07/31/2013 11:21AM

Hambletonian: Wheeling N Dealin has the tools to be a Hambo champion

Derick Giwner
Trainer R. Dustin Jones (left) and his son Tyler lead Wheeling N Dealin to the track.

What a difference a year makes. Wheeling N Dealin was the toast of the town while posting a flawless record in nine starts as a rookie trotter. Fast forward to his 3-year-old season and you have people questioning his ability and whether he is fast enough to succeed against his peers in the $1,200,000 Hambletonian on Saturday at the Meadowlands.

Expectations are always high for any talented young trotter. Come out of the gate with a strong performance and immediately the Hambletonian dreams start floating in the heads of owners and trainers. Following his William Wellwood and Breeders Crown victories, the connections of Wheeling N Dealin had nothing to do but dream during the off season.

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Trainer R. Dustin Jones had a plan to start slowly and hasn’t budged from the program. While others see subpar efforts, he perceives a horse that has raced well.

“He has never gone a bad training mile in his life and he has actually never gone a bad race in his life,” said Jones. “The last couple of starts have actually been a matter of circumstances. In his first start (of the year) he had to come first-over at Mohawk and that last corner at Mohawk is almost a quarter of a mile. And last week (July 20) he trotted his last three quarters in 1:24. I think the speed is there and I’m confident that when he is in position, he’ll give a good effort.”

Perhaps the lack of a true standout performer in the 3-year-old ranks has increased the confidence of Jones. In this “what have you done for me lately” world, Wheeling N Dealin went from the top of the pedestal to the middle of the pack without much of an opportunity to prove himself.

“Actually, I haven’t seen anybody step up and really take it away from him,” remarked Jones on his colt’s declining status in the division. “Maybe after next weekend he’ll deserve to drop down (in the divisional standings) and he won’t be one of the best trotters in North America, but maybe he will be.”

Wheeling N Dealin finally arrived on U.S. soil for the first time in his career on July 27 and took a clear step in the right direction. He once again was handled patiently by regular driver Sylvain Filion, but he followed cover professionally and closed with a strong 27 2/5 final quarter to be second behind a well-rated High Bridge.

“He drew outside and I didn’t really want to rough him up,” said Filion after the race. “Our main objective is next week. I like the way he closed. He was a little flat his first two starts this year, but tonight he showed a little bit of what he can be when he is on his game. I think we are heading into the final on a positive note.”

Even if Wheeling N Dealin is moving in the right direction, the question still remains whether the son of Cantab Hall-Quick Credit has the necessary speed to compete and win as a sophomore on the biggest stage for trotters. Past performance lines do not lie. Wheeling N Dealin still only sports a lifetime mark of 1:55 and has never stopped the timer faster than 1:53 4/5 in any mile he has competed. Meanwhile much of his main competition on Saturday, whether in his elimination or potentially in the final, has already trotted a mile in at least the 1:52 range.

Fiion was quick to put to rest any thought that his charge lacked the needed high gear.

“I can guarantee you 100 percent that he has that mile in him,” said Filion with confidence.

Hand in hand with success in the Hambletonian is also tactical speed, a quality Wheeling N Dealin exhibited as a freshman but has been kept in check to this point. Don’t be surprised if the talented colt finds his early kick on Saturday while starting from post one in the second of three Hambletonian eliminations.

“We have been trying to baby him a little bit,” said Filion. “We like him so much that perhaps we’ve been overprotecting him, but I know he can fire off the gate if I want to and we may have to use that in the final.”

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When Wheeling N Dealin lines up for his first heat elimination he will be one of the freshest horses and perhaps one of the most prepared physically and mentally for the task of racing twice in a two hour period. Jones cited his horses’ comfortable nature during his races as a sign that the rigors of two heats would hardly be a factor.

For Wheeling N Dealin to be successful in the Hambletonian, he will have to best an elimination group that includes Aperfectyankee (post 2), winner of his last two starts, and tough-luck Yonkers Trot favorite Dontyouforgetit (post 7), who was impeded early in the mile of the first leg of the Trotting Triple Crown.

Wheeling N Dealin’s Hambletonian elimination is race 8 on the 15-race Meadowlands program. The other two eliminations are carded as races 7 and 9. The top three finishers from each elimination and one fourth place finisher with the highest career earnngs will return for race 12, the $1,000,000 Hambletonian final, approximate post time 4:42 p.m.

Hambletonian - $70,000 First Elimination - Race 7

1 Punxsutawney C.Callahan 12-1
2 Smilin Eli T.Tetrick 5-2
3 Dewycolorintheline R.Schnittker 8-1
4 High Bridge Y.Gingras 6-1
5 Super Classic D.Miller 20-1
6 Dreams Of Thunder G.Brennan 20-1
7 E L Rocket J.Morrill,Jr. 4-1
8 Royalty For Life B.Sears 8-5

Hambletonian - $70,000 Second Elimination - Race 8

1 Wheeling N Dealin S.Filion 2-1
2 Aperfectyankee J.Oscarsson 5-2
3 Your So Vain A.Miller 12-1
4 Jacks To Open J.Morrill,Jr. 8-1
5 Celebrity Maserati T.Jackson 15-1
6 Caveat Emptor R.Schnittker 20-1
7 Dontyouforgetit Y.Gingras 7-2
8 Creatine M.Lachance 6-1

Hambletonian - $70,000 Third Elimination - Race 9

1 Possessed Fashion J.Campbell 4-1
2 Murmur Hanover R.Waples 9-2
3 Banco Solo J.Morrill,Jr. 15-1
4 All Laid Out D.Palone 6-1
5 Corky D.Miller 2-1
6 Spider Blue Chip R.Pierce 5-2
7 Lauderdale C.Callahan 12-1


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