08/06/2012 9:17AM

Bergman: Hambletonian Day results heavily influenced by luck, driving strategy

Lisa Photo
Personal Style (4) edges Win Missy B in the Hambletonian Oaks.

The biggest winner at the Meadowlands this past Saturday was luck.

Good luck and bad luck were in attendance throughout the day, and the results of the Hambletonian, the Hambletonian Oaks and a host of other races were determined by a great deal of racing luck.

It was almost painful to watch Win Missy B and Personal Style walking side-by-side through the homestretch in the Hambletonian Oaks after the expected head-to-head speed battle between Check Me Out and Maven fizzled on the final turn.

It was almost as if Win Missy B and Personal Style recognized they were not meant to star on the stage of such an important race.

There really was no way to explain why Check Me Out, who appeared on her way to the winner’s circle, would suddenly break stride. Somewhat less likely was Maven’s break in stride. She didn’t seem to be bothered much when Check Me Out cut in front of her but lost her gait regardless. Maven, however, may not have been herself after her driver Yannick Gingras put her in a position he never should have. The usually sound-thinking driver, who recently outsmarted nine rivals in winning the Meadowlands Pace, suddenly lost consciousness when he saw Check Me Out regain the lead from Win Missy B at the quarter pole. Why did he drive out of a three-hole to go after the favorite? It’s hard to say what Gingras was thinking but it couldn’t be that Check Me Out and Tetrick were going to let him stroll to the front. In the end Maven would go a longer mile than necessary and do so without cover.

Personal Style’s co-owner Melvin Hartman enjoyed surprisingly good luck just two years after his 11-10 favored Hambletonian Oaks filly Poof Shes Gone made a break while appearing to have the race sewn up in the 2010 edition.

“It was justice,” said Hartman in the winner’s circle with Personal Style.

Well not exactly justice. Just as Hartman was handed the Hambletonian Oaks trophy on Saturday so too was his filly handed the race. It was a gift and the owner seemed more than happy to take it. As we all know bad luck weighs much heavier than good on most owners in this sport.

Trainer Jimmy Takter had no luck in the Hambletonian, but he still wasn’t that far removed from winning the race with Guccio. Saddled behind stalling cover past the half-mile, Takter sent his horse three wide before he hit the final turn and the colt remained wide the rest of the mile. It was the most impressive effort by a three-year-old trotter on the afternoon but not worthy of a winner’s circle appearance.

Conversely the usually alert Ron Pierce didn’t help matters much when he decreased his luck quota on the first turn. With Gym Tan Laundry leaving as expected from the outside, Pierce, with race favorite Uncle Peter, had almost the identical situation that Gingras had in the Meadowlands Pace. That would be to regain quickly and establish position. Instead Pierce’s momentary hiccup allowed the Jim Morrill Jr. driven Archangel to pounce from the three-hole to the front in short order. This left Uncle Peter with a more prolonged and certainly more difficult brush to the lead. Had Pierce out-moved Archangel the likelihood is that Morrill would have been content to sit third as long as he could.

Even race winner Market Share enjoyed some luck. His good fortune came as the over-polite Ontario invader Jody Jamieson, guiding second choice Knows Nothing, waited for Tetrick to move to enjoy his cover. Had Jamieson been more aggressive there’s a good chance we’d be talking about a different winner in this year’s Hambletonian. With Tetrick not taking Jamieson’s bait until he was ready, he preserved his horse masterfully and was very strong upon making his move. Of course Tetrick is more than capable of creating his own good will and that came as he sensed at headstretch that he needed separation from potential closers and grabbed a quick three-length lead.

Market Share’s majority owner Richard Gutnick probably had a lot of people shaking his hand this past Saturday in hopes that some of his luck would rub off on them. Gutnick’s Nat Ray winner and world champion Chapter Seven was a monster on Hambo Day 2012. A year earlier Chapter Seven was hardly tight enough to compete in the Hambletonian, but finished fourth nonetheless.

Even Gutnick wasn’t going to allow bad luck hit him a second time entering this year’s Hambletonian. He sold a 25 percent stake in Market Share after last week’s elimination as “insurance.”

And is there a faster pacer on the planet than Hurrikane Kingcole?

Again on Saturday, with big money on the line, the world-record-setting colt added the six-furlong world mark to his list of accomplishments in the New Jersey Classic. Unfortunately for his connections the race was at a mile and the colt could not hold off Panther Hanover in the final two furlongs.

Despite his incredible speed, Hurrikane Kingcole’s biggest miles this year have come in a Hempt elimination at Mohegan Sun Pocono and in the Meadowlands Pace consolation. And to make matters worse he actually seems to perform at his best when Yannick Gingras is in the bike. Yet Gingras has already made the commitment to guide A Rocknroll Dance in all the major races.

Lastly, when you invest as much money as George Segal and Marvin Katz do on an annual basis, you deserve some good luck. Segal and Katz paid $250,000 last year for the Somebeachsomewhere colt Captaintreacherous. He rewarded them with a monster mile in the Woodrow Wilson. Segal came back to share ownership in Oaks winner Personal Style. Katz and his longtime partner in owning trotters, Al Libfeld, were in the winner’s circle after To Dream On put on a stunning display of raw speed in capturing the Merrie Annabelle. The daughter of Credit Winner was a $200,000 “bargain” purchase a year ago. She will now point towards the big races in Ontario for trainer Jimmy Takter.

Saturday’s results will stand but luck will certainly change.