Sunday, August 5, 2012

Market Share is 2012 Hambletonian champ

A great deal had to happen for this year’s glamour-boy trotter to be crowned champion of the sport’s most coveted prize. 

We saw the likes of him at three, first, when this blog began, in May, as Market Share easily won his Dexter Cup elimination mile easily as the 4-5 favorite at Freehold.

We went against him in the final, a good move, giving out Not Afraid and Frost Bites K. The decision was great for bettors because Not Afraid’s win price was $17 and the exacta with Frost Bites K was worth $184.80. Market Share broke and was out of the Dexter Cup Final picture.

But on Aug. 4 at the Meadowlands, there was no sign of Not Afraid or Frost Bites K as the Hambletonian Final’s field lined up. Market Share was present, leaving from post 2 after winning his elimination mile the week before, and he won the $1.5-million event.

That elimination win was strong but it included a simple touch of fate as well. Little Brown Fox, arguably a major contender for the Hambo crown, broke and was eliminated from the 2012 Hambletonian.  

The night before the Hambletonian, Little Brown Fox won the Townsend-Ackerman, a $50,000 event that featured other colts that either did not make it to the Hambo elims or final and if you believe in speed you will agree that Little Brown Fox trotted a faster mile than Market Share’s time winning the major event. 

It is a moot point, for sure, though we wish to take nothing away from Market Share’s victory, but it shows the immeasurable number of incidents that conspire to create a winner for the coveted event.

History is strewn with bad situations for some that become ingredients for successes of others and certainly Hambletonian history is not immune from such fates. Many of us recall the year Tagliabue won the Hambletonian, a victory aided by an elim misstep that knocked out one of the greatest trotters of our time, the filly CR Kay Suzie, from contention in the final. 

As well, consider what happened to Check Me Out in the Hambletonian Oaks Final. Rarely jumping in her career, she took a bad step leading in the event and lost. That race was about the only thing that could’ve stopped her from beating foes that she dominated throughout her two- and three-year-old seasons. Murphy’s Law prevailed, as fate would have it, and the worst that could happen did happen in the “Oaks.”  

Oddly enough, it was not a breaking problem that kept her from racing with the boys in the Hambletonian final, where she would definitely have been a major factor. Her connections decision to leave her race against her own sex was based upon how strenuous it would have been in the colt division considering the thick competition this year. That decision also assisted the success of Market Share and fate took other steps, so to speak, to see to it that the “safer” decision about which division the great filly should challenge was also moot and a matter of chance.  

In 2012, the sophomore-colt trotter crop is thick with competition. Certainly Market Share did not dominate from May until August, having been beaten by a lot of the colts that either made it or did not make it into the final field.  

During the season, Market Share had been beaten by Archangel, Beer Summit, Little Brown Fox, Big Chocolate and as mentioned previously, Not Afraid. All of them, except Not Afraid, who went on hiatus for unreported reasons after a scratch from the Pennsylvania Sires Stakes (PASS) on May 30, are still battling for top money in the division now.  

Aside from the aforementioned Little Brown Fox victory, Top Billing, Frost Bites K and Solvato recently won lucrative PASS splits.  

Other divisional members have been riding success while off the Hambletonian grid. Coraggioso, Delano, Nothing But Class, Fashion Astral and the strangely gaited Googoo Gaagaa (the trotter with the pacing sire) could return after a few mishaps as a main divisional contender. 

Nor will Market Share’s Hambo foes lay off fighting for big purse money. We have not heard the last from Uncle Peter, Guccio and other Jimmy Takter students. And My Mvp is coming out of the second-tier category to pose threats, while Kadabra-colts Prestidigitator and Knows Nothing have more in their tanks, as do Stormin Normand, Archangel, Money On My Mind and Gym Tan Laundry.

The remainder of the season is as unpredictable as anything that has happened already to the winners and losers of either division. With no prohibitive leader of the colts and the questionable condition of Check Me Out, plenty of great racing among the sophomore trotters will ensue as the Breeders Crown countdown begins. This can only benefit bettors as the competition stays thick through the second half of the season.  

Congratulations to the Hambletonian’s first woman trainer, Linda Toscano, and to driver Tim Tetrick on his first win in the event.  

The complete archives of divisional events from May through the Hambletonian are available at the Hambletonian Society’s website.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Glamour boys and girls go head to head in trot classic

After months of prepping, the world’s 10 finest glamour-boy trotters will line up behind the Meadowlands starting gate for the 87th running of the Hambletonian on Aug. 4. Here’s the field:


1-Uncle Peter-Ron Pierce-Jimmy Takter-5/2

2-Market Share-Tim Tetrick-Linda Toscano- 4-1

3-Knows Nothing-Jody Jamieson-Jeffrey Gillis-7/2

4-Archangel-Jim Morrill Jr.-Peter Arrigenna-9/2

5-My Mvp-Mike Lachance-Tony Alagna-15-1

6-Prestidigitator-Sylvain Filion-R. Dustin Jones-12-1

7-Guccio-Jimmy Takter-Jimmy Takter-8-1

8-Stormin Normand-Dave Palone-Jim Campbell-15-1

9-Money On My Mind-Andy Miller-Julie Miller-15-1

10-Gym Tan Laundry-George Brennan-Noel Daley-30-1

It will be fairly tough, but possible, to beat morning-line favorite Uncle Peter (Cantab Hall). He will likely either take the lead or sit in the pocket and do the same move that Muscle Massive made with Ron Pierce to win in 2010.

Archangel (Credit Winner) will also look to take the lead and Market Share should get a pocket spot.

But a horse that could be the best value is Prestidigitator (Kadabra). Although people will recall or be reminded of the horrible trip he received in the elim, they probably still won’t bet heavily on him—they’ll go for the three elimination winners.

Trainer Dustin Jones has stakes experience with longshots, as Martiniontherocks gunned out of the gate from post 8 in the Breeders Crown two years back and recorded a stunning upset. So chances are that Prestidigitator will get away fourth or fifth and get a second over trip to win. Might he surprise his foes and leave to take command and keep it? Either way, he is a major player in this event.

Another horse to watch that will be afforded some great odds  is Stormin Normand (Broadway Hall). Although he barely qualified for the final, he trotted a brutal first-over journey against the speedy Archangel. Stormin Normand will likely get off the gate and settle mid-pack and close to get a minor placing; else he will be as powerful as he was against likely choice Uncle Peter during the pair’s last few contests together.

What you should know about the others:

My Mvp has trotted hot and cold these few months and though he has been competitive with the main group he has only had mild success among Pennsylvania state breds. He got into the final on the heels of the fading Riccolo and Stormin Normand’s tough trip so circumstances would have to set up for him to get the opportunity to win.

Guccio was unable to topple Little Brown Fox when that one fooled most bettors and went off over 20-1 and win in the “Dancer.” He was second to Little Brown Fox when that one won at 4-1 and even with “Fox” not in this hunt, Guccio does not appear as good as the few best mentioned; he would need a few other colts to misstep literally or figuratively to win.

Money On My Mind also gets into the final through the courtesy of some others’ faults. In the Uncle Peter win he was assisted by Banker Volo’s burnout session and Possess The Will’s inability to rebound from a terrific frosh season (though many still had faith enough to make him 5-1).

Gym Tan Laundry got into the final when once again he was our choice to win and could not satisfy our support. We have liked him from the start of the season and he collects his share of checks, racing like a professional should, he just doesn’t win. It is tough to imagine any reasonable scenario that would allow him to win this event, especially coming from the 10 hole, where a Chocolatier, a terrific horse compared to “Gym,” could not succeed a few years back.

The absence of copy relating to the filly “Oaks” should be obvious to all followers of this blog and bettors of TwinSpires. Check Me Out is easily a strong candidate for Horse of the Year, topping all editorial polls for trotters and pacers and a loss in the Oaks might not even suspend belief she would win the coveted award. However, no one feels that she will lose the Oaks, no matter the weather and no matter the improvements of any of her foes. Yes, she has been beaten before, but on this day, when she may have beaten the colts, you will have to go a long way to make a case for any of the others in the Oaks field.

Live reports from the Meadowlands on all of the stakes, in cooperation with the Hambletonian Society, will be added to this blog on Saturday, Aug. 4. Check in often for updates, insider information and late changes that affect wagering from your TwinSpires account.