The biggest upset in Hambletonian history. A trainer sweeping the Hambletonian and Hambletonian Oaks, and a driver winning the Hambletonian in his first drive for his second million-dollar win of the year. The 2022 Hambletonian will go down in history as one of the event's most memorable editions.
With the majority of the focus on the elimination winner and seasonally-unbeaten Rebuff and the two talented fillies — Joviality S and elim winner Jiggy Jog S — it's easy to see how a horse like Cool Papa Bell could be overlooked in this group. The punters certainly dismissed his chances, sending the trotting gelding off at odds of 52-1.
Upsets were already in the cards on Hambletonian Day for driver Todd McCarthy and trainer Jim Campbell. McCarthy guided Kobes Gigi to a 51-1 upset over Test Of Faith in the Lady Liberty, and Jim Campbell sent out Fashion Schooner to a Post 10 upset in the Hambletonian Oaks a few races prior.
The biggest fireworks were yet to come.
As the wings of the gate folded for the 97th edition of the Hambletonian, Rebuff (Tim Tetrick) and Joviality S (Brian Sears) left sharply for position. Joviality S made the lead, with Rebuff gapping in the pocket and Temporal Hanover (Orjan Kihlstrom) able to slide into the pocket spot through a soft :28 opener. Tetrick made his move and cleared to the lead from third, hitting the half in :55.4.
The intensity picked up in that third quarter with Temporal Hanover and Fast As The Wind (Yannick Gingras) starting to apply overland pressure through a 1:24 third station. Jiggy Jog S was situated third over, and Todd McCarthy had Cool Papa Bell advancing along the pylons to have his horse on Joviality's helmet in the pocket.
Once Fast As The Wind gapped off that second over tow, McCarthy found a seam to slingshot Cool Papa Bell into the four path with clear sailing ahead of him. Rebuff started to falter in the stretch, Joviality S had room to duck to his inside and Temporal Hanover still had some gas in the tank. But the horse with the fleetest foot was Cool Papa Bell, who hit the wire a length to the good in a lifetime best 1:51.3 over Temporal Hanover, who bested stablemate Joviality and a hard-closing Jiggy Jog S. Periculum (Mattias Melander) rounded out the top five finishers. Rebuff finished just back of the front five in sixth.
At odds of 52-1, Cool Papa Bell paid $106.00 to win as the biggest upset in Hambletonian history.
James Thomas Bell was known for his speed as a center fielder in Negro league baseball from 1922 to 1946. He is considered to have been one of the fastest men ever to play the game. Runthetable Stables' Scott Farber is a huge baseball fan, and paid homage to the Hall of Famer by renaming 2020 Lexington Selected yearling Seven Year Itch after Bell, whose nickname was "Cool Papa." A son of Chapter Seven - Blk Thai Optional, Cool Papa Bell picked up his fourth win from eight career starts and lifted his lifetime bankroll to $760,999 with the Hambletonian win.
"I'm here with my family, my huge group of friends, with the Campbells in Bergen County, New Jersey, where I grew up, three miles that way," said an emotional Farber in the winner's circle. "Home, my home track, we brought it home."
Jim Campbell, who won the 1995 Hambletonian with Tagliabue, is just the fourth trainer to win the Hambletonian and the Hambletonian Oaks in the same year. He joins Jimmy Takter (twice) and Jan Johnson as trainers to sweep the trotting events.
"It's an unbelievable feeling. Like I've always said all along, The Hambletonian, The Hambletonian Oaks and the Breeders Crowns, they're our biggest races and to win these two races on the same day is just something I never dreamed of.
"I thank all my owners and my crew for support and giving me the horses to train, and especially to my crew for their hard work. They're the ones that do all the hard work behind the scenes."
Campbell doesn't give drivers much in the way of advice before a race, even in a case like this where the horse and pilot have yet to be formally acquainted.
"I never tell a driver how to drive; Todd never drove the horse before, I just told him a couple things about the horse and my last words were to him 'you got to just feel it out and do whatever you feel is best' and he did a good job."
Driver Todd McCarthy joins a rare group of drivers in North American harness racing to win two seven-digit events in the same year. Todd's first million-dollar win came in June when he guided Pebble Beach to victory in the $1 million Pepsi North America Cup at Woodbine Mohawk Park.
"I can't thank Jim and the connections enough for giving me the opportunity to drive this horse in this race. For me, it's so humbling and this is a dream come true. It's still surreal; I'm scared I'm going to wake up soon."
While it wasn't the trip he wanted, McCarthy was able to make the most of the situation and miraculously position his horse right where he wanted to be at the head of the lane.
"As expected there's always a little action early and you know, our hand kind of got forced. The outer flow wasn't an option at that stage and I kind of wasn't too worried about that then, I was happy to take a shot up the inside. There were a couple [of horses] moving late and you know, we just kept getting to sneak, sneak, sneak up the inside and the two I was following at the top of the stretch was exactly where I wanted to be.
"I was fortunate enough just to be able to slide straight out, and when I showed him my clear air at the top of the stretch he only wanted to go one direction."
The full stream of the Hambletonian Day card is available below.
HAMBLETONIAN DAY HANDLE SKYROCKETS AT BIG M
The players were out in force on Hambletonian Day at The Meadowlands, as the total handle was $7,656,054 on the 16-race program, eclipsing last year’s action by more than $1 million. The total handle and the average per race of $478,503 were both by far 2022 bests.
The betting from foreign organizations – such as the PMU (Pari Mutuel Urbain of France) and ATG (the Swedish entity) – are unavailable for several days, but these figures are likely to push the grand total handle near or past the $9-million mark, a barrier broken only once in Hambo history, when wagering in 2005 (North American and foreign) totaled $9,015,019.
On Saturday, betting on 11 races bettered the $400,000 mark, while five races saw at least $500,000 pushed through the windows. Wagering on The Hambletonian fell just short of $1 million, as a total of $979,627 was put in play, by far the biggest total for any single race during 2022 at The Big M.
“Our handle being way up today is a combination of hard work and dedication,” said Big M Chief Operating Officer and General Manager Jason Settlemoir. “And, obviously, us hooking up with the New York Racing Association team by going on national television through Fox Sports 2 and Fox Sports 1 we think is starting to finally pay off because you are getting a totally different audience with the thoroughbred players switching over to harness.”
“I am pleasantly surprised at how much our handle was up,” said Settlemoir. “What really shocked me is when I saw the Oaks handle pop up with a total pool of over $855,000. That about knocked me out of my seat. It just goes to show what [President and Chief Executive Officer] Jeff [Gural] and I have said all along that we need to get in front of a national television audience.”
DYNAMIC DUO DOMINANT: Driver Yannick Gingras and trainer Ron Burke have teamed up to win numerous races throughout the years, so many, in fact, that the potent pair were both enshrined into the Harness Racing Hall of Fame last month in Goshen, New York.
Seemingly to prove that was a good decision, Gingras and Burke capped a big Meadowlands Championship Meeting Saturday by finishing well in front of the field in their respective dash-win categories.
Gingras’ 108 victories were 28 more than his closest pursuer, Dexter Dunn. Dunn finished on top in the driver’s money-earnings race with $3,026,547. He was followed by Tim Tetrick ($2,587,768) and Gingras ($2,519,432).
Burke students won 68 times, well in front of Jeff Cullipher, whose pupils made 40 winner’s circle visits. Burke also won the money title as his horses earned $1,676,709. Tony Alagna was next with $1,476,901.
A LITTLE MORE: A modest carryover led to huge action in the 20-cent Pick-6 that was offered on races one through six. The carryover of $12,120 led to $128,228 in “new money” being poured into the pool, for a grand total of $140,348. … Dunn led the driver colony with three winners on the day. … In addition to his Hambo-Oaks sweep, trainer Jim Campbell also took the Continentalvictory for three-year-old trotting fillies with Misswalner Fashion to finish with a trainer-colony best three victories on the card. … Live harness racing returns to The Meadowlands on Sept. 1.
Check out all the recaps from 2022 Hambletonian Day here.
(with files from The Meadowlands)