07/31/2014 11:10AM

Father Patrick heads imposing Takter trio in Hambletonian


For the first time in the 89-year history of the prestigious Hambletonian, one race will decide the champion. A purse of $1,006,125 will be on the line as 11 3-year-old trotters head behind the gate at 5:15 p.m. Eastern on Saturday at the Meadowlands.

Father Patrick, undefeated this year, leads a three-pronged attack from the barn of trainer Jimmy Takter. He drew post 10 and was installed as the 4-5 morning-line choice to capture the most prestigious prize in the sport. With six victories this year and a nearly flawless 16-for-17 career record, Father Patrick enters the Hambletonian, race 13 on a stakes-filled program, off a sharp preparatory qualifier.

Regular driver Yannick Gingras once again will be in the bike as he eyes his first Hambletonian trophy.

“I couldn’t be any more confident, but anything can happen,” said Gingras. “I have never driven a horse with as much pure talent as he has. This horse has it all.”

Takter, who will be attempting to become only the fifth trainer to win the Hambletonian both before and after entering the Harness Racing Hall of Fame, also will drive in the race. The two-time Hambletonian winner (Muscle Massive in 2010 and Malabar Man in 1997) steers Trixton from post 7 as the 7-2 second choice. The 53-year-old conditioner also sends out third choice Nuncio with driver John Campbell from post 5 (9-2).

“All three are coming into the races the best that I can have them,” said Takter.

Headlining the undercard is the $500,000 Hambletonian Oaks for 3-year-old fillies. Designed To Be was installed as the lukewarm 2-1 early choice from post 1 in the 11-horse field. Shake It Cerry will open at 5-2 in the wagering from the second tier in post 11.

Two of the more anticipated races of the day likely will be the $257,700 U.S. Pacing Championship and the $300,650 John Cashman Jr. Memorial for older pacers and trotters, respectively.

Sweet Lou looks for his eighth consecutive victory and will take aim at the 1:46 4/5 all-ages world record for pacers. He’ll start from post 7 with Ron Pierce in the bike.

Swedish sensation Sebastian K will try to win for the seventh time in eight North American starts from post 1 with driver/trainer Ake Svanstedt at the helm. Already the fastest trotter in history with a 1:49 clocking at Pocono Downs, second trainer Bjorn Noren said the team is hoping to lower that mark in the Cashman.

The Hambletonian card features five guaranteed multirace wagers ranging from $50,000 to $100,000. First post is at noon.