08/03/2007 11:00PM

Donato Hanover wins Hambo


Donato Hanover, the dominant 3-year-old trotter, won harness racing's biggest prize Saturday, the $1.5 million Hambletonian before 26,115 at the Meadowlands Racetrack.

Driven by Ron Pierce, Donato Hanover ($4) beat Adrian Chip by 1 1/4 lengths with Laddie third. The time for the mile was 1:53.40.

Donato Hanover ran third in his debut last year. He has not lost since, stretching the winning steak to 13.

Donato Hanover took charge down the backstretch in a race with very little pace that went in 58.40 seconds for the first half-mile.

"As slow as they were going, I had no choice but to go to the front," Pierce said.

Then the anticipated "battle of the sexes" developed as the filly Pampered Princess ranged up to challenge on the final turn. Pampered Princess edged ahead by a half-length but could not clear last year's champion.

Donato Hanover battled back, offsetting the filly's surge and crushing the hopes of the many fans pulling for her.

"She gave us a good go," Pierce said. "Then I called on my colt at the head of the lane and got some distance between us."

Pampered Princess went off stride in the stretch and finished sixth.

In the lane, Donato Hanover needed only mild urging from Pierce to secure the victory.

Adrian Chip, owned by NHL star Peter Forsberg, was a strong-closing second.