Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Twenty-three colts in the thunderous trotting heats for the 2013 Hambletonian championship

The true strength and stamina of the standardbred is on trial at the Meadowlands for the first time in years as the Hambletonian returns to its original format—elimination heats and a final on the same race program.

Enough horses (23) have dropped into the box to support a trio of elim heats, with the first three finishers in each returning for the final. This is not odd for harness racing; it is an intrinsic and unique aspect of the sport. For bettors, it means three great opportunities to play and win in the Hambo events before the triptych of trotters from each heat returns for a fourth wagering field.

As well, the entire racing program features an exclusive Players’ Pool at TwinSpires, so you can buy into wagering throughout the day of high stakes trotting and pacing action. Click here for information on how to get into the action now.

The fillies Hambletonian Oaks has only a final on Aug. 3, which we are covering below as well as the elim heats. All other races for Aug. 2 and Aug. 3 are covered in the TwinSpires harness blog.

Make note that the opinions of obvious contenders and outsiders in these heats make no reference to the Hambletonian Final winner. An elim heat can provide a huge upset while the eventual Hambo champ makes the final being second or third and the longshot finishes up the track. Again, this is the beauty of elim heats.

Hambletonian elim-heat one

The strange case of Smilin Eli, who changed barns after a drama to do with the state of his connections, took him off track when the judges scratched him from the Stanley Dancer. He was clearly at the top of his game, even though he had lost at Pocono the week before. Of course, that loss, too, is questionable, since he was best in the division up until then. His return last week found him parked in a race he should have dominated if he were in his former “skin.” He can make the final but other dynamics in this field may get in his way of winning.

Royalty For Life is the buzz horse and he will be all out from post 8, tackling the likes of High Bridge, who has turned out to be peaking just in time for Jimmy Takter and must be greatly respected. The speed brigade is joined by Dewycolorintheline, whose improvement relied on the faults of some others in the Yonkers Trot. E L Rocket also likes racing up front.

Aside from High Bridge being able to take advantage of dueling, we are left with two late-moving trotters that could benefit from burnout up front, though they are clearly outsiders guaranteeing only high prices should the speed scenario develop. They are Super Class and Dreams Of Thunder.

The former has not won at three yet and only once in 18 times but if he is handed the chance you can bet he will be the last trotter standing. Dreams Of Thunder may need less help from speed duels than from his own gait; he has broken twice at huge odds and will be dismissed by bettors. What happens if he is smooth in this race while the top dogs are set aflame? There will be bombs away on the toteboard.

Hambletonian elim-heat two

Over the past two months, Dontyouforgetit became a different colt than when he galloped into his sophomore season. Once he got to trottin’ he won as an outsider, paying well and continuing to race well. He lost the Yonkers Trot but raced the best of the entire field while breaking early, recovering, and then being knocked off stride again but by a foe, and still making up 19 lengths in the stretch. Doing all this on the four turns at Yonkers is much more impressive than the winner, Deweycolorintheline.

Along with Aperfectyankee, who we endorsed before he won last year’s “Haughton” and has been a profit-maker for us recently, Dontyouforgetit should prove again that he can put in a giant mile (without breaking) and if he wins, do so at a decent price. Wheeling N Dealin should get a lot of support, leaving the aforementioned duo with good win mutuel offerings. Wheeling N Dealin, in our judgment, still has much to prove as a sophomore and it would not be a total surprise to us if he didn’t even make the final.

Hambletonian elim-heat three

Only seven colts adorn the ultimate elim heat, with veteran Hambo-winning trainer Chuck Sylvester’s Spider Blue Chip taking the buzz-horse badge. This colt really likes the Meadowlands and has commanded some miles here recently. However, Corky is in a prime spot to make another Jimmy Takter colt get to the final with a win check.

The possible upsets are so obvious they seem moot and it is a hazardous guess to predict which other two may make the grade after Corky because cases for all of them would be valid.

The Hambletonian Oaks will have to be somehow disturbed by breakers or an alien landing at the half to picture a loss for Bee A Magician. Has the brilliant Kadabra filly come all this way to lose the spotlight and a place in history? The answer is no, historically and realistically. Make no mistake about the fact that there are some very talented trotting gals in this field but they are just more testimony to how great Bee A Magician races, since she has dominated this division with firm steps and mighty speed and most of all, with ease.

The Hambletonian Society has owned and serviced the Hambletonian since its inception in 1926 and presents the 88th edition at the Meadowlands, where it has been staged 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.

Keep watching this blog for updates during live coverage from TwinSpires on Hambletonian day. Read race results at the special section archived at the Hambletonian Society web site.


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