With a mere few absences since 1989, we have reported the Hambletonian Final live from the Meadowlands. The turbulent 2020 will put one more asterisk on our reporting of the world-class event, including a full day of major stakes at the Meadowlands, as we do all of our reporting in quarantine. As well, with our annual Hambletonian Trail series undone due to pandemic circumstances, we will be covering the Aug. 8 program in this preview blog.
Still, live contenders appear on our horses-to-watch list (H2W); always peruse the list for participating exotic-wagering elements.
Woodbine/Mohawk (affectionately WoMo) continues series for frosh trotters on Aug. 6. First, there’s leg two of the Millard Farms ($20k) for colts. Eight highly charged progeny take to the track. Trainer Luc Blais has a pair in here, the more valuable to back being On A Streak. This is a Cantab Hall colt from the aged but still productive sire that top trainers love to school. Cantab Halls of both sexes have proven to be smart bets with no other elements involved.
There are two divisions of the Pure Ivory’s second leg for the fillies, also at $20k. One of the only true sire competitors for Cantab Hall has been Kadabra. We’ve followed his frosh fillies for as long as they have represented him. The Kadabra filly in this split is Magic Beauty. The Cantab Hall filly here is Keystone Cecilia.
The other Pure Ivory division offers a single Kadabra entry worthy of backing—Tymal Hocus Pocus. Meg Crone, who is obviously acquainted with the sire percentages that prove the strong views for winning, trains both Kadabra fillies.
HAMBLETONIAN DAY FEATURES
The $90k Shady Daisy (soph-filly pacers) leads the Aug. 8 Meadowlands parade of stakes. Only five entered and one of them is obviously the best in the division. Reflect With Me has been aglow for Tony Alagna, winning three straight among her piers with ease. Oddly enough, Alagna’s other entry, Lady Lou, would be the only viable chance for a price in an upset and the best payoff in an exacta.
DR. JOHN BLUES
For $166k, mare trotters battle in the Dr. John Steele Memorial. It’s a race where five staunch femmes ask the question, “What can any of us do to beat Manchego?” Of the quintet, we could be courageous and try for what should be an under-supporting entry. Now being trained in the Brett Pelling “comeback stable,” When Dovescry could out-maneuver Manchego. That’s our pitch.
The bulk of this frosh-filly trotting reward comes out of the $350k purse. Some of these gals may never race for a purse like this again. Material Girl is not one of them. We backed her in an elim and she came on late at 5-1, looking good despite being assisted by the favorite, stablemate Altar, overcoming early interference but weary and breaking late. Per Engblom trains both but we will go with his stable’s co-star, Material Girl.
THE SAM MILE
Named after our ill-fated cohort, race-caller Sam McKee, the $229k event for older pacers is usually a blazing mile. It’s also a crowded one, with 10 stalwart males four-years-old and up. Bettors’ eyes will be on Dancin Lou and M-lands Pace winner Hurrikane Emperor. Both can be played against, using None Bettor A. His recent two races finished off the board but are not embarrassing, nor are they a clear interpretation of his talent. He will certainly go off higher than his chances and will pay well if he finally paces his utter best.
Perhaps next year’s Hambletonian hero is in the field of the $339k Peter Haughton Memorial? Last year’s winner and Hambo hopeful, Real Cool Sam, entered and exited his soph campaign with no excuses except a pair of miserable performances. This season, in the stake’s solo elim, we went with the French sire’s product, out of a Muscle Hill mare—Venerate. She turned out to be the favorite in that race but finished third. The Julie Miller colt is only in his third race and should show the blue in his blood here and may do so at a better price than last week.
Familiar older trotters return for this year’s $284k John Cashman Memorial. The goal by most of them is to beat Gimpanzee. Our readers know that Gimpanzee was my favorite of last year’s Melander trio. It was a long wait until we nailed him at a great price in the Breeders Crown final. but to see him return and rule the division, while Greenshoe, everyone else’s favorite, lost the biggest two races of his season (Hambo and “Crown”) only to run [sic] off and retire, is gratifying. It is not very profitable, though, because Gimpanzee seems to have no regard for struggling in a mile against any moving creature. It’s wonderful to watch him, though, so use him as an exotic key and try to figure the best of the rest behind him.
A CANE MUTINY
Tall Dark Stranger was stunned like any pacer from a trip like he had in the Tompkins-Geers last week when Captain Kirk took advantage of an easier path. What then of the $273 Cane Pace? A case for a speed duel is a good one and that certainly leaves open the possibility for a Chief Mate upset. Alagna’s colt was ignored at 53-1 in the Adios Final and although he had some luck when Sweet Truth broke (he, too, was on foot to charge late) Chief Mate devoured everyone except the winner, Catch The Fire. Chief Mate was unexplainably removed from the M-Pace and took on the Adios where last week he showed he belongs in this class. I like the speed-burning scenario that gave the race to Dealt A Winner in 2015 to be the model for an upset by Chief Mate.
HAMBLETONIAN OAKS 2020
With the best of this division poised to put the boys in their places; the $600k “Oaks” becomes a betting race. Trainer Jim Campbell’s major disappointment in his colt, Real Cool Sam (the winter-book favorite to win the Hambletonian was a miserable entry into the soph division, recording two alarming failures) could be softened with an Oaks win from his filly, Next Level Stuff.
The blue-blooded daughter of the ill-fated sire Sebastian K S (from the Cantab Hall mare Nantab) has climbed the class ladder at three to become a major threat to post-Ramona Hill trotters in the division. Her only loss was a tough trip that got her the place money by a blink of the eye. “Stuff” may have the stuff needed to dismiss Hypnotic AM, Melander’s filly that will get plenty of the crowd’s money to win. Stuff need not even improve to win this—she may be that good, and she may offer a price that is the kind of stuff a bettor cannot pass.
This year the Hambletonian takes the forefront of the Aug. 8 Meadowlands program sans elimination heats. Last week’s two elim races were definitive and the week between them only makes the final more settling to address for bettors.
Disregarding the obvious bias we have had for Ramona Hill since our confidence in her prior to a huge Breeders Crown win at two, and through this ragged season when she continued to be a bettor’s dream overlay, her appearance in the August classic against the boys (and another filly) is impossible to pass up as the winner. This means she will go off at odds better than her chances, as she has consistently.
Three weeks back she was a huge overlay in the Del Miller. We backed her again and she delivered with an $18-plus win mutuel that should have been even money. It proved the impotence of outside posts for superior horseflesh (she not only left and took the lead, she let another gain the top and took over again, only to draw away from her division’s best).
Then she showed up in a Hambo elim against the boys. This time at 6-5, she was next to last leaving and content to stay there until a three-wide move at three-quarters, when she launched one of the most stunning closing moves my generation of harness racing bettors has witnessed (mind you, my generation dates back to before there was a Meadowlands). That victory made 6-5 look like 100-1 against some of the sharpest colts in the crop.
Ramona Hill needs no other auditions for defeating the colts in the 2020 Hambletonian. Our imaginations cannot conjure how she could lose control of the track or her talents on it to in the final.
Of the two other contenders we feel could share exotic tickets behind her, we include Ready For Moni.
In our top-five soph-trotting colts of 2020 blog (during the hiatus), Ready For Moni was tied for number five. Our number-two choice was Capricornus, who made the Hambo final with more luck than muscle. The others, especially the top choice, Beyond Kronos, were enormously inaccurate.
The third major contender is Back Of The Neck. In a battle for place and show, the nod of a head or blink of an eye may separate this colt from Ready For Moni but Ready For Moni seems to be peaking and is the better candidate for a cold exacta.
Review our choices and confirm the wagers available at the prescribed track. H2W offers possible contenders researched from reviewing races. Horses’ names are listed beneath the name of the track with the date of their race and the race number (R6 ) follows. If a + is in front of a horse’s name, it appears on the list for the second time (horses are listed twice only if, at first, they failed to win. An “ae” signals also-eligible. Types of wagers to make are based on your judgment.
8/8/20, Do Over Hanover R9; Beckarama R11
8/7/20, Canthelpbutwin R4; +Illini Force R11; Straight Munro R11
8/7/20, Meant Tobe Shooter R5; +Ballerat Boomerang R9
8/7/20, Sherry Lyns Lady R6; Play Trix On Me R10
8/8/20, US Captain R1; +Beyond Kronos R5
8/8/20, +Rock On Line R1; +Surf The Web R6; +Wild Wild Western R7; K Ryan Bluechip R13
8/8/20, +Special Luke R14
8/6/20, +Last Gunfighter R10
8/7/20, +Flashy Dude R14
8/6/20, +Rock Diamonds N R5
8/7/20, Olympic Goal R4
8/8/20, , +Catch My Shadow R5
8/8/20, Trouble Times Two R1; Mapua Magic Ten R2
8/7/20, Weslynn Quest R11
8/7/20, Some Royalty R1; +Dotheboogaloolindy R3
8/8/20, +Flight Again R2; Intuitive Writer R3; Bettor Jet R8; Skip Jive R12
8/6/20, Mach Time N R6; Dark Energy N ae R9
8/7/20, Dark Energy N R6
8/10/20, Walks Of Life R9