'Sylvia' Looks To Stay Hot On Hambletonian Undercard

Sylvia Hanover
Published: August 3, 2023 02:55 pm EDT

Sylvia Hanover seems to have two particular traits. The first is to make almost every race an adventure, much to the consternation of trainer Shawn Steacy. The second is to find a way to win, much to Steacy’s delight.

A three-year-old female pacer, Sylvia Hanover has won 13 of 14 career races, and 12 in a row since her lone setback, a second-place finish in her second lifetime start a year ago. Earlier this week, she became the sport’s top-ranked star, ascending to No. 1 in the Hambletonian Society/Breeders Crown poll.

“I don’t know what to say about her anymore,” said Steacy. “She’s fantastic but she makes you pull your hair out at the same time. You never know what she’s going to do. [But] I think that makes her who she is. Whatever she has inside of her that allows her to relax and conserve energy in ways that most horses can’t, allows her to be able to keep going.

“What it comes down to is that she’s too smart. She’s smarter than her driver, she’s smarter than her trainer, she’s smarter than just about anybody around her. She is the most unique animal I’ve ever been around. I can’t compare her to any horse I’ve ever trained.”

Sylvia Hanover’s wins in 2022 included a Breeders Crown and the Shes A Great Lady Stakes. This season, she’s added the Fan Hanover in a Canadian record-equalling 1:48.2 at Woodbine Mohawk Park and the Mistletoe Shalee at The Meadowlands.

She has won races after appearing lackadaisical at times during the mile, or not at the top of her game, or in a seemingly hopeless position. But find her room in the stretch and watch her go.

As Meadowlands announcer Ken Warkentin exclaimed as Sylvia Hanover turned a nearly six-length deficit at three-quarters into a one-length victory in a division of last week’s Tompkins-Geers Stakes at the Big M, “She is absolutely relentless! What a champion!”



“She finds a way, that’s what I love,” said Steacy. “She does what great horses do. No matter where she is, or the circumstances, winners are winners. And she’s a winner. That’s what makes her special.”

On Saturday’s Hambletonian Day undercard, Sylvia Hanover will compete in the $100,000 Shady Daisy at The Meadowlands. She is the 1-9 morning line favourite in a field of five and will have regular driver Bob McClure in the sulky.

Steacy will also send out Front Page Story, who missed by a nose against Charleston in the other Tompkins-Geers division last week, in the Shady Daisy. Sylvia Hanover and Front Page Story are both owned by Hudson Standardbred Stable.

“She’s a really nice filly, she’s just overshadowed in our stable by a freak of nature,” Steacy said about Front Page Story, who has hit the board in seven of nine races this year, winning two. “She’s always had, even as a two-year-old, little issues that put her as an A-minus horse where I think she’s actually an A horse. I think she will be a big factor in this division going forward.”

One race after the Shady Daisy, Steacy will have Warrawee Xenia in the $131,250 Dr. John R. Steele Memorial for older female trotters. Warrawee Xenia, who last year won a Hambletonian Oaks elimination before making a break as the favourite in the final, heads to the race off a second-place finish in a leg of the Miss Versatility last week at the Big M. She was beaten a nose by Oaks champ Fashion Schooner.

“Warrawee Xenia is the most hot/cold horse you’ll ever find, I think,” said Steacy. “But when she’s hot, she’s hot. I think the last three weeks we’ve had her in a good place. I expect her to come with good effort on Saturday.”

Racing begins at noon (EDT) Saturday at The Meadowlands. The 16-race stakes-filled card features the $1 million Hambletonian as race 12 at 4:45 p.m. (EDT), which will air live on Fox Sports, and the companion $500,000 Hambletonian Oaks, which is race 10 with a 3:38 p.m. post time.

The following is a look at the remaining Grand Circuit stakes on the Hambletonian Day undercard.

Race 7: $171,400 Lady Liberty for older female pacers

Grace Hill, the No. 5-ranked horse in the sport’s Top 10 poll, is the 5-2 morning line favourite from post one with Doug McNair driving. The Virgil Morgan Jr. trainee heads to the race off a nose win over Kobes Gigi in last week’s Cleopatra Invitational at Eldorado Scioto Downs. The 2022 Breeders Crown Mare Pace champ has finished no worse than second in 16 of 18 races, winning 13, since a seventh-place finish in last year’s Lady Liberty.

The 11-horse field also includes Mikala, who is 3-1 on the morning line and coming off back-to-back wins in the Dorothy Haughton Memorial and Clara Barton, and 2021 U.S. Horse of the Year Test Of Faith, who will be making her third start of the year and qualified in 1:49.1 (:25.4 final quarter) on July 28 at The Meadowlands. She is 5-1.

Race 8: $128,750 Sam McKee Memorial for older male pacers (first division)

Ruthless Hanover, who won a division of the Dave Brower Memorial on July 1 at The Meadowlands, is the 5-2 morning line favourite from post nine in a field of nine. Tim Tetrick will drive for trainer Tom Cancelliere. He has two sub-1:47 miles to his credit this year, including a 1:46.3 score at Harrah’s Philadelphia, the fastest time ever on a five-eighths-mile oval. Former Dan Patch Award winner Allywag Hanover is the 7-2 second choice.

Race 11: $278,000 John Cashman Memorial for older trotters

Venerate, who has won the Cutler Memorial and was second in the Crawford Farms Open in his two starts this year, is the 5-2 morning line favourite for driver Brian Sears and trainer Marcus Melander. He will start from post eight in the field of nine. Its Academic, who brings a three-race win streak to Saturday that includes the Crawford Farms and Spirit Of Massachusetts, will leave from post nine and is 3-1.

Race 14: $315,700 Cane Pace for three-year-old pacers

Meadowlands Pace champ Confederate is the 7-5 morning line favourite and will start from post five for driver Tetrick and trainer Brett Pelling. Meadowlands Pace third-place finisher Christchurch is the 4-1 second choice in the field of 11. The Cane Pace is the second jewel in the Pacing Triple Crown. Captain Batboy, who won the first jewel, the MGM Messenger Stakes, was not eligible to the Cane Pace.

Race 15: $130,000 Sam McKee Memorial (second division)

Tattoo Artist, narrowly beaten in the Gerrity Memorial and Haughton Memorial in his past two starts, is the 5-2 morning line favourite. He will leave from post five with Dexter Dunn driving for trainer Chris Ryder. Bythemissal got post 10 and is the 3-1 second choice. He was fifth in the Haughton — his lone setback in four races this season — and enters off a 1:49.1 qualifier (second to Test Of Faith by a nose) last week at the Big M.

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