08/09/2017 4:24PM

Giwner: Plenty of life for Walner beyond the Hambletonian

Derick Giwner
It is unknown at this point when/if Walner will race again in 2017.

The news of Walner’s withdrawal from the Hambletonian sent shockwaves throughout the industry. The one shining star in the current crop of 3-year-old trotting colts missed the most important race of the year.

Perhaps even more significant than taking home the winner’s share of the $1,000,000 Hambletonian is the potential value added to a stallion through a victory. According to some in the industry, that one win could add millions to the bottom line when working out a stud deal.

“It means a lot,” said Jim Simpson, President and CEO of Hanover Shoe Farms, about the importance of winning the Hambletonian for a stallion. “The race has mystique. It is the crown jewel of trotting and the one race you want to win.”

“It adds a lot of value because only one horse can win it each year,” said Myron Bell, breeding guru and racing manager for Brittany Farms.

As much as the Hambletonian means to most horses, Walner to some extent could be the exception to the rule. The Linda Toscano-trained son of Chapter Seven-Random Destiny already has a Dan Patch award in his trophy case and a 1:50 2/5 career best mark that rivals any stallion currently servicing mares.

Of course the future of Walner’s racing career will play a major role in his ultimate value and stud fee. If he comes back in October and posts a sub 1:50 mile in the Kentucky Futurity at the Red Mile and wins the Breeders Crown, few if any will care or remember that he failed to start in the Hambletonian.

Even though Walner’s injury is currently considered minor, what if he never makes another trip to the track?

“He does have a following and is a gorgeous animal. I think he has a potential stallion career even if he never races again,” said Simpson.

“Valley Victory was undefeated as a 3-year-old (7 for 7), didn’t race in the Hambletonian and never raced again,” said Bell, pointing to a stallion that has produced winners of over $35 million in his career, including Hambletonian champion Victory Dream in his first crop.

Above his natural gifts, Walner also possesses a very desirable pedigree according to both Simpson and Bell.

“He does have a fit pedigree-wise and could breed a lot of mares that other horses couldn’t,” said Simpson.

“He’s an outcross,” said Bell. "You can breed any Valley Victory line mare to him, which is basically Muscle Hill, Muscles Yankee and Yankee Glide. There are a lot of well bred mares that can go to him.”

At this point all we know is that Walner did not capture the most coveted trophy in the sport. On arguably the greatest day in harness racing, we lost out on the chance to see a spectacular horse in Walner perhaps provide special memories that will last a lifetime.

While it is heartbreaking that Walner didn't compete on August 5, whether he ever races again or not, we most certainly haven’t heard the last from this pure athlete.