08/01/2013 12:42PM

Hambletonian: Pierce looks for fourth Hambo win with Spider Blue Chip

USTA Photo
Ron Pierce won the Hambletonian in 1993, 2007 and 2009.

Ron Pierce has been here before. Chuck Sylvester has also been a major part of Hambletonian lore. On Saturday, the two will pair up for the first time with Spider Blue Chip, one of the leading contenders for the $1 million final prize at the Meadowlands.

“I had to beat Pine Chip,” Pierce said, recalling his first Hambletonian triumph in 1993 behind American Winner. “Pine Chip was a great horse.”

Pine Chip was also Chuck Sylvester’s top colt that year and one he felt strongly could capture the Hambo.

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“We got away from him,” said Pierce, remembering American Winner’s high turn of early speed and Pine Chip’s propensity to race powerfully in the stretch but come from off the pace.

On Saturday, Pierce feels he’s in a good position.

“He’s a beautifully-gaited horse. He’s got good early speed if I decide to use it,” said Pierce.

Spider Blue Chip, a gelded son of Andover Hall, drew post six in the ninth race, the third of three $70,000 divisions of the first heat eliminations of the Hambletonian. Only the top three are guaranteed a spot in the final, with the fourth-place finisher with highest earnings also advancing.

Pierce first drove Spider Blue Chip in the Stanley Dancer Memorial on July 13 where he finished a head behind Royalty For Life in second.

“It was the first time I drove the horse. I had spoken with Chuck (Sylvester) and David Miller (his former driver) about the horse but that was it,” said Pierce of the experience.

“I think if I would have stretched him (Royalty For Life) out a little getting the lead I may have been able to beat him,” said Pierce using hindsight. “We’re not in the same elimination on Saturday.”

For Pierce, a victory behind Spider Blue Chip in Saturday’s final would give him four Hambletonian trophies. He took the 2007 edition with Donato Hanover. He came back in 2010 with Muscle Massive, a second time he spoiled the chances of a Sylvester trained colt when he beat Lucky Chucky. Now, again, three years later, he’s in the driver’s seat of a very solid contender.

Recognizing the relative abilities of the 23 horses in the eliminations, Pierce said, “He’s just as good as anybody else.” Whether that’s a ringing endorsement or not remains to be seen, but there are many who believe Spider Blue Chip is entering the race in top form.

“And I think Chucky will have him better this week,” said Pierce, confirming his confidence in Spider Blue Chip with the seven-figure purse as a target.

Spider Blue Chip has won four times in seven starts this year and enters the Hambletonian following an impressive 1:53 victory in a Pennsylvania Sire Stakes on July 18 at Harrah’s Philadelphia.

While Pierce likes his chances in the Hambletonian, he believes his best chance at victory on Saturday comes in the form of the two-year-old trotting filly Shake It Cerry.

“She’s very special,” said Pierce, who has driven some impressive two-year-old fillies in the past, namely Check Me Out and Passionate Glide.

Shake It Cerry drew post six in the $321,700 Merrie Annabelle final, race two on the 15-race program with a first post slated for 11:50 a.m.

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