Meadowlands hosts stakes-filled Hambletonian Day card

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Ted Black

August 4th, 2018

Although harness racing fans are accustomed to seeing the sport's best trotters and pacers compete under the lights at various venues, Saturday afternoon the Meadowlands hosted its famed Hambletonian Day card where the best horses of both gaits and all ages convened for the lucrative, stellar card.

In the first of the numerous six-figure stakes on the card, Youaremycandygirl (Yannick Gingras) earned a modest hint of revenge against rival Kissin In The Sand (Scott Zeron) when she gained command soon after the gate folded, kept the favorite in the pocket down the backside and through the far turn and just outlasted that one and Alexa's Power in the lane to score by a nose in 1:48.2 in the $100,000 Shady Daisy Stakes. A sophomore daughter of American Ideal trained by Ron Burke, Youaremycandygirl notched her fourth win in eight starts this year and last year's juvenile pacing filly champ now sports 13 wins in  19 career outings.

Kissing In The Sand suffered just her third setback in seven seasonal outings and still rates the division leader among three-year-old filly pacers despite her narrow defeat. Kissin In The Sand has earned over $375,000 already this season and will get a chance to atone for this setback in the very near future. Alexa's Power has faced the best fillies on this group all season and continues to race well in the upper tier stakes for trainer Jim Campbell.

Then two races later in the $420,000 Peter Haughton final for two-year-old colt trotters, Dont Letem (Gingras) took the first small steps toward the ultimate prize of being next year's Hambo hero when he gained command soon after the start, benefited from the early miscue of 3-5 favorite Greenshoe (Brian Sears) and carved out modest fractions and prevailed by three lengths in 1:51.2. A juvenile son of Muscle Hill trained by Jimmy Takter, Dont Letem has won three of four starts and earned nearly $235,000 this year and already looms the future book favorite for next year's Hambo.

Then two races later in the $260,000 John Cashman Memorial for older trotters traveling one-mile and one-eighth, Marion Marauder (Scott Zeron) left to gain command, yielded to favorite and reigning horse of the year Hannelore Hanover (Gingras) who launched a three-wide bid around dull cover early backside, sat a tight pocket once Will Take Charge (Tim Tetrick) loomed alongside, angled out midstretch and just got up in the final strides to overhaul them both for a determined score in 2:06.

A five-year-old Muscle Hill stallion trained by Paula Wellwood, Marion Marauder recorded his fourth win in seven starts this year and pushed his seasonal earnings past $325,000 and his lifetime bankroll to nearly $2.85 million. Will Take Charge rallied for the place spot, while a gritty Hannelore Hanover finished third, beaten just two noses while suffering her first setback in seven seasonal tries. She had started from post 12, brushed to command down the backside and displayed plenty of grit in the lane before being nailed at the wire.

Then one race later in the $280,000 Cane Pace for three-year-old colt pacers, Stay Hungry (Doug McNair) benefited from a lively early tempo and rallied from midpack to score in 1:47.1. A sophomore son of Somebeachsomewhere trained by Tony Alagna, Stay Hungry recorded his third win in eight starts this year and his ninth win from 17 career tries and gained a hint of revenge against Courtly Choice (David Miller), who finished fourth while racing behind excess cover down the backside and then widest of all in the lane.

Then one race later in the first of two, $100,000 Hambletonian Stakes eliminations, lone filly Atlanta (Zeron) carved out wicked fractions of 26, 53.2 and 1:21.1 for the first three calls - literally insane for trotters - then was just nailed at the wire by the late surge of 4-1 third choice Crystal Fashion (Tetrick) in 1:50.1. A sophomore son of Cantab Hall trained by Jim Campbell for owner-breeder Fashion Farms, Crystal Fashion recorded his sixth win in nine starts this year and handed both Atlanta and Wolfgang (Takter) their first setbacks of the season.

Then one race later in the second Hambo elim, Tactical Landing (Takter) rallied from well off the pace and widest of all to score in 1:52 in clearly the weakest of the two divisions. Favored Six Pack (Ake Svandtstedt) was victimized by perhaps the worst drive in the long history of the event when he got blindswitched by Tactical Landing on the far turn, looked for room inside, dove inside a pylon, angled out into a rival inside the sixteenth pole and finished well back. Patent Leather, Fashionwoodchopper and Alarm Detector advanced to the final.

Then two races later in the $260,000 Sam McKee Memorial for older pacers at one-mile and one-eighth, Western Joe (Zeron) benefited from a three-hole trip through the first three calls, angled to the outside at the head of the lane and outkicked favored McWicked (Brian Sears), who was seeking to overcome post 12 and a wide, overland journey to score by a length in 2:02 for the added distance. The four-year-old Western Ideal stallion trained by Chris Choate now sports a solid 9-5-3 slate and $300,000 bankroll from 22 starts this year and handed McWicked just his third setback in nine seasonal outings.

Then one race later in the Grade I, $500,000 Hambletonian Oaks for three-year-old filly trotters, Manchego (Gingras) gained command early and led throughout en route to a length score in 1:50 as the 6-5 second choice. The sophomore daughter of Muscle Hill trained by Takter has won five of seven starts and earned $360,000 this year and now sports 17 wins from 19 lifetime tries with career earnings of over $1.2 million. After getting the first three calls in 27.2, 55.4 and 1:23.2, Manchego sprinted home in 26.3 to outlast Pheatosive.

Pheatosive (Trond Smedshammer) was made the even-money choice off her sharp Oaks elim score one week earlier, got away third behind Manchego and Plunge Blue Chip, angled out second over behind 'Plunge' entering the far turn, angled wide for the drive and gained the place spot while no threat to the winner. The sophomore daughter of Explosive Matter trained by Smedshammer owns three wins from five tries this year and once again in the second-best trotting filly of her generation.

Then one race later in the $1 million Hambletonian final, Atlanta rebounded from a narrow setback in the elim to gain command in a 26.2 opener, got a breather by the half in 55.2, met token pressure through the far turn, shook loose on the far turn and held sway through the lane to score in 1:50.4. The three-year-old daughter of Chapter Seven trained by Rick Zeron, Atlanta notched her sixth win in seven starts this year now sports 10 wins and $825,000 banked from 17 career tries and joined the short list of fillies and successfully tackle the  boys in the Hambo.

Maryland-bred Met's Hall (Andy Miller) rallied from well off the pace to finish second, edging Tactical Landing and Crystal Fashion for the minor spoils. It marked the second straight year that a Maryland-bred trained by Julie Miller and driven by her husband, Andy Miller, has finished second in the $1 million Hambo final.