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.

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