Nancy Johansson is fond of her Hambletonian contender Dont Letem, even if the colt is not always the best student.
“He would be the kid in the classroom that’s always in the corner, the class clown,” Johansson said with a laugh. “But I’ve liked him since the first time he ever set foot on the farm. You know why? He’s always so happy.
“I think that’s why he gets himself in trouble,” she added, laughing again.
Dont Letem is the 4-1 second choice in Saturday’s (August 3) second of two $70,000 Hambletonian Stakes eliminations at the Meadowlands Racetrack. Greenshoe, this year’s fastest three-year-old trotter with a mark of 1:50.1, is the 4-5 choice.
The top-five finishers in each elimination will return for the $1 million final later in the day. The Hambletonian and $500,000 Hambletonian Oaks will be aired live as part of a 90-minute broadcast on CBS Sports Network beginning at 4 p.m. (EDT). The Hambletonian Day card will start at noon.
Dont Letem is in his first year with Johansson’s training stable after having spent his two-year-old campaign with her father, now-retired Jimmy Takter. Last year, Dont Letem dazzled on Hambletonian Day, as he won the Peter Haughton Memorial in a stakes-record 1:51.4. He ended the season with four wins and a second (by a nose) from 10 starts. He went off stride in all five of his off-the-board finishes.
This year, Dont Letem has gone off stride once in four races. He has recorded two wins and a second (again by a nose) and heads to the Hambletonian off of a career-best 1:50.2 victory in the Reynolds Memorial last week at the Meadowlands.
“He’s fast,” Johansson said. “I don’t know if he’s as fast as Greenshoe, but we’ll see. If he can just behave, he can be right there. And he’s strong, too. He was parked the entire mile in the Reynolds; he never saw the rail until the stretch. So, he’s got all the tools. It’s just all the puzzle pieces need to be put together in the right spot Saturday.”
Johansson, who was the caretaker of 2010 Hambletonian winner Muscle Massive, started her own stable in 2013. She was harness racing’s Rising Star Award winner in 2014, when she trained U.S. Horse of the Year JK Shesalady. She trained two Dan Patch Award recipients in 2018 and both will be in action on Hambletonian Day: Captain Crunch in the Cane Pace for three-year-old pacers and four-year-old Kissin In The Sand in the Lady Liberty for female pacers.
Her best finish in the Hambletonian came in 2014, when Resolve was fifth.
Dont Letem, a son of Muscle Hill-Passageway, is owned by breeder Brittany Farms, Christina Takter, John Fielding, and Herb Liverman. All are past winners of the Hambletonian.
The most recent horse to win the Peter Haughton Memorial at age two and come back the following year to win the Hambletonian was Muscle Hill.
Johansson will go into the Hambletonian with an outlook to mirror her colt’s sunny disposition.
“I don’t really have any expectations because I can just be happy then,” Johansson said.
The post positions for the Hambletonian’s opening-heat divisions appear below.
Heat 1 – Elimination 1
Post-Driver-Trainer-Morning Line Odds
1-Cantab Fashion-Scott Zeron-Jim Campbell-6/1
2-Summit In Sight-Andy Miller-Julie Miller-20/1
3-Swandre The Giant-David Miller-Ron Burke-7/2
4-Soul Strong-Dexter Dunn-Ake Svanstedt-8/1
5-Mr Vicktor-Tyler Buter-Jennifer Lappe-15/1
6-Osterc-Yannick Gingras-Per Engblom-15/1
7-Gimpanzee-Brian Sears-Marcus Melander-2/1
8-Green Manalishi S-Tim Tetrick-Marcus Melander-5/2
Heat 1 – Elimination 2
Post-Driver-Trainer-Morning Line Odds
1-Forbidden Trade-Bob McClure-Luc Blais-12/1
2-Gerry-Orjan Kihlstrom-Marcus Melander-20/1
3-Pilot Discretion-Andrew McCarthy-Tony Alagna-10/1
4-Reign Of Honor-David Miller-R. Nifty Norman-20/1
5-Greenshoe-Brian Sears-Marcus Melander-4/5
6-Dont Letem-Yannick Gingras-Nancy Johansson-4/1
7-Super Schissel-Scott Zeron-Per Engblom-10/1
8-Marseille-Ake Svanstedt-Ake Svanstedt-5/1
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