Saturday afternoon will be the running of the 93rd Hambletonian at the Meadowlands Racetrack, the most iconic event in harness racing set for another big day. And unlike in years past, this year’s Hambletonian is wide open.
There is no clear-cut favorite with a trio of horses all in the mix and likely to make a big run at the biggest prize in harness racing.
Run at the Meadowlands since 1971, the Hambletonian has grown into a true international specter, as influenced by the wide number of entrants from around the world in this year’s edition. The race features a filly looking to make history as Atlanta is hoping to become the first female to take the race since 1996.
This horse has proven to be able to run with the boys so far but Saturday afternoon at the Meadowlands will certainly prove to be Atlanta’s biggest test to date.
Dave Brower, Meadowlands oddsmaker and bookmaker, notes that the cards both historically and in the post draw are stacked against the filly.
“Well, history is definitely not on her side. No filly has won the Hambletonian since 1996 when Continentalvictory prevailed. Five fillies have tried since, unsuccessfully,” Brower told Metro. “She drew an outside post in her power-packed elimination, and even if she ‘survives’ that to make the $1 million final, she'll have to come back and do it again an hour or so later. If she does it, she's a true champion.”
Atlanta hasn’t lost in her five races this year, the filly pacing her way to 3:1 odds as of the post draw on Tuesday.
The man who will call the race, Ken Warkentin, sees the favorite Wolfgang laying hold of the title. At 5:2 at the post draw, the Jimmy-Takter trained colt is coming off an impressive win at the $266,000 Goodtimes at Woodbine.
“Peaking perfectly and leads the Jimmy Takter quartet of entries with a three-for-three record this season, dominated the Goodtimes Stakes at Mohawk,” Warkentin said. “Then missed a few weeks due to a minor surgical procedure, came roaring back with the mile of his life in the Stanley Dancer Memorial at the Meadowlands>”
Warkentin has Crystal Fashion rounding out his top three along with Six Pack. Crystal Fashion has the second-best odds heading into this weekend’s Hambletonian.
Moira Fanning, director of the Hambletonian Society, thinks the much-talked about filly will be in the race for the Hambletonian but she has a different favorite. She likes the highly-touted Crystal Fashion, who was 7:2 at the post draw.
“Unassuming, not glamorous but in his last five starts he’s won three and been beaten by a nose in the two,” Fanning said. “He’s in peak form and has top driver Tim Tetrick.”
Crystal Fashion drew a sixth post position. Fanning said that she thinks Atlanta can hang with the boys but that the favorite will hold serve – “She will need the performance of her life to qualify an then win the final so let’s hope she has that in her Saturday. I think she’ll be second though to Crystal Fashion.”
And Brower, the oddsmaker and bookmaker for the Meadowlands, says that there is plenty more to the racing at the Meadowlands on Saturday afternoon. While the Hambletonian is the draw, he underscores that it is a deep and talented card at the racetrack.
The sixth race, the John Cashman Memorial, has a horse that Bowers really likes in Hannelore Hanover. Bowers notes that New York Yankees general manager Brian Cashman will be on hand to honor his late father in the race named after him following a long and storied career in racing.
In addition, Brower has a longshot he likes in the Sam McKee Memorial, the eleventh race of the day.
“Western Joe enters off the mile of his life, over his favorite Meadowlands strip last week. He won in a sparkling time of 1:47.3 for driver Scott Zeron, who fits him perfectly,” Brower said. “This race has lots of star power in it, but no horse is sharper than Joe! Expect him to be "in the mix" early, and then settle to stalk the favorites. Joe's last move in a mile is usually his best, and he figures to offer odds somewhere between 4:1 and 5:1.”