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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