Hambletonian Heats and Oaks Finals Are Historic Highlights At the Meadowlands
The first Saturday in August is now this Saturday. North America’s top sophomore trotters gather to compete for the Hambletonian prize at the Meadowlands with the fillies going in the $500,000 Hambletonian Oaks and a total of 16 colts and one filly competing in two $100,000 eliminations for the first heat of the Hambletonian. The top five from each elimination advance to the $1-million final later in the afternoon.
Fillies fight first in their final and, as the frosh filly division shaped to be last season, the same top fillies from age two meet as three-year-olds in the “Oaks”: elimination winners Manchego and Phaetosive. If betting goes as expected, Manchego should be the favorite with Phaetosive being tremendous value as the second choice. The win by Trond Smedshammer’s pupil in the elimination demonstrated the power and class not only necessary to win the Oaks but also to beat Manchego, who to this point has ruled the division.
In the exotics exists a pair of long-shot standouts. Seviyorum, starting from post 3, has a strong enough late kick to hit the ticket at a decent price. The other outsider providing value likely will be Lily Stride, who put in an improved performance in her elimination to finish second and appears to be peaking into this event.
As is customary on the Hambletonian Trail with the first-heat eliminations, below is a brief analysis of each horse competing in each:
Elimination One – Race 8
SHOSHIE DEO appears a bit outclassed since his best performances come from the light fields of the New Jersey Sires Stakes. Because he draws the rail he stands a better shot than he would from any other post but is a long shot to make the final
EVALUATE showed so much potential heading into the Earl Beal Jr. Memorial final and still showed Hambo potential with his parked-out fourth in the “Beal” final. He raced evenly in the Stanley Dancer and then broke on a sloppy track in the Tompkins-Geers at the Big M. He will have to turn himself around and could do so with an inside draw. A potential finalist but the Jersey-August heat tends to make those who are even slightly jumpy lose stride.
MET’S HALL looks primed for this race much like Devious Man was in 2017. With only three starts this season, he has performed well enough on each occasion to allude towards a stronger performance in the elimination and, if not there, in the final. He can capitalize if the speedsters get really stupid on the lead.
LAWMAKER always sneaks into contention, a lot of times thanks to inside draws. He starts from a center post this time around and, at most, has the ability to qualify for the final. Mostly riding the rail and hoping for the best, he’ll likely try to ride the rail and again hope for the best.
WOLFGANG is one of a few Hambletonian starters forced to drop Lasix. Whether that matters will be determined at the finish line but it certainly opens up this race to speculation. His projected short price is reason enough to try to beat him but the Lasix angle adds further justification. He very well could be just as good without Lasix, but what’s the fun in thinking that?
CRYSTAL FASHION is another who should be involved if the pace gets too quick. He won the Beal Final by sitting a pocket trip and has since performed well when given covered trips. He has the class as well as the form to be a major player not only in the elimination but also in the final.
ATLANTA could just try to control this race. She may be able to get away with slow fractions on the lead and turn the final half of the mile into a sprint. If she’s as good as her connections have expressed her to be, she should annihilate this field. However, she at least looks like she has a shot at the final.
HAT TRICK HABIT breaks too much to be considered a reliable contender. Having to leave from an outsider post in order to even have a shot sounds like something will go wrong between leaving the gate and the first turn. Although if he stays flat he’ll likely be clinging for a minor spot.
ZEPHYR KRONOS has raced exclusively at the Meadowlands and appears to have developed into top form at the right time. His problem has always been that he sits too far out of contention and leaves himself with too much work to do. If he can make the final, he along with a few others could have the setup they need to score.
Elimination Two – Race 9
FASHIONWOODCHOPPER raced well to finish second in the Reynolds Memorial last week, kicking home strongly to miss winning by a neck. He still seems to be a notch below the best ones here but could work out a decent trip from the rail to be placed into contention.
PATENT LEATHER has never really “wowed” on the Hambletonian Trail and enters off a lackluster mile in the Reynolds Memorial. He would have to improve up a steep incline to have a great shot at making the final.
CLASSICHAP went from winning an overnight to finishing second in the Stanley Dancer Memorial and has not raced since. He fought gait issues earlier in the year but Smedshammer seemingly has them in order moving into the eliminations. If he stays flat he’s one of the top contenders. Again, if.
ALARM DETECTOR might just be here to go guns-a-blazin’ on the lead. In the Stanley Dancer Memorial he set up the fast fractions necessary to give Six Pack the world record while still finishing third in a quick mile. He enters off an easy qualifier and can make the final and if he does, closers may definitely be the way to go.
FOURTH DIMENSION has been disappointing so far as a three-year-old, breaking in the Beal elimination and again in the Stanley Dancer Memorial. He qualified well on July 21 and if he is under control as he was in the qualifier then he certainly is finalist material. Again, the common theme of the afternoon is whether or not these horses breaking (galloping) habits will come out. Even Father Patrick, one of the closest horses to a “sure thing” in recent Hambletonians, galloped out of the race entirely.
SOUTHWIND CHROME has performed well for a horse that did not race at two. He finished second to Tactical Landing in his most recent start and was also second to Six Pack off a perfect trip in the Empire Breeders Classic final. He’s much better when sitting a trip but likely still races towards the front to try and get positioning. His value is tough to tell due to the ambiguity around whether the public will weight speed more than class. If they go for speed, expect him to take play.
TACTICAL LANDING is all speed. This horse since June has been hyped to be really fast but also dealt with extreme breaking issues as a two-year-old and into his sophomore season. He’s another who could just suddenly break in the swamplands but if he’s good, he’s good.
YOU KNOW YOU DO has been a pleasant surprise since many Peter Haughton winners do not come back as well at three. He has chased faster to finish second in his last two, two starts back against older horses and last out against Six Pack in the Stanley Dancer. This elimination wreaks of speed and he may or may not be a part of it. He has shown to be sharp off a stalking trip so that could be the objective and it could also pay off.
SIX PACK is going to blast. Ake Svanstedt is a no-holds-barred kind of driver and if his horse makes the final it will set up to be an aggressive affair. So long as he doesn’t bounce off his world-record mile in the Stanley Dancer (where he parked first over the whole way and still won by 2 lengths), he should qualify.
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