07/21/2014 10:00PM

Giwner: Takter's Hambletonian


We interrupt the regularly scheduled 89th edition of the Hambletonian to bring you a special edition of the Taktertonian. With by far the top three horses—Father Patrick, Trixton, and Nuncio—trainer Jimmy Takter has a legitimate chance of not only scaring away the competition when the entry box closes on July 29, but also finishing 1-2-3 in the $1.2 million event.

Unless some 3-year-old trotter is lying in the weeds waiting for the first Saturday in August to show his best, Takter clearly has the fastest three horses. Father Patrick has won in 1:50 2/5. Trixton shows a winning time of 1:51 2/5 and Nuncio has trotted in 1:51 4/5. Other than the above trio, only filly Designed To Be has gone faster than 1:52 (1:51 3/5), and the next fastest trotting mile by a Hambletonian eligible is Lightning Force’s 1:53 1/5. That mile would likely place him a good 10 lengths behind Takter’s horses at the wire in the Hambletonian.

Derick Giwner   Father Patrick and Jimmy Takter

While Father Patrick will be the odds-on favorite to defeat his rivals and stablemates in the Hambletonian, I’ve read numerous comments about how Trixton has a big chance of turning the tables on his more accomplished barn-mate come August 2. Many of those same comments criticized Jimmy Takter’s drive behind Trixton in the Stanley Dancer and felt a catch-driver would have gotten more out of the talented colt.

For my money, Takter drove a flawless race in the Dancer. He avoided an early breaker, picked up what could have been live cover from Muscle Network (that one ended up breaking) and got Trixton to trot a final quarter in 26 3/5. Could he have lost by 1 1/2 lengths instead of 2 lengths if he urged him home more emphatically? Maybe, but he still would have finished third.

I’m not sure what race those who came away thinking Trixton is primed to beat Father Patrick were watching. Granted Father Patrick got away with soft fractions, but neither Trixton nor Nuncio appeared to seriously threaten Father Patrick late in the mile. “Father” was under some urging but driver Yannick Gingras didn’t even pull the ear plugs.

I said it six weeks ago (you’ll have to take my word for it or perhaps ask Darin Zoccali), Father Patrick is simply better than Trixton and Nuncio. Barring a scenario where 11 to 13 horses enter the Hambletonian and Father Patrick is stuck in the second tier and has traffic issues, he will be drinking from the Hambletonian trophy.

Odds and ends

Whether you think Jimmy Takter was trying to lock in the favored Designed To Be in the Del Miller or not, you have to give the trainer credit for taking a step back after an initial reaction of anger and apologizing for his words. Unfortunately, when you live in the public spotlight as Takter does, perception is often the only thing that matters.

In case you were wondering, a trainer has finished 1-2-3 in the Hambletonian. Walter Cox did it back in the 1920s.

I’ve been meaning to throw some credit the way of the Meadowlands Media department for doing a fine job publicizing the sport. Despite most of the big races being held off its grounds in June, the track staff did numerous paddock interviews with trainers and drivers discussing out of town races. That is serving the best interests of harness racing as a whole.

Monticello returned to the simulcast world on Monday (July 21) after the track and horsemen came to agreement on a contract. Hopefully the Mighty M will reclaim the niche market it developed by racing weekday afternoons.

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