08/10/2015 10:35AM

Bergman: Betting public made the wrong choice in Hambletonian

Yannick Gingras' decision to drive Mission Brief in the Hambletonian final seemed to sway the betting public her way.

Harness racing is not a simple game.

Too often in today’s society those on the outside expect outcomes to happen with expert predictability.

For example: The best horse always wins.

Or if a driver chooses one horse over the next that means he’s picking the best horse.

Those who invest money tend to base their own decisions on the opinions of others.

It’s the same as the stock market. The guys who fiddle with financial investments are better suited to offer advice on buying or selling stocks than the average Joe.


Not always.

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Common sense would have you believe that experts know more than novices.

In Saturday’s Hambletonian, one driver made a decision and many bettors followed suit. Mission Brief won what was considered on paper to be the softer of the two Hambletonian elimination heats, but likely due to the decision of Yannick Gingras, went to the $1 million final as the odds-on favorite. Mission Brief certainly deserved money considering her record, but having drawn outside Pinkman for the final and with the knowledge that trainer Jimmy Takter had four horses in the race, it was hard to fathom how the public could have gone for the filly at odds of 7-10 over Pinkman, from post two at odds of 9-5.

Yet that was the weight of a single man’s decision on the betting public. A factor so large that it must have overshadowed the past performances of Pinkman, a gelding with more wins, more money earned, a better post position and an elimination heat victory in which he was parked feverishly through a 26 2/5 opening quarter from post ten. Mind you Pinkman also went the faster of the two eliminations and had the benefit of a longer rest. Did we mention he beat a tougher field as well?

And it wasn’t as if Jimmy Takter was stumped to find a driver to replace Gingras. Should Brian Sears, a previous winner of two Hambletonians to Gingras’ zero, have given the horse less of a chance at victory?

What’s interesting is while Gingras was making his call, trainer Jimmy Takter was in the middle of a makeover for his stock heading into the final. Takter didn’t just spend time idly worrying about what one driver would do. He found ways to improve his horses from the first to the second heat. The move to trotting hobbles for Uncle Lasse was nothing short of brilliant as it added the necessary stability to allow the horse to blast out of the gate and gain valuable early position. Takter also removed the front shoes of all of his horses, lightening the load just enough to make them suffer less from a difficult first heat.

While the four Takter horses were not coupled and did not work in tandem at any point during the running of the $1 million Hambletonian, they did share the lead nicely through the opening half and in the process made Gingras’ in-race decisions much more difficult.

While it would be impossible to criticize Gingras for his pre-race call, it was hard to wonder what was going on with him and Mission Brief sometime past the quarter pole when Brian Sears sent Pinkman on a brush to the front, a move that ultimately gave him control of the race.

Mission Brief wasn’t right behind Pinkman at that point and the question was why wasn’t Gingras moving as quickly as Sears to take on Pinkman at the moment he reached the front?

That’s not to say the outcome of the race would have been better for Mission Brief had Yannick moved her earlier, but it certainly would have put more pressure on Sears and Pinkman earlier in the race and that pressure would have come at the heels of being used to gain the front.

WINNERS AND LOSERS: Trainer Roger Walmann is considered one of the finest conditioners in Europe. He sent out two horses on Saturday at the Meadowlands coming away with a win and an eleventh-place finish. Surprisingly it was the favored Magic Tonight far off the board as the favorite in the rich John Cashman Memorial and longshot D’One capturing the Fresh Yankee over the previously untouchable Bee A Magician.

Elitlopp winner Magic Tonight was driven aggressively enough, making two moves before the quarter, but was empty late in the 1-1/8 mile contest captured by Flanagan Memory. D’One had a less eventful early trip but kicked home powerfully to capture the Fresh Yankee.

We expect Magic Tonight to be much sharper the next time he races in North America.

JAYWALKING: Yonkers Raceway racing secretary Steve Starr made an appearance at The Meadowlands on Saturday perhaps looking for the connections of potential International Trot horses. Starr’s task is going to prove difficult not just finding European talent, but piecing his way through the contenders in North America. Trainer Paul Kelley has ventured out this year and put Obrigado on larger size ovals. The fourth-place finisher in last year’s $250,000 International Preview at Yonkers has managed but one victory in 10 starts this season, but has somehow finished on the board eight times. Saturday was no exception for the 5-year-old that just can’t find luck anywhere. Driver Mark MacDonald floated him out nicely at the start but he got a bit rough going into the first turn and lost position. Eventually MacDonald got him straight enough and he went on a prolonged first-over grind setting up the race nicely for Flanagan Memory.

Prior to the race Kelley was concerned about Obrigado touching a knee boot. After the race he suggested that the horse was in need of some shoeing changes.

Trainer Trond Smedshammer also was in the business of making changes prior to the Hambletonian behind his Donatomite and even he wasn’t certain everything would be ideal before the first elimination. “I trained him with blinkers at the farm and I wasn’t sure how he’d behave out here,” said Smedshammer after warming up Donatomite before the first Hambletonian heat. The son of Donato Hanover raced admirably in the first heat and perhaps if he hadn’t lost contact with the top two horses on the final turn, allowing Jacksons Minion a tuck, he could have been right on the wire with Pinkman and The Bank.

Like all good trotting trainers Takter, Kelley and Smedshammer will continue to work and adjust hoping to get their horses as perfectly tuned as possible.

This is not a simple game.