Zeron Wins Third Hambletonian With Tactical Approach

Tactical Approach wins the 2023 Hambletonian
Published: August 5, 2023 05:33 pm EDT

As the outer flow developed in the 2023 Hambletonian, driver Scott Zeron took a tactical approach to his attempt for a third win in the million-dollar classic.

His pylon-skimming plan played to perfection, as trotter Tactical Approach closed with crushing speed along the cones to capture the $1 million Hambletonian on Saturday, Aug. 5 at The Meadowlands Racetrack in East Rutherford, N.J. 

Celebrity Bambino was sent off as the 2-1 favourite on the heels of his career best 1:50.4 elimination win from a week ago. Driver Yannick Gingras sent Celebrity Bambino to the top and asked his nine rivals to best him. After a :27.4 opener and :56 half, the advantage certainly looked to be in the favour of the favourite.

Oh Well (Tim Tetrick) was the first to test Celebrity Bambino, with Winners Bet (Dexter Dunn) towed into the race second over. The other elimination winner, Point Of Perfect (David Miller), was in the pocket with Up Your Deo (Ake Svanstedt) third along the rail. At this point, more horses were moving into the outer tier, so Scott Zeron saved some ground and advanced post 10 starter Tactical Approach along the pylons to sit fourth along the inside.

With Osceola (Doug McNair) gapping cover third over heading into the far turn, Svanstedt took that cue to move Up Your Deo off the rail, allowing Zeron and Tactical Approach to improve another position with the third quarter reached in 1:23.1.

Heading for home, horses fanned out to take their best shots at Celebrity Bambino, and one fanned in. Oh Well got by Celebrity Bambino to his inside, and Up Your Deo started to find his stride late, but the horse with the most late kick was zooooooooming by along the inside, and that was Tactical Approach. He hit the wire in a career best 1:50.3, one length ahead of Oh Well with Up Your Deo completing the top trio. Favoured Celebrity Bambino finished fourth, with stablemate Point Of Perfect completing the first five.

Tactical Approach (Tactical Landing - Sarcy) is trained by Nancy Takter and owned by Canada's John Fielding of Scarborough, Ont., former Canadian Robert LeBlanc of New York, Joe Sbrocco of Ohio and John Fodera (as JAF Racing) of Staten Island, N.Y. Bred by Hunterton Farm's Steve Stewart of Paris, Ky. and Oakwood Farms of Montgomery, Ind., Tactical Approach picked up his sixth career win and lifted his earnings well over the $600,000 mark.

Takter picked up her first Hambletonian victory after two runner-up finishes and serving as the caretaker of 2010 Hambletonian winner Muscle Massive for her father, Hall of Famer Jimmy Takter.

"I always kept the faith. I loved this colt from the first moment I saw him at Hunterton as a baby and I remember telling my dad 'I found the colt that I'm gonna buy.' And then he only brought $85,000 which was a bargain for us at this point. And I just loved the colt all along. He was very immature last year but the partners were very easy to work with and we just gave him the time that he needed and he just came back this year so strong, and Scott has done an excellent job driving him and today was perfect proof of that. 

"Great job to my entire team. His caretaker, Sergio, has done a great job with him, I'm so proud of everybody and definitely proud of the colt — he gets all the credit."

At just 34 years of age, Zeron picked up his third Hambletonian win. Just one year ago, he was sidelined with an injury and contributed to the Hambletonian broadcast team. This year, he's back in the winner's circle holding the hardware after a post 10 shocker. The win, however, wasn't all that shocking to his driver.

"If you would have told me two months ago I'd win the Hambo with him, I'd have believed you. But we just hadn't had the right momentum coming into the race. I overdrove him a bunch of times. And today we were going to underdrive him, and he thanked me down the lane."

The full card replay of the 2023 Hambletonian Day card is available below.

Hambletonian Day handle established a new record in the 10-year history of the new grandstand at The Meadowlands, as a total of $7,805,779 was pushed through the windows on the 16-race program on Saturday, by far a 2023 industry high.

“We are so pleased and proud of this milestone,” said Jason Settlemoir, Meadowlands' Chief Operating Officer and General Manager. “The handle, the crowd that we had at the track, the national television exposure we got from being shown on Fox Sports, all of these things made for yet another great Hambletonian Day at The Meadowlands.”

A year ago, total handle was $7,656,055. All betting numbers shown reflect North American wagering only.

Betting on The Hambletonian itself was up considerably from a year ago as $1,099,034 was put in play, a 12 per cent increase over 2022.

Betting for the year is ahead of 2021, when average daily handle was just a hair more than $3 million per card. Thus far this year, a total of $203,794,252 has been bet on Meadowlands’ races, good for an average per card of $3,234,829.

Yannick Gingras’ 104 wins and Ron Burke’s 85 led the driver and trainer standings, respectively, at the Winter-Spring Championship meet, which began on Jan. 6.

The Meadowlands will go dark for three weeks before resuming with live harness racing on Friday, Sept. 1. Simulcasting will continue daily.

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