07/27/2015 12:21PM

Bergman: Mission Brief brings intrigue to 2015 Hambletonian

Derick Giwner
Trainer Jimmy Takter is expected to send out five horses in the Hambletonian on August 8.

The $1 million answer was received late Sunday and it was all good news for the trotting sport. Last year’s phenomenal trotting filly Mission Brief has taken the long road to regaining her spectacular form. Following Sunday’s 1:51 4/5 victory in the Dr. Harry Zweig Memorial filly division, it became clear to many, including her trainer Ron Burke, that the daughter of Mission Hill was ready to battle Jimmy Takter’s boys in the $1 million 90th edition of the Hambletonian on August 8 at the Meadowlands.

Burke tweeted his decision on Sunday, ending just hours of speculation after her victory at Vernon Downs came in a tick faster than Pinkman’s victory in the Open division of the Zweig an hour later.

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There was no doubt from watching Mission Brief’s performance on Sunday that she had indeed turned the corner. When she’s right she coasts along at high speed effortlessly. No matter how the camera was angled in the stretch, giving the appearance that a challenge was going to come from the inside, Yannick Gingras just let Mission Brief out a notch and that was enough to insure an easy victory.

Mission Brief looked a whole lot better for the first time a week earlier, though she actually lost for the first time in the Del Miller division. It was clear on that night that Gingras was just being extremely cautious seeing her trot through to the wire.

While time can be deceiving, other than Pinkman, it’s hard to see form from the other Takter sophomores holding up as well at this point in time.

In the Zweig, Canepa Hanover cut the pace and was improved from his most recent start in the Stanley Dancer at the Meadowlands. Still the Canepa Hanover we saw in the Goodtimes eliminations at Mohawk has yet to resurface, but even if he does he will not have Yannick Gingras behind him.

Uncle Lasse looked invincible in Pennsylvania Sire Stakes action, but he didn’t have the same speed or stamina in the Zweig that he showed at The Meadows earlier this year.

Whether Mission Brief was ready to tackle the boys or not, the decision to give her a guaranteed week off and leave her out of the Hambletonian Oaks will likely bear fruit. It would be even better for the filly if less than 14 horses enter the Hambletonian on Monday, August 3, making it just one race for the $1 million prize.

While the decision to put Mission Brief in the Hambletonian was perhaps made easier by today’s result for Burke and company, it had to be a tough one for Gingras. Last year the driver appeared to be holding the winning hand with Father Patrick in the Hambletonian before that one made an uncharacteristic break in stride.

After winning the Zweig filly with Mission Brief, Gingras was diplomatic when asked about the filly racing the boys in the Hambletonian. “I’m not sure about her racing two heats,” said Gingras when questioned, suggesting the Oaks would suit him just fine.

Now it appears that Mission Brief will be facing Pinkman in the Hambletonian, leaving the Hambletonian Oaks a more wide-open affair than it could have been.

Thankfully for horseplayers the addition of a filly of the caliber of Mission Brief in the Hambletonian will make the race worth playing. While New York wouldn’t separate the four-ply Takter entry in Sunday’s Zweig to the dismay of some gamblers, New Jersey will be more than happy to separate the horses come August 8. Regardless of where you stand on racing commissions and their decisions, there’s no way anyone could seriously convince me that Takter’s quartet could all be independent in a race going for a seven-figure purse. Thankfully due to the presence of an extraordinary filly we may not have to worry about that . . . unless the Takter bunch work as a team to take the sting out of Mission Brief.

Thankfully we have 12 days to ponder what will happen. Whether we’ll see eliminations or whether horses will draw in the second tier in a large field, intrigue has been added to the 90th edition of this classic event.

I can’t wait to see how many show up to face Mission Brief and Takter’s boys.

JAYWALKING: It was a heck of a weekend for the Burke stable with his 3-year-olds capturing two of the three $25,000 eliminations for the Del Miller Adios at The Meadows on Saturday night. After 22 starts with but three wins, Coopertown overtook the favored Lost For Words and held off a ferocious bid by second choice Dudes The Man to score in 1:49 4/5, the fastest of the three eliminations. The surprising son of Four Starzzz Shark earned the victory at 37-1.

My Hero Ron put yet another 3-year-old gelding into the stakes picture with his victory in another division. By Well Said, My Hero Ron was an easy 1:50 3/5 winner.

Burke was at it again in Pennsylvania Sire Stakes action for juveniles with a pair of sons of Somebeachsomewhere. Again keeping with the gelding theme, it was Manhattan Beach scoring a maiden victory in a ridiculous 1:51 1/5 effort with Tim Tetrick aboard for the first time. This freshman, a $100,000 yearling purchase, is out of the incredibly fast mare Benear. What’s interesting about Manhattan Beach, as well as his brother Limelight Beach, is that they seem to resemble their dam in that they do their best racing on the front end. That was clearly the case for Manhattan Beach on Saturday as Tetrick rolled him to the top and just kept pacing, including a 27 3/5 final quarter.

Check Six, the other Somebeachsomewhere from the Burke contingent, was a confident 1:52 3/5 winner.

We’re looking forward to the impressive Broadway Donna’s debut in the newly minted Jim Doherty Memorial trials for juvenile trotting fillies this weekend at the Meadowlands. The Donato Hanover filly has been flawless on the five-eighths thus far in Pennsylvania and should do quite well with one less turn to negotiate.