Royalty For Life, Wheeling N Dealin and Corky are the favorites in the three Hambletonian eliminations on Saturday afternoon at The Meadowlands Racetrack.
The wide-open field of 23 was divided into three $70,000 heats. The top three finishers in each heat, along with the highest money-earner among the fourth place finishers, return later that afternoon for the $1 million final for 3-year-old trotters, the richest race in harness racing.
Unlike other heat races, the winner does not have to win twice on the same day. The winner of the final is the Hambletonian champion.
This marks the first time since 1996 that Hambletonian heats and final will be raced on the same afternoon.
In recent years, Hambletonian eliminations were held one week before the final.
Royalty For Life is the 8-5 favorite from post 8, the outside slot, in the first heat. He won the Stanley Dancer at the Meadowlands earlier this month and has captured his last two races. Brian Sears will drive for trainer George Ducharme.
Wheeling N Dealin, last season’s champion 2-year-old trotter, is the 2-1 favorite from the rail in the second elimination with eight starters. Sylvain Filion will be in the sulky for trainer Dustin Jones.
Seven line up for the third and final heat where Corky, winner of the Beal Memorial at Pocono Downs, is the 2-1 favorite from post 5 with David Miller at the lines for trainer Jimmy Takter.
Post time for the Hambletonian final is 4:41 p.m. Eastern. The live card starts at 11:50 a.m. The CBS Sports Network will present a 90-minute live telecast starting at 3:30 p.m.
This year’s Hambletonian lacks a clear standout, adding to the drama heading into Saturday.
Royalty For Life might get a slight nod as the overall favorite. After starting the season making costly breaks, Royalty For Life appears to have turned the corner in the nick of time.
“Now that he’s had a few more starts, he’s starting to behave himself,” Ducharme said. “I really believe we’re back on the right track. I think we’re headed on the right path.”
This will be Ducharme’s first Hambletonian starter.
Jimmy Takter is old Hambletonian hand, having already won the race twice with Malabar Man (1997) and Muscle Massive (2010). The Hall of Fame trainer sends out a starter in each heat: High Bridge (first), Dontyouforgetit (second) and Corky.
“Going into this race is always special,” Takter said. “This is what we’ve been working for.”
Chuck Sylvester can make history with Spider Blue Chip in the third heat.
Sylvester has already won four Hambos, one shy of the record held jointly by Billy Haughton, Stanley Dancer and Ben White.
John Campbell looks for more Hambletonian glory with Possessed Fashion in the third heat. Campbell has driven a record six Hambletonian winners.
Here are the full fields for the Hambletonian heats, in post position order:
Hambletonian Heat 1Punxsutawney, Smilin Eli, Dewycolorintheline, High Bridge, Super Classic, Dreams Of Thunder, E L Rocket and Royalty For Life.
Hambletonian Heat 2Wheeling N Dealin, Aperfectyankee, Your So Vain, Jacks To Open, Celebrity Maserati, Caveat Emptor,Dontyouforgetit and Creatine.
Hambletonian Heat 3Possessed Fashion, Murmur Hanover, Banco Solo, All Laid Out, Corky, Spider Blue Chip and Lauderdale.
Bee A Magician is the overwhelming 2-5 favorite in the $500,000 Hambletonian Oaks, the companion event for 3-year-old filly trotters.
She is a perfect 8 for 8 this year, and was an easy winner in last week’s Oaks eliminations. Bee A Magician starts from post 2 with Brian Sears driving for trainer Richard “Nifty” Norman, winner of last year’s Oaks with Personal Style in a 57-1 stunner.
Mistery Woman, winner of the other Oaks elimination, is the 9-2 second choice from post 4 with David Miller at the lines for trainer Jonas Czernyson.
Hambletonian Day will be the final live standardbred program contested before the original Meadowlands grandstand. The facility, witness to so much harness racing history, gets a grand sendoff with a stellar 15-race card that includes 14 stakes.
In addition to the Hambletonian and the Hambletonian Oaks, the spectacular lineup includes the $321,700 Merrie Annabelle for 2-year-old filly trotters; the
$318,350 John Cashman Memorial, formerly the Nat Ray, for older trotters; the $280,500 Peter Haughton Memorial for 2-year-old trotters; the $250,000 Anthony Abbatiello SBOA New Jersey Classic for 3-year-old pacers; the $217,100 Lady Liberty for Free-For-All pacing mares; the $213,650 U.S. Pacing Championship for Free-For-All pacers; the $125,000 Thomas D’Altrui SBOA Miss New Jersey for 3-year-old filly pacers; the $75,000 Vincennes Free-For-All trot and the $55,000 Ima Lula for 4-year-old trotting mares.
Fans can follow all the action at meadowlandsracetrack.com, Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr and on Twitter at #Hambo13.
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