08/03/2014 4:12PM

Giwner: Reflecting on Hambletonian Day


Reflection can produce a great number of feelings. Looking back on Hambletonian Day 2014, we were all witness to a number of highs and lows. Here are some of my thoughts:

Hambletonian - Takter

I couldn’t be happier for trainer/driver Jimmy Takter on his Hambo victory with Trixton. Driving a Hambletonian winner was the one thing perhaps lacking from the Hall of Famer’s résumé, and after watching a great segment on Takter from the CBS Sports Network broadcast, I can truly appreciate how much winning the race meant to him. Takter said he and his Hambo trio (Trixton, Nuncio and Father Patrick) were all going to take a week off. They deserve it.

   Trixton and Jimmy Takter.

Hambletonian – Father Patrick

Yes, Father Patrick made a costly mistake in the one race he was prepped for practically his entire career. As they say on the streets of New York, “S*** Happens.” To hear talk from people about how Trixton was the better horse all along makes me scratch my head. Even Takter said in his post-race comments that he still thinks Father Patrick is in a class by himself. How would you feel if you were judged by the first mistake you made in your life?

Trixton deserves plenty of praise for his super Hambletonian-winning effort. But how about we don’t write off Father Patrick just yet?

Hambletonian – CBS Sports Network

It is great to see Harness Racing on national television, but I want to actually see the race. There is no excuse for not being able to see the entire field at the start of a race, especially when the horse cut off of the screen is the 2-5 favorite Father Patrick. Having a crawl on the bottom of the screen for sports scores and news is nice, but perhaps when the race is going off it can be removed so the action is visible.

U.S. Pacing Championship – Sweet Lou

Let’s give credit where credit is due. Three years ago Sweet Lou was the best 2-year-old in the sport. He earned over a million dollars as a 3-year-old in a year that was considered a disappointment by many. He came back at 4 years of age and was okay at best versus older horses as well as his peers. Now at 5, trainer Ron Burke and his team have Sweet Lou hitting on all cylinders. Eight straight wins, and for the most part his competition simply can’t even come close enough to him to make the son of Yankee Cruiser-Sweet Future sweat.

Ponder on this fact for a moment. Ten years ago there were four horses which had paced a winning pari-mutuel race mile in a time under 1:48 (Ultimate Falcon—1998, Jenna’s Beach Boy—1996, Space Shuttle—2000, and Four Starzzz Shark—2004). Sweet Lou has paced five straight winning miles that fit that criteria.

Cashman Memorial – Sebastian K

You have to give credit to Sebastian K not only for winning seven of his eight North American starts, but for being able to acclimate to new surroundings and dominate his competition. The Swedish import only won six of 11 starts in 2013 while racing overseas, but not one of our homeland trotters seems to be able to compete with him. Are the European trotters just that much better than those racing on our soil? Is the training style of Ake Svanstedt the factor which puts his horses over the top? He did win three races on Hambo Day.

Similar to Sweet Lou, it is great watching Sebastian K race, but I wonder what either could do if another horse could keep up with them.


One thing we learned from Hambletonian Day is that the New Meadowlands is plenty big enough to handle the Hambletonian Day crowd. Were there some minor kinks during the day? Perhaps a few. But fitting the announced crowd of a bit more than 20,000 into the building did not seem to be one of the issues. I walked throughout the facility and everyone seemed to be having a great time. A few spots were more crowded than others, but you never felt confined.


By the commonly used standard of Return On Investment, my Hambletonian Day picks fell just short of break even with a $27.80 return on a $30 investment (based on $2 win bet on each top pick). That said, I wouldn’t call picking just three winners on a 15-race card as anything near a success. My top selection did finish second or third seven times, so I guess that is a small consolation. Like Father Patrick, I’m entitled to an off day.

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Tony Somma More than 1 year ago
Great article DG...while I agree with most of your points, I did find it disappointing that not only did I have to pay for parking $5 and a seat $10x2 (both normally FREE!), and there were no real drink specials either ($6 beers). I really feel like the Big M hosed us. That being said, beautiful facility, great day of racing, music, etc., but I've been to other tracks on big race days (Pocono), and there is usually no charge for parking or sitting, and you can get $2 drafts! I'd rather use my money for betting!
Chris Lowe More than 1 year ago
TVG(Can't believe I'm saying this) did a real good job covering Hambo day.
Jeff Biever More than 1 year ago
As a small-fry owner who has been in the business for most of the past 26 years, I share DG's estimation of Jimmy Takter's accomplishments. I, however, do not share the joy, because he, like several other trainers who have risen to the top of the profession, are handed multiple six-figure yearlings each year (case in point, Trixton at 360K). While it is by no means a given that most other trainers could accomplish what Mr. Takter did this year, it remains alot more difficult for my trainer, and scores of others like him, to develop successful performers based on what the majority of us can afford. If anything, Mr. Takter should be lauded for his accomplishments in settling down Nuncio, who last year never would have shown the tractability to lead under pressure and almost win the Hambo. Mr. Yoder's win with a Hoosier Park Invitational trotter deserves mention in this column.
Derick More than 1 year ago
Good point on Verlin Yoder, Jeff. Have to give him credit for coming and taking charge. Natural Herbie bested a pretty nice group in the Vincennes.
Chris Tully More than 1 year ago
All valid points ... once again Derick is right on the money!
robkey More than 1 year ago
Agree with all the above Derick. Good stuff.
Marvin Friedman More than 1 year ago
A great show put on by The Big M and the horses ,it proves what I've always thought, people love a good horserace and will show up bet when they find one.Perhaps the message will get through to the industry ,but I wouldn't bet on that.
Jack H More than 1 year ago
Best post race quote of the day.... " It is unfortunate because knock on wood, I will have another chance but he never will." From Yannick on Father Patrick. And you are right once race does not a career make. Just a shame that the horse will not get his HAMBO. One thing that surprised me is that you have never scored him down to leave prior to a 1million dollar race. That surprises me. If you know at some point you might need to mash the gas pedal out of the gate you should have taught him that.
Dante Sindori More than 1 year ago
From Yannick..."I scored him down hard to get his attention...obviously that didn't work" https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=76jo_AusbR4
Jack H More than 1 year ago
"I scored him down pretty hard because I’ve never left with him before. I wanted him to pay attention and be ready for (the start). The gate opened and I touched him on the tail with the whip and he took off running." So like I said he had never left with him before..... could have been taught
Dante Sindori More than 1 year ago
You're absolutely right.
Vince Lentini More than 1 year ago
Yes jack what would Jim takter know...a