07/22/2016 9:37AM

Vernon: Hambletonian hopefuls line up for Sunday’s Zweig

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Nikki Sherman
Trolley looks for a stakes win in the Zweig Memorial.

With the $1 million Hambletonian just 13 days away, many of the leading candidates for the sport’s biggest prize will convene on Vernon Downs Sunday night for the Dr. Harry M. Zweig Memorial for 3-year-old trotters. In a year where anyone can win the top prize, there are still many contenders and Sunday’s contest may help trainers and owners better measure their true chances come the first Saturday in August.

Two horses that had minimal impact as freshmen in this division are hoping that the Zweig can reaffirm belief and give them the confidence to head to the big dance. Trainer Per Henriksen rightfully believes that Blenheim, a gelding by Yankee Glide, is that type of horse.

“We’ve been pointing him towards the big race,” said Henriksen. “He showed plenty of talent as a 2-year-old but he got sick on us and we didn’t push him. This year we’ve been racing him from behind to hopefully get him to the Hambletonian at his peak.”

[ VERNON DOWNS: Watch some of the best 3-year-old trotters compete in the Zweig at Vernon Downs on Sunday night.]

Blenheim had finished third in the Goodtimes final and last week took the long way home once again to finish fourth in a division of the Stanley Dancer at The Meadowlands. He’ll be reunited with driver Chris Christoforou on Sunday, but again likely will be making an overland trip from post eight.

Trainer Erv Miller is another that understands it’s a long journey to get to the Hambletonian and has a colt in Trolley with limited starts but plenty of potential. “I definitely think he’s a Hambletonian horse,” said Miller.

The trainer saw the son of Donato Hanover finish a solid second in the Beal Memorial at Pocono on July 2 and off the strength of those earnings he was able to advance to this $300,000 contest as opposed to the lower paying consolations on the same program.

Trolley was making just his sixth career start in the 1-1/8 mile Dancer at The Meadowlands and driver Marcus Miller elected to race from well back in the field and accept his fate. Trolley finished the mile strongly but came away with just a seventh-place showing.

Trolley and Marcus Miller drew post five for the Zweig and may get the opportunity to show some speed again if they choose.

The Zweig is race nine of 14 on the Sunday night card with a first post of 6:45 p.m. The coupled entry of Love Matters, Bar Hopping, Hollywood Highway and Lagerfeld should get most of the wagering attention. Three of the four are trained by Jimmy Takter, with Bar Hopping the standout of the group as he’s finally getting some post position relief. With just two wins in 16 lifetime starts, Bar Hopping drew post three for the Zweig with Tim Tetrick in the bike. An upsetter of Hambletonian favorite Southwind Frank in an elimination for the Beal, Bar Hopping finished third from the outside in the final and then was a solid second in last week’s Dancer division behind Marion Marauder.

Trainer Julie Miller and driver Andy Miller appear to have Milligan’s School pointed in the right direction and the $300K winning freshman has captured three stakes events in Pennsylvania this year. A son of Yankee Glide, Milligan’s School starts from post four.

It’s a stakes heavy card at Vernon with the Zweig filly division and NYSS action for 3-year-old pacing fillies supporting the program.

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