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SC Presents Video Feature On The Hambletonian

Published: August 1, 2012 3:20 pm ET

Last Comment: August 2, 2012 5:27 pm ET | 2 Comment(s) | Jump to Comments

With one of the most anticipated days on the horse racing calendar coming up this weekend at Meadowlands Racetrack, trainers and drivers weigh in on all things Hambletonian in the premiere of Standardbred Canada’s weekly online video features.

In this week’s video feature, horsemen and women share their thoughts on upcoming changes to the race format, the hot topic of racing fillies against colts, and their desire to win the prestigious event.

The first edition of the Hambletonian was contested in August 1926 at New York State Fair at Syracuse with a purse of $73,451. From the very start it has been the richest trotting race in harness racing and maintains that status to this day with its $1.5 million prize while attracting the top three-year-old trotters in the sport.

“I’ve been so blessed to win so many big races in this industry that I’ve always dreamt of. The Hambletonian is the big one that I’d love to win,” said Jody Jamieson, who will drive elimination winner Knows Nothing in Saturday's final for trainer Jeff Gillis. “I always say that the Gold Cup & Saucer is a big one and it absolutely is – it’s a huge race on my list – but the Hambletonian is way up there.”

“It’s one of the foundation races of our industry throughout North America and I think as a driver you have to want to be in it and you have to absolutely want to win it,” added driver Anthony MacDonald.

John Campbell is the winningest driver in the history of the Hambletonian having won the race six times with Mack Lobell (1987), Armbro Goal (1998), Harmonious (1990), Tagliabue (1995), Muscles Yankee (1998), and Glidemaster (2006). Tom Haughton was the youngest driver to win the Hambletonian at 25 years, 5 months and 10 days old with Speed Bowl in 1982 while Bion Shively was the oldest at 74 years, 4 months and 12 days old with Sharp Note in 1952. Bill Haughton, Stanley Dancer and Ben White hold the record for most wins as a trainer with five each.

The Hambletonian has undergone many changes to its format over the years and 2013 will mark another. This year’s edition of the Hambletonian will be the last time the race is contested in its current format with eliminations conducted the week prior to the final. In January the Hambletonian Society announced its signature trotting classic will return to the heat format used between 1991 and 1997 with eliminations (if necessary) raced on the same day as the final.

Horsemen and women remain divided on returning to the heat format.

“I’m a heat fan,” said trainer Casie Coleman. “I love the Jug. I love the Confederation Cup. I think it’s good for the game. The fans will all come and it will be a bigger crowd I believe and I think it’s good for the game. Just hopefully it’s not too hot obviously that day, but I think it’s great.”

“I think it’s great for the patrons, but I’m not so sure it’s great for the horses,” said driver Paul MacDonell. “It’s an awful tough day in the heat. I’ve been through it with a few other ones that have struggled, but I know the fans like it so I’m a little mixed on it.”

Fillies have long raced in the Hambletonian with Iosolas Worthy being the first to win the coveted trophy in 1927. Since then 12 more fillies have prevailed, but only two since a separate filly Oaks division was established in 1971 – Duenna was victorious in 1983 and Continentalvictory in 1996. A total of 160 fillies have started in the Hambletonian with the most recent being Pampered Princess, who in 2007 won her elimination and was seventh-placed-sixth in the final.

Since the end of her O’Brien Award winning campaign last year, the horse racing industry has been talking about trotting filly Check Me Out taking on the boys in this year's Hambletonian. However, 2008 Hambletonian winning trainer Ray Schnittker ultimately opted to keep Check Me Out in her own division and race against the fillies in the $750,000 Oaks.

The decision to race fillies against colts in stakes races can be difficult and becomes more complicated when a separate filly division is offered.

“I’d keep her in her own element,” stated Hall of Fame driver Steve Condren. “As far as I’m concerned, that’s what I would do.”

“The weeks leading up to the Hambo there – the last three weeks – is when you make up your mind,” offered reinsman Luc Ouellette. “You see how the competition is rounding out and you see where your horse is at. When a horse in tip top shape the way she is there, yeah why not?”

Check Me Out is the heavy favourite in Saturday’s Oaks after winning her elimination.

August 2, 2012 - 5:27 pmWonder why the main stream

Wonder why the main stream media don't cover stuff like this. This is a great, well done production. Good job guys. Bruce T. Winning

August 1, 2012 - 8:48 pmExcellent feature!! It's

Excellent feature!! It's great to see so many opinions expressed in one short video. Great job Brittney and Jeff.

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