(Jay Bergman for Hambletonian Society/Meadowlands)
Uncle Peter made three authoritative moves in a most impressive victory in the first of three elimination heats for the $1.5 million Hambletonian contested Saturday night at the Meadowlands.
The top three finishers in each elimination, plus the richest fourth-place finisher overall advanced to the track’s marquee event for 3-year-old colt trotters to be raced Saturday, August 4.
Driver Ron Pierce settled Uncle Peter in third as Money On My Mind and Lindys Jersey Boy exchanged the early lead through a :27 4/5 first quarter. Moving down the backstretch Pierce called on his colt for speed and quickly displaced Lindys Jersey Boy.
As the field approached the halfway point driver Dave Miller, behind second choice Banker Volo, made a bold move towards the front with Pierce stinging him just a little before releasing him through the :55 3/5 half-mile clocking.
With Possess The Will, last year’s champion moving without cover on the final turn, Pierce pulled the pocket on the leader and quickly moved to contend with a three-quarters clocked in 1:24 4/5.
Uncle Peter put away Banker Volo in short order and awaited the competition to come. But it never did.
Money On My Mind and driver Andy Miller patiently waited inside for most of the race and angled across the track in early stretch. Money On My Mind responded with a solid late kick to nail down the place spot.
Third place finisher Prestidigitator had an even more eventful trip after arriving from Ontario. With Sylvain Filion in tow Prestidigitator was pushed wide through the opening turn and eventually settled in behind cover. He followed a very lethargic flow and was eventually forced to come extremely wide into the stretch. Despite the length of his journey the son of Kadabra closed stoutly for the show spot in the final berth.
Fourth place finisher Lindys Jersey Boy lacked the earnings to gain a final spot.
Sent off as the 3-5 favorite in the field of eight Uncle Peter returned $3.20 trotting his mile in 1:53 3/5.
It’s been a very big year for trainer Jeff Gillis. The Ontario-based conditioner will have another shot at the Hambletonian after Knows Nothing emerged with a victory in the second of the three Hambletonian eliminations. Knows Nothing, by Ontario sire Kadabra, posted a career best 1:53 1/5 mile as the 2-1 favorite.
The action was again hot and heavy leaving the gate with Beer Summit and driver George Brennan leaving sharply from post five and Riccolo surging early from post seven. Riccolo, undefeated in nine starts this year entering the race, worked to get the lead and passed the quarter in :27 flat.
One In A Million also tried to leave but was unable to find a hole and broke while vying with the pacesetter past the quarter.
Stormin Normand, the 3-1 second choice, got on the move without cover to press the pace before the half. With Dave Palone in the bike the colt worked his way towards the leader as the pace slowed to :56 2/5.
Stormin Normand and Riccolo waged battle through the three quarters reached in 1:25 3/5 with Beer Summit sitting in the pocket and Lightning Storm struggling to keep with his cover.
All along the favorite was sitting third on the rail waiting for the stretch and hoping to find room.
The room came rather quickly as Brennan and Beer Summit angled off the rail wide and Knows Nothing surged quickly between horses. What looked nearly impossible on the final turn suddenly became very easy with Knows Nothing trotting strongly to the front and drawing off by a length and a quarter.
Guccio and driver Jimmy Takter had been mired behind dull cover but the New Jersey-bred trotted powerfully for the second spot. My MVP sat last on the rail for most of the race but was able to rally wide into the stretch and finished stoutly to earn a berth.
Stormin Normand held fourth and grabbed a spot in the final based on superior earnings.
Jody Jamieson, the winning driver, will be looking for his first Hambletonian title as will trainer Jeff Gillis. The pair recently teamed to win the $750,000 Maple Leaf Trot at Mohawk with Mister Herbie. That four-year-old will be entered in the Nat Ray on Saturday, August 4 at the Meadowlands.
Knows Nothing has now won seven of his eight lifetime starts with his lone defeat coming in the Goodtimes at Mohawk.
The colorful Jamieson defended his driver sitting in third for much of the mile. “I’d watched Riccolo race last week and I was confident he was a good horse,” he said. “He’s done everything I’ve asked.”
Knows Nothing paid $6 to win.
Linda Toscano hopes to become the first woman trainer to win the Hambletonian next week. Her Market Share captured the third and fastest of the three eliminations scoring in a personal best 1:52 2/5 mile.
The third elimination offered the most activity in the first turn of the three as a host of horses vied for the early lead. Gym Tan Laundry moved to the lead first with George Brennan. There was a tight battle as Market Share and Little Brown Fox were two and three wide across the track, respectively. Between those two was Yonkers Trot winner Archangel, the second choice with Jim Morrill Jr. in the bike.
Market Share surged to the front past the swift :27 opening quarter and Morrill cagily filled the second lane keeping Little Brown Fox parked three wide. Morrill’s presence put added pressure on Little Brown Fox who in turn broke stride losing all chance.
Tetrick and Market Share readily yielded to Archangel as the pace slowed. Archangel backed down the pace and received only token pressure from longshot Big Chocolate as the pacesetter carved out middle half fractions of :55 4/5 and 1:25.
That left Archangel and Market Share clear of the field and ready for a sprint home.
The battle didn’t last very long as soon as Market Share and Tetrick tipped out and exploded past the leader and drew clear to a two and one-quarter lengths victory.
Archangel held well for the place spot with Gym Tan Laundry earning the final qualifying berth.
For trainer Toscano who’s Chapter Seven was in last year’s Hambletonian and will compete in the Nat Ray this year, the victory was sweet. “He’s a real honest horse that needs a trip.” On winning: “It’s a dream. An impossible dream,” she said.
Driver Tetrick credited the middle half fractions. “That helped brave him up,” he said.
The winner paid $8.20 for a $2 wager.
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