUNTRY – She is the undisputed Queen of her division and Diamond Creek should be commended for taking a shot with her against the boys. The 11 post can sometimes be dreadful, but following Check Six might work out well for the daughter of Somebeachsomewhere. She’s a nice filly.
4 CONTROL THE MOMENT – This is obviously a very nice colt, but with a stale date, speed on the inside and outside of him, and a short price, I will pitch him out of the top three and try to make some money.
8 IDEAL ROCKY – I think Rocky is much better than his lines show. He’s had some hard luck trips and needed the addition of Lasix after his trip to Mohawk. I thought he looked good last week first up to Boston Red Rocks, and there’s a chance he will be better this week.
Chad Rozema – SELECTIONS: 4 – 1 – 3 – 11
4 CONTROL THE MOMENT – Pace 16 winner gets back to work and won’t have to contend against one of his biggest rivals in Racing Hill. He’s just hitting his best stride and should be tough to defend against with another favorable draw. He leads the way in the kickoff to the Pacing Triple Crown.
1 CHECK SIX – Isn’t in the spotlight like some of his fellow glamour boys but he’s a solid competitor that always seems to be in the mix. His consistent record is tough to overlook and he should work out a good trip from the inside. He can complete the Exacta.
3 JK WILL POWER – Posted a personal best mile in the Pace final but that wasn’t enough to grab a top share. He’s rarely missed the ticket this season and should get back to a close following trip with the move inside. I think he can stick around for the ticket.
11 PURE COUNTRY – Aims to become just the second filly to defeat the boys in this event and first since Countess Adios won in 1960. The Takter pupil rolled through June and July with five straight wins including the Fan Hanover & James Lynch Finals. The second tier can be tricky sometimes but she should be towed into a good position.
Bob Heyden – SELECTIONS: 4 – 1 – 11
4 CONTROL THE MOMENT – Is looking for the Pace-Cane double, which was quite elusive back in the day — 23 straight years to be exact — 1985-2007 Nobody won both. But Sears got on board with his first Cane in 2007 with Always B Miki’s sire Always A Virgin. Sears has had two drives with Control The Moment and set two lifetime marks with this son of 2009 Pacer Of The Year Well Said. Brad Maxwell goes out with a win in a Triple Crown race in the final card of racing marking 40 seasons at the Big M.
1 CHECK SIX – Has been flying under the radar and is winless in his last five, but a huge factor in every one of those races. One of six Somebeachsomewheres in this field, he’s among the leading money-winning sophomores of 2016 and is a major threat in here.
11 PURE COUNTRY – Has the best winning percentage in this field for 2016 (67%). Takter has done this before — supplement a girl versus the boys — and it worked out well with See You At Peelers dominating the 2011 Art Rooney. The undefeated freshman (10-for-10) is half-way to duplicating that winning streak at three and the second tier is a non-issue for her due to her grinding and relentless style. Can Jimmy Takter win a Triple Crown race on the trot and pace in the same day at the same track?
Ken Warkentin – SELECTIONS: 1 – 4 – 11 – 3
1 CHECK SIX – The Pennsylvania Classic winner freshened up for the Pace, was forced wide from never-never land and still hit the board with a furious rally. He twice ran into a raging Racing Hill in the Adios, now lands the pole and Burke’s best colt figures to be well within striking range for Gingras.
4 CONTROL THE MOMENT – The Metro winner seemed to be just waiting on some decent racing luck to break through this season, and has now gone two-for-two here with Brian Sears in the bike, while looking like a champion. He’s had three weeks to regroup after whacking out a career best 1:48.2 to hold off Racing Hill in the Pace, and has options from another inside draw.
11 PURE COUNTRY – You can always question the rare move of entering a filly against colts, but it’s hard to doubt Jimmy Takter’s notion here. He’s had top pacing fillies such as Cabrini Hanover and See You At Peelers, and this one certainly matches up with those two. Brett Miller says she just exceptional, yet she will need every bit of her stellar form to overcome the second tier.
3 JK WILL POWER – Ron Burke is using his strength in numbers to full advantage, and this Somebeachsomewhere could be your price play. The Hempt runner up has been very consistent, also seems to be improving, draws better than he did in the Pace Final and won the last time Dave Miller drove him.
Sam McKee – SELECTIONS: 11 – 4 – 1 – 3
11 PURE COUNTRY – Obviously Jimmy Taker and company are very confident in this filly to supplement her against the colts in the Cane especially knowing Meadowlands Pace champ Control The Moment would probably be entered. She is in raging form and this is probably the year and the spot to try it with Racing Hill skipping the event and the balance of the three-year-old crop made up of nice colts but not superstars with the exception of Betting Line. She follows Check Six who is capable of leaving a ton. Won’t be easy but worth a swing.
4 CONTROL THE MOMENT – Was super in the Meadowlands Pace elimination and final plus the three weeks off will probably do him some good after a grueling stretch of seven races in seven weeks against top level competition. The one to beat.
1 CHECK SIX – Has stepped up his game rallying well in the Pace and going a big mile in the Adios finishing second to Racing Hill. Ronnie Burke said this was his best three-year-old colt coming into the season.
3 JK WILL POWER – Where he gets away seems to be where he’ll probably finish. Dave Miller has gotten along with him well and he should be up close early.
Race 8 – Hambletonian Elimination 1
Dean Towers – SELECTIONS: 1 – 6 – 5 – 4
1 BAR HOPPING – Before seeing Southwind Frank’s romp last week, this has been my Hambletonian horse for some time. From the rail, this versatile horse will allow Tim Tetrick myriad options, and he’s a chalk I don’t want to try and beat.
6 MAVENS WAY – This is a quick horse off the wings, and driver John Campbell will likely be heading right to the front. His win in the NJSS earlier this meet was sparkling and any repeat of that lands this horse on the board.
5 BROOKLYN HILL – I’ve always been a fan of this horse, but he’s had a tough time against the best three-year-olds this season so far. His tactical speed is always an asset and I’m sure he’ll be firing.
4 MILLIGAN’S SCHOOL – Like Brooklyn Hill, this colt seems to be unable to crack the stranglehold of the best in the division, but the Millers have managed him very well. He’s made almost a half a million with only a 1:53.2 lifetime mark, and looks to add to it on Saturday.
Chad Rozema – SELECTIONS: 1 – 5 – 4 – 6
1 BAR HOPPING – Captured the rich Zweig Memorial in his latest with a strong front end performance. He’s beaming with confidence coming in and gets to compete in the easier of two eliminations. He’s the only one to defeat Southwind Frank and should get his rematch in the final.
5 BROOKLYN HILL – Disappointed as the favorite in his Zweig division last time when finishing third and he continues to search for his first win as a sophomore. The Muscle Hill colt was solid in his first three starts of the campaign and can challenge for the win with that same form.
4 MILLIGANS SCHOOL – Rebounded with a better showing at Vernon Downs last time nabbing runner-up honors in the Zweig Memorial. He likes to be forwardly placed and should get away well from the inside. He can trip out for a share of the ticket.
6 MAVENS WAY – Started out his sophomore campaign with a sharp win but he’s not been as effective since. John Campbell was aboard for that win and is back in the bike for this tough test. He has the tools to crack the top four when he’s on his game.
Bob Heyden – SELECTIONS: 9 – 1 – 2
9 REIGNING MONI – Is the mystery horse in here. Without that last blowout he’d be nowhere near the entry box. Takter entered five, which speaks to what he thinks is the wide-open nature of the race. This son of 2007 Hambletonian winner Donato Hanover is just two-for-10 lifetime, but he does draw into the easier of the two elims.
1 BAR HOPPING – Is three-for-17 lifetime. Good news though, so was Alf Palema entering the 1992 Hambletonian with the changed format back then and he qualified for and then upset in the final for Swedish trainer Per Eriksson. He’s getting good at just the right time and Tetrick is in his seventh straight Hambletonian.
2 LAGERFELD – Is a son of Yankee Glide for last year’s Hambletonian-winning connections with Pinkman. Sire Yankee Glide is the last sire to have a Triple Crown winner (2006 Glidemaster).
He’s a colt who has more than paid his way — for the purposes of today’s Hambletonian, he’s not yet bettered his two-year-old mark and that is a big concern.
Ken Warkentin – SELECTIONS: 6 – 1 – 4 — 5
6 MAVENS WAY – Went sniffing for a price play in a field with no slam dunk and landed on this speedy son of Muscle Hill. His wire-to-wire 1:51.4 NJSS division was no fluke. He followed up with a strong third in that final. There’s a motor lurking here. He was freshened with a solid qualifier chasing Pinkman. Ake Svanstedt will have him fit and he’s reunited with the man with six Hambletonians.
1 BAR HOPPING – While Takter admits Southwind Frank is King of the Hill right now, his own top colt is typically ramping up his game at prime time. Handed Southwind Frank his only loss this year, but Frank may have been a tad short that day, and draws the rail fresh off a decisive score in the Zweig after a big effort from post nine here in the Dancer.
4 MILLIGAN’S SCHOOL – After a strong freshman campaign, he’s struggled to find himself this season, yet bounced back from breaks in two consecutive starts to post a new mark of 1:53.2 in a Beal consolation. His Dancer effort was disappointing, then his second in the Zweig was solid. Draws well with mixed feelings from this corner.
5 BROOKLYN HILL – Winless this season, but twice a runner up to Southwind Frank in NJSS, including the Final. Made a speed break when rushed early in the Beal Final, but had his own way in the Zweig and gave way as the beaten favorite. Jonas Czernyson has him at his best, but not sure if that’s good enough today.
Sam McKee – SELECTIONS: 1 – 4 – 5 – 8
1 BAR HOPPING – Has been prepped perfectly with this day in mind by the master Team Takter. Tetrick driving as well as anyone in the game right now plus avoids the two overall favorites Southwind Frank and Marion Marauder in this elimination.
4 MILLIGAN’S SCHOOL – Chased Bar Hopping home in the Zweig and may do the same in this elimination. Other than the breaking issues in a pair of Pocono starts, he’s been consistently close for a top trotting stable.
5 BROOKLYN HILL – Has gate speed and four of his five losses have come to the Burke killers Southwind Frank and Dayson. Surprised he didn’t hold on in the Zweig consolation, but he’d been off for three weeks into that race and Sutton is a scary fast colt when right.
8 IRON MINE BUCKY – Never could get involved in the overnight tightener last week. Nice, steady colt that stays trotting. Will be a huge price that might hit the bottom of the exotic tickets.
Race 9 – Hambletonian Elimination 2
Dean Towers – SELECTIONS: 5 – 4 – 3 – 7
5 SOUTHWIND FRANK – I have been willing to bet against Frank in all of his starts this season, because (like the connections at times alluded to in interviews), he just hasn’t seemed to have punch. That ended last week. With all due respect to driver Yannick Gingras, Frank could’ve been driven by a sumo wrestler and still won under a hold. Barring him throwing in a clunker, I can’t see them beating him.
4 MARION MARAUDER – I have always loved this horse and am a huge fan his connections; they’ve let him learn to race and are being rewarded with a suddenly easy-to-drive and tactical horse. I’d be surprised if he’s off the board.
3 SUTTON – This is a fast little colt who I think has been brought along slowly pointing for this race. I suspect he sits a nice trip and fills out a really chalky trifecta.
7 DOMINION BEACH – This horse was sneaky good in the Dancer. And, if I leave this horse off my tickets after Bjorn Goop takes an eight-hour flight with bad airplane food to drive him, it’s my bad.
Chad Rozema – SELECTIONS: 5 – 4 – 3 – 8
5 SOUTHWIND FRANK – Ron Burke & Yannick Gingras are back with another powerhouse that sets them up to celebrate their first Hambletonian trophy. The Muscle Hill colt has been nearly flawless throughout his career and he’s riding high coming in off three straight wins. He’s the cream of the crop and should deliver in here.
4 MARION MARAUDER – Wins have been easier to come by in 2016 for the son of Muscle Hill and he too has won his past three. This will be his first matchup this year versus Southwind Frank whom he finished runner-up to on four occasions as a rookie. He’s improved and might have the endurance to outlast the Ron Burke standout in the final.
3 SUTTON – Created some buzz in the springtime when he qualified one morning at the Big M in 1:51.2. He wasn’t as sharp in his first couple of starts but has come on strong lately for team Miller. His 1:52.4 win at Vernon Downs must be respected and he may be the dark horse that does well in today’s main event.
8 LOVE MATTERS – Looked great on the end of his latest test when rallying for third behind Bar Hopping. He typically does his best work late and will be a main force I’m expecting to hear from down the lane. He could be in line for a higher finish.
Bob Heyden – SELECTIONS: 5 – 4 – 3
5 SOUTHWIND FRANK – When he wins the Hambletonian, he’ll be 18-for-20 lifetime. Dad was 13-for-14 in 2009 when he crossed the wire in a Hambletonian all-time best 1:50.1 (Muscle Hill). When he wins the Hambletonian, it’ll be number one for both Yannick and Burke, whose dominance the past several seasons has included just about everything but this race-and they came oh so close last year with Mission Brief.
4 MARION MARAUDER – Also a Muscle Hill and the only colt who shows a :26.3 finale on his recent lines. He’s peaking at just the right time and is in fine hands — that of Paula Wellwood —who apparently didn’t miss a single lesson from Master Bill, her dad. Youth is on her side with 27-year-old Scott Zeron, who laughed off pressure in the 2012 Jug at age 23 and drives a lot wiser than his years. The “Elusive Dream” may just come true for Team Wellwood today.
3 SUTTON – Has the fastest mark in the field-=, a 1:51.2 qualifying blitz. Team Miller got money with The Chancellor (fourth-2009) in their earliest Hambletonian effort, and they have to be encouraged by Suttons’ most recent in the Zweig. Drawing inside of the main duo puts him on the ticket.
Ken Warkentin – SELECTIONS: 5 – 4 – 3 – 9
5 SOUTHWIND FRANK – Since his Dan Patch Award winning season, not much has changed in his status, and everybody has been lining up behind this near flawless son of Muscle Hill, who really hasn’t had to improve a lot. Added a blinker hood, drove like a Cadillac from post 11 and equaled his lifetime mark in the slop last week. We obviously haven’t seen his best.
4 MARION MARAUDER – Has learned to win, and with confidence and versatility this season, while peaking perfectly for Paula Wellwood. Four-time runner up to Southwind Frank last year, draws inside that rival and Scott Zeron has a well deserved Hambletonian contender on a form spree.
3 SUTTON – This Team Orange Crush colt has come a long way in a short time, even though he flashed a 1:51.3 qualifier back on May 28. Fresh off an impressive romp in a Zweig Consolation, and a sharp second to Southwind Frank from post 11, the draw was much kinder here.
9 WAITLIFTER K – Post nine in a salty and speedy elimination after only four starts this year may seem like a tall order, but the recent barn change to Andrew Harris and career best 1:52.3 in a Zweig Consolation makes him a live longshot.
Sam McKee – SELECTIONS: 5 – 4 – 9 – 3
4 MARION MARAUDER – Has been brought along slowly racing mainly from off the pace until firing a fastball off the wings in his Dancer division. Don’t know if he can beat Southwind Frank but he’s in patient hands, will be fit and primed, and may slay the dragon on his best.
5 SOUTHWIND FRANK – Some people have been knocking him. Ronnie Burke even said he wasn’t that happy with him in the Dancer, but the fact remains he’s still been winning for fun while well in hand. He’ll be on the lead on the backstretch and someone is going to have to do some trotting to track him down.
9 WAITLIFTER K – Have always liked this colt and think he has some talent. Got jammed up on the far turn in the Dancer so the break can be forgiven. Got a confidence building win in the lowest tier Zweig consolation and trotted a tick faster than Sutton.
3 SUTTON – This is a scary horse that seems to be getting sharp at the right time. Has a puncher’s chance to win the whole thing if the stars are aligned.
Race 11 – U.S. Pacing Championship
Dean Towers – SELECTIONS: 3 – 1 – 4 – 2
3 ALWAYS B MIKI – We’ve seen some great horses race on Hambletonian Day – many of them in this race – and we can add another to the list with Miki. He has a stale date, but it will probably take more than that to beat him.
1 DEALT A WINNER – This horse was really ready to go last time, and he won with ridiculous ease, showing his mettle. He’s always been a nice horse, comes in very sharp, and I think he can step it up a notch and fill out an exacta that will provide value.
4 FREAKY FEET PETE – Is another with a stale date, but again, I doubt that hurts him too much. He’s been pacing in the shadow of the two big guns for some time, but if they are not at their best, he’s a winner. What a fantastic horse.
2 SHAMBALLA – I’ll take a chance and leave off Wiggle It Jiggleit off my tickets this week, who I thought wasn’t on the bit in Saratoga, and add Shamballa. This talented Mohawk shipper can grind all day and will likely get a good trip from the inside. Hopefully I can cash some overlaid exotics in what’s on paper a formful race.
Chad Rozema – SELECTIONS: 3 – 6 – 2 – 4
3 ALWAYS B MIKI – Goes for his fifth in a row and perhaps yet another world record. He’s been able to overpower his foes from a variety of trips and should avoid road trouble versus this smaller field. He’s been a lot of fun to watch for any racing fan and is clearly the one to beat. If the rain holds off the 1:46.4 WR is in serious jeopardy.
6 WIGGLE IT JIGGLEIT – Is pretty remarkable considering the amount of starts he’s made at the top level and the traveling he’s done throughout his career. He doesn’t seem to get tired and operates like a well-oiled machine. His chances are better versus my top pick from this post but he’s still yet to defeat that star. I like him for the Exacta.
2 SHAMBALLA – Raced huge against this top older group last time here and will garner more respect. He just missed in Canada last weekend to stay sharp for this event and the connections are confident he can be a top player in here. He won’t be far out of it and should be heard from down the lane.
4 FREAKY FEET PETE – Missed the ticket in the latest big event against this bunch but he’s been right there all season long. He’s in that second tier of top older performers behind Always B Miki and the best trip might decide which of those three finish runner-up this time.
Bob Heyden – SELECTIONS: 6 – 3 – 4
6 WIGGLE IT JIGGLEIT – He surpasses $3 million career today, and is inching closer to what only Market Share and Gallo Blue Chip have done — win $1 million after a $2 million season. His last start was almost beyond belief, overcoming all kinds of traffic adversity and tag-teaming to still win and show them his heels.
3 ALWAYS B MIKI – Has the torch in one hand and the gold medal in the other. He’s made it to the top of the hill with four straight bruising and ultra-convincing miles. Now he looks to sustain it against as good a seven-horse field as has ever been assembled. Indiana has to be awfully proud of their boys — all in action today in this race and all ready to go in the day’s most anticipated race.
4 FREAKY FEET PETE – Missed the board last start for the first time since his freshman season. The three weeks can only have helped and here’s a vote he’s back on the beam today.
Ken Warkentin – SELECTIONS: 6 – 3 – 2 – 4
6 WIGGLE IT JIGGLEIT – The defending Horse of the Year on the verge of the $3 million mark comes off one of his patented amazing performances, overcoming a wild first quarter and crushing the Gerrity with his sheer will. Got stung early in the Haughton, but was well driven to his Graduate win, a world record in the slop. He’ll likely fire out for control and position with the hopes of stalking Always B Miki. Great horses do great things and maybe it’s his day.
3 ALWAYS B MIKI – The Ultimate Comeback Kid has quickly gone from special to great this season, following up his all-time Canadian record at Mohawk with three straight world records, while holding off a pesky Shamballa in the Haughton’s added eighth. Resting for three weeks may actually help him, he draws an inside post and as usual it will take an exceptional effort to beat him.
2 SHAMBALLA – WEG circuit-based gelding turned the corner with his amazing second to Always B Miki in the Haughton, then came up a nose shy back at Mohawk. He was also a huge second to Always B Miki in the Canadian record Mohawk Gold Cup. Returns to the Big M with post two again and has price play aspirations.
4 FREAKY FEET PETE – After back-to-back narrow losses in the Ben Franklin and Graduate he was clearly outsprinted in the Haughton. The Breeders Crown champion continues to do well away from his Indiana base and draws well this time, but it seems he would need some serious mayhem to ensue in order to upset the top two.
Sam McKee – SELECTIONS: 3 – 6 – 4 – 2
3 ALWAYS B MIKI – The monster free-for-aller is back off a three-week freshening after three consecutive world records. At this point, he’s arguably the leading candidate for Horse of the Year, the leading pacer in the sport, and after Saturday with the right weather conditions and pace set-up, he might be the fastest pacer in a race in harness history.
6 WIGGLE IT JIGGLEIT – The defending Horse Of The Year is as tough as they come and went an amazing mile at Saratoga when forced to check, stop and start a couple of times in the first half. He dances every dance, races his heart out and just keeps on coming. Would be no surprise at all if he wins.
4 FREAKY FEET PETE – The Indiana superstar is flat out fast and can carry that speed a long, long way. The smaller field puts everyone in play and he’s off a three week freshening as well. This could well be an amazing race and go down in history as one of the greatest ever.
2 SHAMBALLA – Raced his eyeballs out in the Haughton finishing less than length behind Always B Miki. Ontario-based Open pacer is consistently close every time out.
Race 12 – Hambletonian Oaks
Dean Towers – SELECTIONS: 5 – 4 – 7 – 1
5 WINDOWSHOPPER – I think this filly is the fastest we’ve seen this year in the division, even though her record doesn’t show it. She was huge in her Miller before breaking, and came wider than the Grand Canyon last week in a back of the bus effort. Brian Sears will depress the price, but I think she can run away and hide if she’s put in play.
4 SIDE BET HANOVER – There are few things I love more than sharp filly trotters, and she’s a sharp filly trotter. She was completely full of herself in her last two, and the connections have her coming into this race on a major high. We’re swinging with these top two picks, but if correct, we’ll get paid.
7 BROADWAY DONNA – She, to me, looked fantastic on the track last week in her elimination, but lost her action late. I like this horse and it would not surprise me to see her be right there, even from an outside post.
1 CAPRICE HILL – Her last was probably better than it looked because of the quick half on a sticky track. From the rail she has to get a good trip, doesn’t she? Logical.
Chad Rozema – SELECTIONS: 7 – 1 – 6 – 2
7 BROADWAY DONNA – Made a rare miscue in her elim but fortunately it didn’t cost her a chance to reach the final. She looked great two back when defeating some of the top fillies from off the pace and can do it again if she behaves. Her mom won this event in 2009 and I’m going to give her the edge.
1 CAPRICE HILL – Was picked off at the wire as the heavy favorite last week, but she might not have been as sharp having shipped in from Canada. Another week here helps and a return to her top form makes her a major threat. Tony Alagna has earned some big wins this year already and could add his first Oaks title to his resume.
6 ALL THE TIME – Worked first over in her elim and raced great despite coming up a half length short. She draws well for the big dance and could very well get back on track to give Gingras and Takter three straight Oaks titles.
2 CELEBRITY EVENTSY – Pulled off the minor upset last week with a perfect drive by John Campbell. She’s been able to relax more this year and that certainly helps when drivers look to place her in a hole. She rarely misses the board and should be in the mix turning for home.
Bob Heyden – SELECTIONS: 6 – 7 – 1
6 ALL THE TIME – The 2015 Breeders Crown winner is set to give Jimmy Takter Oaks number six, tying him with fellow Swede Jan Johnson and third in a row, which would be an all-time first. All three with Yannick. Owners Katz-Libfeld first got the taste of Oaks glory with Creamy Mimi in 2008. The three main fillies in here (top three choices) are all within $50G lifetime of each other making this a very interesting betting affair.
7 BROADWAY DONNA – David Miller paid $116.60 with Personal Style four years ago. He can win again, but at around 5-2 this time. Dam Broadway Schooner also won this race, but the difference is she was three-for-14 lifetime going in. Broadway Donna is 11-for-14. Campbell-Jules Siegel have been here before on Hambletonian Day, in the biggie and in the Oaks.
1 CAPRICE HILL – Won the O’Brien at two and took her lifetime mark here-in a qualifier. $55,000 yearling is sharp-freshened up and ready for these for the hot Alagna barn. Daughter of HOY sire Kadabra starts from the rail and figures prominently throughout.
Ken Warkentin – SELECTIONS: 1 – 6 – 5 – 7
1 CAPRICE HILL – One of nine O’Brien Award winners on the card couldn’t quite hold on in the mud last week, but certainly needed the trip here after doing most of her damage at Mohawk. Now gets a chance to use her speed to push off from the rail, perhaps dictate the terms and show her class.
6 ALL THE TIME – The Breeders Crown champion has now lost two straight here, yet she did get roughed up first over in the mud last week. Broadway Donna gunned her down with no apparent excuse before that. Still, there’s too much talent to ignore, plus the Takter Factor is magical.
5 WINDOWSHOPPER – If you are price shopping this could be your live longshot. Has made only four starts this year, bounced back from a break in the Del Miller with a forced wide rally from an impossible spot last week. Adds Brian Sears and can stalk from an ideal midpack post.
7 BROADWAY DONNA – One of 10 Dan Patch Award winners on the Hambletonian program made a rare break under late pressure on a sloppy track in her elimination. Her win over All the Time in the Del Miller gave her a new mark of 1:52.2, so she has the capacity and form to bounce back and do what her dam Broadway Schooner did in 2009.
Sam McKee – SELECTIONS: 7 – 1 – 5 – 6
7 BROADWAY DONNA – Have always admired her tenacity and determination. In the Doherty and the Bluegrass last year, she seemed to lose her rhythm in the late stages yet kept on fighting for a pair of dead-game narrow wins. The weather last Saturday night was miserable with the rain and I believe several of these fillies weren’t as comfortable as normal. She has a good chance as anyone in the field.
1 CAPRICE HILL – Looked to be home free last week but was nailed late in the sloppy going. Class filly who has dominated in the Ontario program.
5 WINDOWSHOPPER – Team Svanstedt puts up Sears and she could certainly be a live long shot at 40-1 on
the morning line. Has not raced much this year so there could be some room to improve.
6 ALL THE TIME – The Breeders Crown champion has a ton of talent. She’s reportedly been struggling with some back issues but deserves credit for giving it her best even when getting a touch steppy. If she’s physically right on Saturday, Takter might have the Oaks three-peat in lockdown mode.
Race 13 – Hambletonian Final
It’s difficult to think Southwind Frank, Bar Hopping and Marion Marauder do not all make the final, and if so, they are three very likely horses in the trifecta. We’ll complete our superfecta with Sutton, who has looked sound and happy of late, and should handle two heats.
Race 13 Hambletonian Final goes to Marion Marauder
Southwind Frank takes the 91st Hambletonian as he pleases, with Marion Marauder second and Bar Hopping third — a Muscle Hill complete sweep. Yannick and Burke breakthrough with their biggest win together, and possibly their first Horse Of The Year, too.
Southwind Frank. With the exception of that lone loss to Bar Hopping when he had missed three weeks, things have basically gone his way this season. He hasn’t had to really fire off the wings, and has just floated away, brushed and cruised, and easily handled tough posts in four his last five. So without being stressed or severely tested so far, he figures to be ready for two heats. Physically, it’s been all systems go. Perfectly managed by Team Burke and Yannick Gingras knows exactly what he has to do.