08/07/2004 12:00AM

'Legacy' captures Hambletonian

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Windsong's Legacy parlayed a perfect trip into a rallying victory Saturday afternoon in the 79th edition of the $1 million Hambletonian at The Meadowlands Racetrack.

Trained and driven by Trond Smedshammer, Windsong's Legacy ($11) beat Cantab Hall by one length. Cash Hall finished third.

Windsong's Legacy trotted the mile in 1:54 1/5 for his sixth win in 12 career starts.

The field for the Hambletonian was considered one of the deepest in recent seasons. With the talent so evenly distributed, the trip was the crucial element in determining the outcome.

Smedshammer was able to craft a "second-over" journey as the second horse in the outer flow. That put Windsong's Legacy in ideal stalking position, as Tom Ridge and Cash Hall battled for the lead.

Turning for home, Windsong's Legacy tipped wide for the charge to the wire.

"I was never tempted to pull before the stretch," said Smedshammer. "I knew I was getting a good trip. It turned out to be pretty easy."

The Hambletonian victory was Smedshammer's first in three attempts. He was fourth with Bowlin for Dollars in 1997 and fifth last year with the highly regarded Power to Charm.

"It means everything," said Smedshammer in the winner's circle. "It obviously hasn't sunk in yet. It feels good now but I'm sure it will feel even better tomorrow."

Cantab Hall, in contrast, was unlucky. He hugged the pylons for a ground-saving trip, with Mike Lachance at the lines. Cantab Hall wound up trapped when Tom Ridge faded and shook loose too late.

The Hambletonian is the first leg of the Trotting Triple Crown. The series continues with the Yonkers Trot on Aug. 28 at Hawthorne Racecourse in Cicero, Ill., and the Kentucky Futurity at the Red Mile in Lexington on Oct. 9.