08/03/2013 5:25PM

Hambletonian: Royalty For Life can’t be caught

Derick Giwner
With Brian Sears driving, Royalty For Life scores a front-running Hambletonian victory.

The 3-year-old trotting division lacked clarity entering the 2013 Hambletonian. After the $1 million final on Saturday at the Meadowlands, Royalty For Life clearly stamped himself as a true champion.

Three elimination races reduced a field of 23 hopeful finalists down to 10 starters. The three elimination winners – Royalty For Life, Creatine and Spider Blue Chip – were able to draw for inside posts. Royalty For Life, who was the first to draw, secured the rail and used it to his full advantage.

Driver Brian Sears blasted Royalty For Life to the front and forced Smilin Eli from post 9 to settle in the pocket through an opening quarter-mile of 26 2/5. The pace continued to be honest with Royalty For Life coasting past the half in 55 seconds. Spider Blue Chip began to mount an uncovered charge ahead of Creatine and Aperfectyankee on the rim.

Places were unchanged as the field moved past three quarters in 1:23 3/5, and there was no getting to Royalty For Life. Sears flicked the whip at the New York-bred son of RC Royalty and he responded, pulling away for a 3 3/4-length win over Smilin Eli and 3-hole sitter Corky in 1:52 1/5.

“I was very confident in my horse,” said Sears, who won the Hambletonian Oaks earlier on the card with Bee A Magician. “When he drew the rail, I thought if someone crossed over [in front of him] it might put me in a bad spot. So my intention was to get him out on his best foot and get everyone seated.

“By the time he was getting close, my horse was already wound up pretty good and there was no chance of me letting him go.”

The victory for Royalty For Life was the 11th of his career in 21 starts. Trained by George Ducharme, he has earned $1,029,438 for owners Alfred Ross, Raymond Campbell Jr., and Paul Fontaine.

“The pressure is off,” said a relieved Ducharme. “Words cannot describe it. I never thought I’d be in this spot, being a little guy from Massachusetts.”

With the Hambletonian victory, Sears completed a Hambletonian/Oaks sweep for the second time in his career, becoming the first driver to do so.