04/03/2015 1:54PM

Harness: 118 eligible to the 2015 Hambletonian

Derick Giwner
The Hambletonian is scheduled for August 8 at the Meadowlands.

The $1 million Hambletonian and filly companion stake, the $500,000 Hambletonian Oaks, will be raced on Saturday afternoon, August 8, at the Meadowlands Racetrack in East Rutherford, New Jersey. The 90th edition of the classic event will feature eliminations and the final on the same day. 

Eliminations for the Hambletonian Oaks, if necessary, will be raced the prior week, Saturday, August 1.

The number of total eligible trotters to the two races remained the same as last year with 193 paid in, but an additional ten more colts made the payment this year (118 total), while the Oaks eligibles dropped by an identical ten fillies (75 total).

The powerful barns of Jimmy Takter and Ron Burke house both freshmen trotter Dan Patch honorees: Pinkman, a winner of $566,960, and the filly Mission Brief, who banked $591,070 in her brilliant freshman campaign.  Between the two conditioners they harnessed seven of the top ten money-winning 2-year-old trotters in 2014.

Pinkman, a gelded son of Explosive Matter, made his presence felt in September of last year, winning the Standardbred Stakes at Delaware, Ohio. He followed up with wins in the International Stallion Stakes at Lexington and the Valley Victory at Mohawk in Canada, then used the Breeders Crown at the Meadowlands to sew up divisional honors.

Takter, who has won three editions of the Hambletonian – Malabar Man in 1997, Muscle Massive in 2010 and Trixton last year – has a loaded sophomore roster to try for a fourth title. In the 2015 Hoof Beats Comprehensive Predictive Rankings for Trotters, Takter trains four of the top 10 voted “most likely to succeed” this year.

Yet it’s two lightly raced colts that Takter feels may represent his best shot at repeat Hambletonian glory.

“Whom Shall I Fear, who is a full brother to Father Patrick, didn’t race many starts last year. He was second in the International Stallion Stakes (behind Aldebaran Eagle). But he was big and growthy and we just stopped with him.

"He is going to qualify next week at The Meadowlands and so will Canepa Hanover. Last year I thought those two would be my two best colts. They are both a little green so need to get some racing under their belts before the big stakes.” said Takter.

Mission Brief, the first filly to top the colts in the experimental rankings in years, may look to also be the first filly winner of the Hambletonian since Continentalvictory in 1996.

“She should be back to the races about mid-May,” said Burke about his trainee, dubbed a “freak” after a freshman year that wowed the harness racing world.  

“We’ll let her tell us when she is ready,” he continued. “Maybe a NJ Sire Stake is on the schedule first. Last year, she was so big and strong it just took her a while to figure things out. She has shown a lot of improvement and the Hambletonian is definitely something we would like to try to win. My Dad is 79 and winning the [Little Brown] Jug for us as a team and as a family was so special…I would like to try the Hambletonian.”

The 2014 Peter Haughton winner Centurion ATM, trained and driven by Ake Svanstedt, is also among the top sophomores eligible, and a Hambletonian win would make him just the third colt to win both elite races, joining Donato Hanover (07) and Muscle Hill (09).

The Hambletonian has been hosted by the Meadowlands Racetrack since 1981 and is the longest nationally televised event in harness racing. A 90-minute live broadcast will air on CBS Sports Network from 4-5:30 p.m. [EDT].

There are no supplemental entries permitted in the Hambletonian and Oaks, nor are participants in those events or the Hambletonian Maturity permitted the use of Lasix or Butazolidin. All entrants are subject to the out-of-competition testing rules described in the conditions. The Hambletonian Society and the Meadowlands sponsor the only events in North American horse racing that prohibit the use of any race day medication.

The Hambletonian is the first event in the trotting Triple Crown. The second leg is the Yonkers Trot, scheduled for Saturday, September 5 at Yonkers Raceway. The third leg is the Kentucky Futurity, slated for Saturday, Oct.10 at the Red Mile in Lexington, Ky. The last trotter to win the Triple Crown was Glidemaster in 2006.

The Hambletonian trail commences Saturday, May 2, with the Dexter Cup and Lady Suffolk at Freehold Raceway.

Eligibles for all Hambletonian-serviced stakes can be found at www.hambletonian.org. The Hambletonian is available at http://www.hambletonian.org/resources/Hambletonian902.pdf