Hambletonian card highlights sport's best

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Ted Black

August 8th, 2017

Last Saturday afternoon the Meadowlands hosted the latest edition of the famed, Grade I, $1 million Hambletonian Stakes for three-year-old colt trotters and the surprise ending to the race could hardly diminish the overall quality of the card.

In the second race of the prorgam, Blazin Britches (David Miller) continued her ascent as one of the rising stars in the sport when she romped home five lengths clear to capture the $114,000 Shady Daisy Stakes for three-year-old pacing fillies in 1:48.4. A sophomore daughter of Rock N Roll Heaven trained by Brian Brown, currently of Fear The Dragon fame, Blazin Britches recorded her fourth straight score and eighth win in nine starts this year and nearly doubled her seasonal earnings to $125,000.

One race later in the $175,000 TVG Mare Trot Free-For-All, odds-on choice Hannelore Hanover (Yannick Gingras) failed to deliver and Pasithea Face S (Tim Tetrick) emerged triumphant in her just her second U.S. start for trainer Jimmy Takter, who appeared to own the middle portion of the program.

One race later in the Grade I, $360,000 Peter Haughton Memorial for two-year-old colt trotters, Takter trainees You Know You Do (Gingras) and Samo Different Day (Takter) finished one-two. Both juvenile colts had won their respective elims the week before, but the final belonged to You Know You Do who scored in 1:54.3 for his third win in four career tries. Maryland-bred Met's Hall (Andy Miller) settled for fourth as one of only four horses in the final trained by someone other than Takter.

Then one race later in the Grade I, $330,000 Jim Doherty Memorial final for two-year-old trotting fillies, a race formerly known as the Merrie Annabelle, Manchego (Gingras) delivered one of the more impressive performances on the card when she brushed to command before the half and held safe Phaetosive (Trond Smedshammer) to score by three lengths in 1:52.4 as the 3-5 choice. A daughter of Hambo hero Muscle Hill, Machego remained undefeated in five career outings by scoring comfortably for Takter and lowering her lifetime mark by two seconds in the process.

Then one race later in the Grade I, $300,000 TVG Free-For-All for older male trotters, Resolve (Ake Svandstedt) regained his winning ways by ending a modest three-race skid when he gained command before the half and romped home three lengths clear as the 5-2 second choice over 2016 Hambo hero Marion Marauder in 2:04 for the one-mile and one-eighth distance. A six-year-old Muscle Hill stallion trained and driven by Svandstedt, Resolve notched his third win in eight starts this year and now owns a 17-17-9 slate and $2.55 million banked from 60 career outings.

Then one race later in the Grade I, $335,000 Cane Pace, the opening leg of the pacing Triple Crown for three-year-old colts and geldings, Huntsville (Tetrick) lived up to his role as the 3-5 choice when he brushed to command down the backside and held safe R J P (Gingras) and Downbytheseaside (Brian Sears) for a length score in 2:02 for the one-mile and one-eighth affair. Huntsville, last year's champion two-year-old colt pacer, has emerged as the second best sophomore in the land behind Fear The Dragon, but the Ray Schnittker trainee now owns seven wins and nearly $900,000 banked from 10 starts this year and 14 wins and $1.56 million earned from 21 lifetime outings.

Two races prior to the Hambo final, Check Six (Gingras) benefited from a second over journey behind Mach It So (David Miller) and then overhauled pacesetting Mel Mara (Corey Callahan) in the lane to capture the Grade I, $225,000 TVG Free-For-All for aged pacers in 2:01.3 for the one-mile and one-eighth distance. A four-year-old Somebeachsomewhere stallion trained by Ron Burke, Check Six has been an afterthought through the first half of the season, but Saturday he rallied for his second win in 12 starts this year and he now owns 17 wins and $1.4 million banked from 45 lifetime tries.

Then one race before the Hambo final, the top three-year-old filly trotters were on display in the Grade I, $500,000 Hambletonian Oaks and the winner certainly lived up to her billing.

Ariana G (Gingras), whose lone setback this year was against male rivals in the $500,000 Earl Beal, Jr. Memorial final at Pocono Downs in June, Ariana G brushed to command before the half, opened a clear lead on the far turn and easily held safe Magic Presto (Sears) to score by three lengths in 1:51.2. A sophomore daughter of Muscle Hill trained by Takter, Ariana G notched her sixth win in seven starts this year and more than doubled her seasonal earnings past $465,000 and she now boasts 15 wins and $1.2 million banked in just 18 career outings.

Heading into the Grade I, $1 million Hambletonian final, much of the focus was on elim winners International Moni (Scott Zeron) and Enterprise (Tetrick), while elim runner-up Devious Man (Andy Miller) also garnered plenty of attention. But it was the judges who attracted most of the attention after the race when What The Hill (David Miller) angled out of the pocket and overtook Perfect Spirit (Svandstedt) to score in 1:53 with Devious Man rallying for third.

But after watching various replays of the race, the stewards rightly disqualified What The Hill from first for interfering with longshot Guardian Angel As (Jason Bartlett) and placed him back while promoting Perfect Spirit to first and Devious Man to the runner-up spot. Perfect Spirit notched his fifth win from nine starts this year and pushed his seasonal earnings past $600,000 while taking his seventh score from 16 career tries. Devious Man, a serious contender for Maryland-bred horse of the year honors, finished second in both his Hambo elim and the final for trainer Julie Miller and now owns a 4-4-0 slate and $700,000 banked from eight starts this year and an 11-5-1 slate and just over $1 million earned in 20 career outings.

Then in the penultimate race on the card, Pure Country (Mark MacDonald) picked the ideal time to notch her first win of the season for Takter when she gained command early and held safe 4-5 choice Nike Franco N (Tetrick) to score in 1:50 in the $200,000 Lady Liberty Stakes for pacing fillies and mares. Last year's champion three-year-old filly pacer and the 2015 freshman pacing filly champ, Pure Country recorded her first win in seven starts this year and now owns 21 victories and $1.9 million banked from 38 lifetime tries.