The $1.2 million Hambletonian and filly companion stakes, the $500,000 Hambletonian Oaks, will be raced on Saturday afternoon, Aug. 3, at the Meadowlands Racetrack, East Rutherford, New Jersey. The 88th edition of the classic event will revert to the format of heat racing as conducted from 1991-1996, with eliminations and the final on the same day.
Eliminations for the Hambletonian Oaks, if necessary, will be raced the prior week, Saturday, July 27.
Year-end Dan Patch & O’Brien honoree Wheeling N Dealin tops a list of 116 trotting colts eligible to the richest and most prestigious event in harness racing.
Owned by Quebec businessman Serge Godin, Wheeling N Dealin, a son of Cantab Hall, completed an undefeated season in 2012, with nine wins and $696,112 in the bank. Major victories included the William Wellwood Memorial and Breeders Crown for trainer Dustin Jones, who is hoping the third time’s a charm after finishing seventh twice in the Hambletonian with Uhadadream (2000) and Prestidigitator (2012).
“He just trained excellent – I went a doubleheader with him – and I’m aiming to qualify him the first week in June,” said Jones. “I’m hoping to get two or three starts into him at Mohawk and see how he is. Maybe a prep race at The Meadowlands the week before the Hambletonian so he can go over the track and get used to things.”
As for the return to heat racing in the summer event, Jones isn’t unduly concerned.
“It’s the Hambletonian- I want to be in it no matter what the format it is,” he continued. “As a kid in Quebec we went heats all day long and it didn’t bother the horses. This horse in particular is easy on himself, warms up so relaxed and is so easy to drive. Others are harder on themselves.”
The 2012 Peter Haughton Winner Aperfect Yankee is also on the eligible list. Only two other Haughton winners have gone on to win the Hambletonian, which would place the Jim Oscarsson-trainee in the esteemed company of Donato Hanover (2007) and Muscle Hill (2009).
Both colts were ranked well behind fillies Bee A Magician and To Dream On – who topped the freshman money-earning list with $766,652 and $727,320 respectively - in the new Hoof Beats/Trackmaster Predictive Ratings, a computer-generated ranking system based on speed ratings, track variant and post position. The first colt in the ratings is the diminutive Dontyouforgetit, Jimmy & Christina Takter’s homebred son of Solveig, in third place. Wheeling N Dealin is ranked at #5 and Aperfect Yankee #7.
To Dream On also took Dan Patch divisional and Breeders Crown honors, and along with Bee A Magician and Fashion Athena (ranked #3) make up a list of 91 fillies eligible to the Oaks.
The Hambletonian Society, which has owned and serviced the race since its inception in 1926, received 207 total payments for the 88th edition of the classic race, hosted by the Meadowlands Racetrack since 1981. There are no supplemental entries permitted in the Hambletonian and Oaks, nor are participants allowed to race on Lasix or Butazolidin. Along with the four juvenile Breeders Cup races for Thoroughbreds, they are the only events in North American horse racing that prohibit the use of any race day medication.
The Hambletonian is the second leg of trotting's Triple Crown. The first, the Yonkers Trot, takes place Saturday, July 27 at Yonkers Raceway. The third leg, the Kentucky Futurity, is scheduled to be raced Sunday, Oct. 6 in Lexington. The last trotter to win the Triple Crown was Glidemaster in 2006.
The Hambletonian trail commences Saturday, May 4, with the Dexter Cup at Freehold Raceway.
Eligibles for all Hambletonian-serviced stakes can be found at http://www.hambletonian.org/resources/Hambletonian882.pdf