The most prestigious harness race in the world, the Hambletonian has held a position of prominence at the Meadowlands racetrack in 1981. This Saturday’s race promises a deep and talented field, so says Dave Bower who will be an analyst on the CBS Sports Network’s live broadcast of the race.
Bower will be a centerpiece for the 90-minute coverage by the cable sports network. A crowd of over 20,000 is expected at the Meadowlands to witness the biggest day in harness racing.
Rain or shine, the Hambletonian promises a full day of racing plus live music, games and interactive events for racing fans of all ages and size. Bower sat down with Metro to help preview the race.
Metro: Southwind Frank is the favorite coming into this week. Is he that good?
Bower: Absolutely! He's won 16 of his 18 lifetime starts and coming into the Hambletonian in great shape. He equaled his lifetime best time last week over a sloppy track and he was under wraps (not urged) doing it, so if it rains [Saturday] like the forecasters say, he can't use that as an excuse.
Metro: Bar Hopping got stuck in the post position No. 1. Can this horse escape the rail? Is it a bad thing?
Bower: In harness racing, the rail isn't a bad place to be. In fact, it's often the best. Bar Hopping is pretty versatile, so his driver Tim Tetrick can do whatever he wants with him. It's very important to try and win your elimination, because then you're guaranteed a post no worse than fifth.
Metro: Thoughts on Royal Harry, especially after his last win at the Mohegan Sun Pocono? He had a decently good time in that win.
Bower: I don't really know what to make of The Royal Harry! The class of horses he beat in that Pocono race are nowhere near what he's going to face on Saturday. While it would be a good story if he made the final, he's still got a lot to prove to me.
Metro: Is there a horse out there, getting little buzz that could land in the money?
Bower: I guess my "live longshot" would be Sutton. In his very first qualifier, he trotted the mile in 1:51.2. That's faster than any of these have gone so far this year. He looked good finishing second to Southwind Frank in the Dancer at the Meadowlands, and even better in a Zweig race last week at Vernon. If Andy and Julie Miller have him primed, he could have a great chance.
Metro: There's more going on this weekend than just the Hambletonian. What race intrigues you the most?
Bower: The first race we're going to show live on the CBS Sports Network broadcast is the US Pacing Championship. It's the most talked about division in the sport right now, the Free-For-Allers, or older pacers and we've got the "Big Three" squaring off again.
Always B Miki has set three straight world records. Wiggle It Jiggleit was last year's Horse of the Year, and always gives his best. Freaky Feet Pete is an Indiana homebred that is a great story, and a very fast horse. They might take a shot at another world record.
Metro: Is there a moment that sticks out from all your years covering the Hambletonian?
Bower: Yes! The 1989 Dead-heat Hambletonian between Park Avenue Joe and Probe was my most memorable. When they hit the wire in the raceoff, everyone looked at each other and screamed, "Who won?" Well, the camera couldn't separate them....It was that exciting!