In the world of harness racing, John Fielding is one of the more prominent owners in the sport, and there aren't many stakes events the Toronto resident hasn’t won. However, the Hambletonian is one race Fielding has yet to win, something he hopes to change this Saturday at the Meadowlands Racetrack in the $1-million classic.
Fielding’s chances appear more likely than others, as he has three entries for the 88th edition: Corky, Dontyouforgetit and High Bridge, all conditioned by New Jersey-based trainer Jimmy Takter.
“It’s such a great feeling just to be a part of the day,” Fielding said. “The atmosphere is something that every racing fan should experience. The venue is terrific and the best horses are displayed in one day.”
The closest Fielding has come to winning the Hambletonian was last year, when Guccio finished second by a neck to Market Share.
Fielding hopes his luck is soon to change.
“I’m probably most excited about Corky,” he said. “I think he’s got a very good chance to win. He’s had a great week and (is) coming into this weekend in great form. He’s a bit of a green horse and continues to learn and continues to get stronger with each start. I expect him to close out the year very well.”
Corky, a son of Muscles Yankee, has banked $611,988 in his career and holds a mark of 1:52.4. The $100,000 yearling purchase is fresh off a 1:54.3 victory at the Meadowlands this past Saturday.
Corky has been installed as the 2-1 morning-line favourite for driver David Miller in the third elimination.
Dontyouforgetit was the favourite to win the $450,000 Yonkers Trot this past weekend, but the son of Cantab Hall made a costly break in stride, which resulted in a fourth-place finish.
“He got run into, which was disappointing, but we’re really looking forward to Saturday with him,” said Fielding. “His mother, Solveig ($930,132), is a mare that Jimmy and I also had. So maybe he’s got a special meaning. I think he’ll handle the heats very well if he’s fortunate enough to get through the first one. He’s on the smaller side, but he’s got a heart the size of a watermelon. He’s got the grit and determination.”
Dontyouforgetit has an impressive resume this season, as he boasts a record of 4-1-2 from eight starts along with $231,732 in seasonal earnings.
The brown trotter has been installed as the 7-2 third choice in the second elimination for driver Yannick Gingras.
Dontyouforgetit's half-sister, Shake It Cerry is one of the favourites to win the $321,700 Merrie Annabelle for two-year-old trotting fillies, also on Saturday for Fielding and Takter.
Fielding’s final Hambletonian starter is High Bridge, who might be considered the lesser of the three entries. The talented son of Cantab Hall has a 4-3-1 record from 11 starts this season and $102,730 in the bank.
“High Bridge continues to get better as well. At the end of his two-year-old season, I mentioned to Jimmy that this might be one that we want to cull and he said not to give up on him yet and that he’ll be fine and Jimmy was right,” said Fielding. “He won the three-year-old open the other night at the Meadowlands beating some good horses. He did it all on the front last week and I’m not sure that’s his strongest suit. He can be dangerous in there and I think he’ll handle the heats very well if he’s fortunate to get by the first one.”
Gingras will once again be at the helm in the first elimination.
Fielding and Takter’s relationship dates back many years and the pair have forged a prosperous partnership and friendship.
“Jimmy is the best trainer that I’ve ever been around. He’s got a terrific work ethic and that translates into results,” Fielding said. “His regiment at the farm is second to none and I’m very lucky to be partners with him and his wife, Christina, for such a long period of time. Both Jimmy and his wife, Christina, are terrific people inside and outside of racing.”
Fielding, who currently owns 40 horses, will send out five starters on Friday night, along with nine starters on Saturday at the East Rutherford, New Jersey oval.
Three opening-heat divisions of the Hambletonian will take place Saturday with the top three finishers from each dash and one fourth-place finisher returning later in the afternoon to contest the final.
First-race post for the Hambletonian Day program is 11:50 a.m.