Navigating A Trip To The Hambo

Published: July 31, 2019 05:35 pm EDT

In past years, when Robert LeBlanc went to the Meadowlands Racetrack to watch the Hambletonian, he always thought how cool it would be to have a horse in the race. This year, he’ll find out.

LeBlanc, a retired vice president at IBM who has partnered on horses in trainer Tony Alagna’s stable for three years, is among the owners of Pilot Discretion. The colt will compete in the second of Saturday’s (August 3) two $70,000 Hambletonian Stakes eliminations at the ‘Big M,’ where the top-five finishers from each division will return for the $1 million final later in the day.

Pilot Discretion will start from Post 3 with Andy McCarthy in the sulky. He is 10-1 on the morning line. Greenshoe is the 4-5 favourite in the elimination.

The Hambletonian Day card will begin at noon. The Hambletonian, the sport’s premier race for three-year-old trotters, and the $500,000 Hambletonian Oaks, which is restricted to three-year-old female trotters, will be featured during a live, 90-minute broadcast on CBS Sports Network from 4 - 5:30 p.m. (EDT).

“As an owner, this is our race,” said LeBlanc, a Canadian who now resides in Austin, Texas. “Everybody wants to be in the Hambletonian. Having a horse that’s good enough, it may never happen again. But I’m enjoying the ride. Tony and the team have done an amazing job with him. Tony has managed him very well and he just keeps getting better and better.”

Pilot Discretion has won six of eight career races, has never finished worse than third, and has banked $174,029 in earnings. He was 2-for-2 in 2018 but saw his season end because of sickness. The son of Muscle Hill-Self Indulgent won his first four races this season, including the Goodtimes Stakes, before finishing second to Greenshoe in a division of the Stanley Dancer Memorial and third in a division of the Tompkins-Geers Stakes.

“We raced him in the Tompkins-Geers just to get him another race because he’d had a month break between the Goodtimes and the Dancer,” Alagna said. “We wanted to race him and give him last week off. We raced him off the pace; we didn’t want to put him on the front again in his last start since we put him on the front in the Dancer. He closed very well, :26.3.

“He seems great. He’s very fresh. Even the night I warmed him up his last start at the Meadowlands, he was bucking and playing and kicking just going his first trip. He hasn’t done that in the last couple starts. So, I think he’s as fresh as a horse could be going into it.”

For LeBlanc, who owns Pilot Discretion with Dave Anderson and John Fodera, it’s been difficult to wait for Hambletonian time to arrive.

“I’ve got no more fingernails, I’ve bitten them off,” LeBlanc said. “It’s been a buildup every week. I’ll be pretty wound up by Saturday. I’ll be super excited. I’ve already told my wife that I have to watch the race outside (the grandstand) because I’ll be the one screaming the loudest.

“If you see a lunatic screaming if he’s coming down the stretch with a shot (to win) you know it will be me. Every owner will be a lunatic, absolutely. That’s the fun of it. This is what makes this game so much fun.”

The top five finishers from each opening-heat division will return later in race card to contest the $1-million final (post time 5:14 p.m.). The final will be featured during a live broadcast that will be aired on the CBS Sports Network from 4:00 to 5:30 p.m.

The post positions for the opening-heat divisions appear below.

Heat 1 – Elimination 1
Post-Driver-Trainer-Morning Line Odds
1-Cantab Fashion-Dexter Dunn-Jim Campbell-6/1
2-Summit In Sight-Andy Miller-Julie Miller-20/1
3-Swandre The Giant-David Miller-Ron Burke-7/2
4-Soul Strong-Dexter Dunn-Ake Svanstedt-8/1
5-Mr Vicktor-Tyler Buter-Jennifer Lappe-15/1
6-Osterc-Yannick Gingras-Per Engblom-15/1
7-Gimpanzee-Brian Sears-Marcus Melander-2/1
8-Green Manalishi S-Tim Tetrick-Marcus Melander-5/2

Heat 1 – Elimination 2
Post-Driver-Trainer-Morning Line Odds
1-Forbidden Trade-Bob McClure-Luc Blais-12/1
2-Gerry-Orjan Kihlstrom-Marcus Melander-20/1
3-Pilot Discretion-Andrew McCarthy-Tony Alagna-10/1
4-Reign Of Honor-David Miller-R. Nifty Norman-20/1
5-Greenshoe-Brian Sears-Marcus Melander-4/5
6-Dont Letem-Yannick Gingras-Nancy Johansson-4/1
7-Super Schissel-Scott Zeron-Per Engblom-10/1
8-Marseille-Ake Svanstedt-Ake Svanstedt-5/1

To view the harness racing entries for Saturday at the Big M, click the following link: Saturday Entries – Meadowlands Racetrack.


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