Hambletonian Day has concluded with harness racing's brightest stars competing on a stellar stakes-packed program at Meadowlands Racetrack in East Rutherford, New Jersey.
The attendance was 20,764 for the first Hambletonian raced before the new, streamlined grandstand on an overcast afternoon following a rainy morning.
The main event on the card was captured by Trixton and trainer-driver Jimmy Takter. The full recap of that race is available here: Trixton Wins The Hambletonian.
World records were at the mercy of the numerous superstars on The Meadowlands' Hambletonian Day undercard. Recaps and replays of those races appear below.
$500,000 Hambletonian Oaks for three-year-old filly trotters
While it was touted as a grudge match between Designed To Be and Shake It Cerry, that memo clearly didn't get to Lifetime Pursuit. The three-year-old daughter of Cantab Hall was tons the best in the $500,000 Hambletonian Oaks, establishing herself as the fastest three-year-old trotting filly in harness racing history.
Yannick Gingras had Lifetime Pursuit forwardly placed off the gate from Post 7, in front of the field past the :26.3 opening quarter but not for long as Ron Pierce had maneuvered Shake It Cerry through the pack to vie for the lead from the second tier start. That duo eventually made the lead just past the first quarter.
Ake Svanstedt made the sacrifice as the first over challenger to the divisional standout with Heavens Door, prompting the pace through a :55.1 half and 1:23.2 third station. As the field turned for home, Heavens Door couldn't keep up with the pacesetter and that gap allowed pocket sitter Lifetime Pursuit room to angle out for the stretch drive. And with powerful strides, Gingras and Lifetime Pursuit powered past her stablemate and hit the wire in 1:50.4. That shaved one-fifth of a second of the divisional standard set by 2013 Horse of the Year Bee A Magician at The Meadowlands in 2013.
Designed To Be closed well for second with Take The Money (Dave Palone) completing the triactor.
"She'd been flying a little bit under the radar. She's a top horse and had been running second to 'Cerry' all last year," trainer Jimmy Takter said after the win. "I felt good about her going into this race. She'd been serious every race. We gambled a little bit with her and made a couple of changes and it worked out."
Lifetime Pursuit (Cantab Hall - Queen Of Grace) is a homebred of Kentucky's Brittany Farms. She now sports a lifetime summary of nine wins in 19 starts and more than $600,000 in purses.
"Jimmy has done and great job and Yannick is driving her great," said Brittany Farms' George Segal. "I don't pay attention to the publicity, she's been racing great...you race for $30,000, you do different things, you come out here for a half million bucks and you put it all on the line."
$300,650 John Cashman Jr. Memorial for free-for-all trotters
Archangel did the heavy lifting early for driver Yannick Gingras in the John Cashman Jr. Memorial, but in deep stretch it was Sebastian K who flexed his muscle en route to a world record-equaling performance.
Gingras powered Archangel to the lead from Post 4 and covered up Sebastian K through first-half fractions of :26.2 and :54.4. Svanstedt edged off the rail and called on his big boy to go after Archangel around the final turn. They trotted as a team to the three-quarter pole in 1:22.4 before Sebastian K dished out some deep stretch punishment. The eight-year-old son of Korean-Gabriella K halted the teletimer in 1:50 while pulling away from Market Share and Archangel. The performance matched the world record set one week earlier by Archangel in the John Cashman Jr. Memorial elimination.
"He’s been good all year. Every race this year, he was very good," said Svanstedt following the win. "He [Gingras and Archangel] leave very fast and he pushed his horse for that and so I take it with him.
"We’re not going to race one month," added Svanstedt when asked about what's coming up for Sebastian K. "We have raced every weekend in four weeks now, so it’s too much for him. He gets a break now."
Knutsson Trotting Inc of Vero Beach, Florida owns Sebastian K, who won for the seventh time in eight starts this season. The 33-time winner increased his lifetime earnings to $2,804,150 with the win.
$355,500 Peter Haughton Memorial for two-year-old trotting colts and geldings
Centurion ATM completed the sweep of this year’s Peter Haughton Memorial thanks to his stakes and track record-setting performance of 1:53.2 in today’s rich final.
Fresh off a 1:54.2 triumph in last week’s elimination, Centurion ATM brushed to the lead in the backstretch after Uncle Lasse sliced out the first panel of :28. Ake Svanstedt cleared to the top in the backstretch with Centurion ATM, who then sped through middle fractions of :56.4 and 1:25 before using a :28.2 closing quarter to win by open lengths over Uncle Lasse and Cruzado Dela Noche.
Sent off as the even-money favourite, the two-year-old son of S Js Caviar-ENS Tag Session improved his rookie record to 2-2-0 from just four trips to the track. The $100,000 purchase from last year’s Harrisburg Yearling Sale has already stashed away $207,3645 in purse earnings for the partnership of Courant AB of Stockholm, Sweden and Knutsson Trotting Inc of Vero Beach, Florida.
$352,050 Merrie Annabelle Final for two-year-old trotting fillies
She now has three straight miles faster than 1:54, unheard of for a two-year-old trotting filly. Mission Brief equaled the world record with a scintillating 1:52.2 score in the $352,050 Merrie Annabelle Final.
Yannick Gingras pointed the 1-2 favourite to the lead off the gate from Post 5 and was on top by the :28 first-quarter with Livininthefastlane (Brian Sears) on her back in second. Second choice Lock Down Lindy (Scott Zeron) was unable to find a spot on the fence and decided to make a bid for the front, and that challenge was unceremoniously rebuffed by Gingras and Mission Brief, who carved out fractions of :56 and 1:24.3 before letting it out a notch in the stretch and crushing her foes with a punishing :27.4 closer to hit the wire a dozen lengths to the good.
Jolene Jolene (David Miller) closed well for second with Lock Down Lindy staying for third.
A $150,000 yearling, Mission Brief (Muscle Hill - Southwind Serena) is trained by Ron Burke for owners Burke Racing Stable LLC of Fredericktown, Penn., Our Horse Cents Stables of Clifton Park, N.Y., J And T Silva Stables of Long Beach, N.Y. and Weaver Bruscemi LLC of Canonsburg, Penn.
"She's very similar to her mother, who won the Breeders Crown here [in 2007] beating Pampered Princess as a three-year-old, she's very similar to her in the sense of the size and the scope about her," breeder Steve Stewart told Bob 'Hollywood' Heyden. "They said her mother was very similar to this filly -- not the easiest to train. Team Burke has done great."
Mission Brief is now 4-for-5 lifetime with more than $255,000 banked in those five starts.
$257,700 U.S. Pacing Championship for free-for-allers
Sweet Lou has been the hottest pacer on the planet in 2014, and there was no denying the speedy, five-year-old son of Yankee Cruiser-Sweet Future a victory in the $257,700 U.S. Pacing Championship.
Ron Pierce got away in mid-pack with the Ron Burke pupil while Bettors Edge shot to the top and supplied the field with an opening quarter clocked in :25.4. State Treasurer brushed to the front in the backstretch, and hot on his heels was Sweet Lou. Pierce took over command with Sweet Lou without a fight, and after tearing through middle splits of :53.1 and 1:21.1 he kicked home in :26.1 to finish off his foes in an eye-catching clocking of 1:47.2. State Treasurer was second best, with last year’s U.S Pacing Championship winner, Thinking Out Loud, taking home third prize after making a first-over bid.
“Ronnie [trainer Burke] didn’t say ‘go for it,’ so I didn’t go any more than I had to,” said driver Ron Pierce when asked about shooting for a world record. “If I would have started chasing him there’s no question he would have probably paced in about :45.”
Burke Racing Stable LLC, Weaver Bruscemi LLC, Larry Karr and Phillip Collura share ownership on the 30-time winner, who extended his winning streak to eight-in-a-row. He also became the first pacer to ever register five sub-1:48 victories. He improved this year’s record to 8-1-1 from 11 trips postward with the victory, and the lion’s share of the purse bumped his bankroll to $2,912,011.
$177,750 Lady Liberty Free-For-All for older pacing mares
Despite not being the stars of the program, classy older pacing mares Anndrovette and Rocklamation didn't let that stop them from putting on a pacing show to conclude the stakes races on Hambletonian Day in the $177,750 Lady Liberty.
Tim Tetrick hustled Anndrovette out of Post 5 to view for command and cleared over prep winner Drop The Ball (Corey Callahan) before the :26.1 first panel. Yannick Gingras brought Golden Girls winner Rocklamation first up to tussle with the pacesetter through a :54.4 half. Around the final turn before the third quarter, it appeared as though Rocklamation was getting to Anndrovette as Tetrick started to ask his mare for more step.
The third station was clicked off in 1:22.2 with Rocklamation looking to have the upper hand, but the gritty Anndrovette would not be put away that easily. Those two mares slugged it out down the stretch, making strides and not giving way. Rocklamation won this war, tripping the timer in 1:49.2 over a superbly-game Anndrovette with that mare's stablemate Shelliscape (John Campbell) closing with pace for third.
Rocklamation (Rocknroll Hanover - Art Sale) notched her 22nd lifetime win and also surpassed the $2 million mark in lifetime earnings for J And T Silva Stables of Long Beach, N.Y., Stable 45 of Boynton Beach, Fl., and Our Horse Cents Stables of Clifton Park, N.Y.
"She is so tough," said Gingras, "they've been spacing her starts out by design because she's not the soundest mare there is but she certainly has a heart."
"This mare just amazes me. Every start could be her last and she just keeps going and going," said Burke after the win.
Gingras finished the day with five stakes wins, with Burke notching four stakes wins.
"It's been a great week, Yannick's driven great and [Ron] Pierce did a great job with Lou. I'm very happy in that way."
$225,000 Anthony Abbatiello SBOA New Jersey Classic for three-year-old pacers
Sweet Rock and driver Brett Miller provided the longshot players with some sweet action in the $225,000 Anthony Abbatiello SBOA New Jersey Classic for three-year-old pacers with a 90-1 upset.
A cavalry charge headed for the lead with Bushwacker (David Miller), Rock Out (Tim Tetrick) and Sweet Rock all gunning for command. Bushwacker got there first, prompting Rock Out and Sweet Rock to settle along the rail. Sitting in fourth through the :26.3 opener was Beat The Drum (Ron Pierce), who was flushed by favoured Doo Wop Hanover (Yannick Gingras).
The half-mile point was reached in :55.1 and Gingras made a three-wide move down the backstretch to try to put distance between his horse and the field, but couldn't completely clear through the 1:22 third panel and ended out in the three path around the final turn.
Bushwacker was staying strong in the stretch drive, and Beat The Drum wasn't going away. Western Vintage (Brian Sears) found a lane outside Doo Wop Hanover, who started to fade, but that also gave Sweet Rock's driver Brett Miller room to angle and dangle through traffic. In a three-across photo, Sweet Rock got the job just edging Beat The Drum and Bushwacker.
When asked what Miller knew about the horse coming into the race, he was brutally honest: "Absolutely nothing. The trainer said to me they just purchased him, they handed me the lines and here we are."
"Honestly, I got lucky," Miller said to Bob 'Hollywood' Heyden about the trip. "I kind of stayed in and kept weaving my way through traffic. Halfway down the stretch I thought he was a winner but I had no room. Things just opened up. He shot right through there and got the job done."
Just 1-for-20 coming into the race with $48,000 in purses, Sweet Rock now has more than $160,000 in purses for Legacy Racing Of Delaware, Reginald Hazzard II of Millsboro and Gary Calloway of Bethel, Del., who just purchased the colt on Sunday at the Meadowlands Summer Mixed Sale for $63,000. and placed him in the care of Wayne Givens.
$100,000 Thomas D'Altrui Miss New Jersey for three-year-old pacing fillies
The betting public was in love with Gettingreadytoroll making her the 3-5 favourite in the $100,000 Thomas D’Altrui Miss New Jersey Classic for three-year-old pacing fillies, and the Jimmy Takter trainee didn’t let down her army of backers.
Yannick Gingras got away fifth with Gettingreadytoroll while Kate Cant Wait blazed to the top from Post 10 and fired the field to the quarter pole in a :26-second clip. Act Now rushed out of the four-hole in the backstretch, and she cleared without much of a tussle. Gingras followed that move and wound up first-over and parked to the mid-way point in :52.4 with his charge.
Gettingreadytoroll eventually worked her way to the front, and she proceeded to roll the field to the three-quarter pole in 1:21.4. Act Now tipped out on the leader in the lane, but Gettingreadytoroll gave her the ‘talk to the hand’ treatment and held on for the 1:50.1 score. Act Now was second best, with Kate Cant Wait a distant third.
"We were going pretty good," said driver Yannick Gingras when asked about the wicked fractions. "When Brian [Sears driving Act Now] made the move I thought the only way his mare would beat me is if she cut the mile, so I knew I was going to get a pretty big half but I took my chance anyway."
Christina Takter of East Windsor, New Jersey shares ownership on the daughter of Rocknroll Hanover-Captain Holly with the Fielding brothers, John and Jim, of Toronto, Ontario. It was the fourth win of the season – and the fifth to date – for the career winner of $105,957.
$52,000 Ima Lula Final for four-year-old trotting mares
Any concerns over track conditions should be dismissed as the first race of the Hambletonian Day card equalled a world record.
Tim Tetrick floated favoured Classic Martine to the lead in the $52,000 Ima Lula Final for four-year-old trotting mares and cleared to the front over NF Happenstance (Jack Parker, Jr.) before the :27 quarter and got a breather in the second quarter as the half-mile was reached in :55.2.
Brian Sears started his first-over bid with Bee A Magician just prior to the half as Tetrick picked up the pace with Classic Martine. Those two mares hooked up through a rapidly accelerating 1:23 third panel and a classic stretch battle ensued. Both mares showed no signs of wanting to pack it in and only a neck separated the top two but in the end it was Classic Martine getting to the wire first in a world record-equalling 1:51.1. Bee A Magician was a solid second with HF Happenstance staying for third.
"My mare's best game is probably not on the front but today we had to do it," said Tetrick after the race. "My mare was better today."
Classic Martine (Classic Photo - Drinking Days) is now 7-for-9 on the season with earnings surpassing a quarter million dollars. She is owned by Hauser Bros. Racing Ent. of Orangeburg, N.Y., Susan Oakes of Wilkes-Barre, Penn., Conrad Zurich of Fayetteville, N.Y. and Edwin Gold, Phoenixville, Penn. Chris Oakes is the trainer.
"The end of last year she was good and we couldn't really get the job done against Bee A Magician as a three-year-old but she's matured nicely and come back super," said trainer Chris Oakes.
Tetrick noted the track was "very good" despite the rain that had fallen previously.
$75,000 Vincennes Free-For-All Invitational Trot
Indiana invader Natural Herbie made his presence felt in New Jersey, winning the $75,000 Free-For-All Invitational Trot.
Trainer-driver-owner Verlin Yoder floated out the trotter from Post 6 while Sweet Justice (Tim Tetrick) and Dorsay (Corey Callahan) left alertly from the inside as Quick Deal (Matt Kakaley) and Wishing Stone (Yannick Gingras) made breaks to take themselves out of contention.
Yoder cleared to the front with Natural Herbie past the :27.2 quarter, but wasn't relaxed for long. Callahan applied pressure on the outside with Dorsay with Southwind Pepino (John Campbell) on his back second over through a :55.4 half and 1:24 three-quarters.
In the stretch, Natural Herbie remained strong on the front but had to contend with a persistent Southwind Pepino. Rebuffing that challenge, Jimmy Takter unleashed Master Of Law from the back with a vicious late kick but it was too little, too late. Natural Herbie tripped the timer in a lifetime best 1:51.4 over Southwind Pepino and Master Of Law.
Natural Herbie (Here Comes Herbie - Ljanearl) has now trotted to his lifetime best or lowered it in his last three starts, coming off back-to-back track records at Hoosier Park. His seasonal summary is 7-4-1 in 15 starts with the lion's share of the purse pushing his seasonal bankroll to more than $105,000.
$50,000 Townsend Ackerman for three-year-old trotters - 1st division
As expected, Amped Up Hanover was the best in the first $50,000 Townsend Ackerman division. Yannick Gingras placed the son of Explosive Matter on the lead just after the :27 quarter and trotted through fractions of :56.1 and 1:25 without any serious threat. After creating some daylight on pocket sitter Dejatiero (David Miller) around the final turn, Amped Up Hanover's strides started to shorten. Gingras asked his trotter to dig in as the horses approached the wire and Dejatiero was starting to threaten but Amped Up Hanover found the wire first in a lifetime best 1:54.2. Dejatiero stayed for second and Toss Cartwright was third.
Ron Burke trains Amped Up Hanover (Explosive Matter - Armbro Amadeus) for Burke Racing Stable LLC of Fredericktown, Penn., Mary Poliseno of Hartly, Dela., Judith Taylor of Bala Cynwyd, Penn., and Christina Takter of East Windsor, N.J.
$50,000 Townsend Ackerman for three-year-old trotters - 2nd division
DDs Hitman gave Ake Svanstedt his second stakes victory on the card thanks to his 1:53 triumph in the second $50,000 division of the Townsend Ackerman.
Svanstedt got away third with DDs Hitman, who watched Wheelsandthelegman fire to the front from Post 9. That fleet-footed foe whacked out first-half fractions of :27.1 and :55.2 before giving way to Well Built going into the final turn. Well Built hit the three-quarter pole in 1:24.3 before giving way to Hillustrious in the stretch. Hillustrious was put a drive late, but he couldn’t fend off the rally of DDs Hitman, who swept past that rival en route to the 1:53 score. Hillustrious was the runner-up, with Well Built taking home third money.
Sent off at odds of 7-1, DDs Hitman won for the first time this season for Reima Kuisla Stable of Seinajoki, Finland. The three-year-old son of Donato Hanover-Deedees Destiny now boasts a bankroll that sits at $49,219.
While it takes some time to account for all of the money wagered throughout the world, the early returns are in for Hambletonian Day, and they are impressive. Handle for the 15-race program -- including on-track, North American export, French export and Swedish export -- stands at $8,523,804. Last year's total handle was $7,710,389, marking an increase of 11-percent.
The 2014 handle figure does not yet include Australia, Finland, Denmark, Norway and Germany.
As it stands now, the $8.5 million wagered on Saturday is the third highest handle in the history of the Hambletonian, eclipsed only by $9 million in 2005 and $8.8 million in 2002.
To view the charted results from Meadowlands' Hambletonian Day card, click the following link: Saturday Results - Meadowlands Racetrack.