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Can Lightning Strike Twice?

Saturday, July 28, 2012

 Can Lightning Strike Twice? 

(Jay Bergman for Hambletonian Society/Meadowlands) 

  

In harness racing, the answer is a profound yes. 

  

When 2007 Hambletonian winner Donato Hanover retired to stud there were countless breeders with mares hoping to connect to the outstanding colt and create the next Hambletonian winner. Lightning Storm is among five Donato Hanover colts with an opportunity to win the sport’s most coveted prize. The quest begins on Saturday in three $70,000 elimination heats. 

  

Lightning Storm is a colt bred by Donato Hanover’s trainer, Steve Elliott, who clearly wanted to capitalize on a free breeding to his star. Elliott purchased Lightning Flower, Lightning Storm’s dam in 2008. He bred her to Donato Hanover and then sold the mare in foal to this year’s Hambletonian contender at year’s end. 

  

Purchased for $90,000 at the Lexington Selected Sale in the fall of 2010, Lightning Storm will be making just his 11th career start from post one in the sixth race, the second Hambletonian elimination, at the Meadowlands on Saturday. 

  

“He had some baby soreness last year and we quit early with him,” said trainer Jonas Czernyson. 

  

The colt trained back strongly over the winter and came out with a wild abandon in the late spring. Lightning Storm showed hints of his dad with a 1:53.3, 10-length victory from post nine in his season’s debut on May 25 at the Meadowlands. He followed that up with a similar victory from post ten on June 8 before moving on to stakes competition at Mohegan Sun at Pocono. 

  

Lightning Storm didn’t fare as well finishing fourth in the Beal eliminations and then breaking in the $500,000 final on June 23. 

  

Czernyson said, “He was bearing out in the turn and we have made the adjustment,” in regard to the miscue at Pocono. 

  

Lightning Storm showed he belongs at the top level with a solid third place finish in the Reynolds at the Meadowlands on July 7. That was his first start with John Campbell at the lines. 

  

In Lightning Storm’s final tune-up for the Big Dance he blasted to the front in a $99,438 Pennsylvania Sire Stakes event at Pocono before releasing Stormin Normand. The air went around the track one-two with Lightning Storm losing a scant nose in the 1:52.4 mile. 

  

“We’ve been pointing for this race,” said Czernyson who sends out three fillies in the Hambletonian Oaks including Check Me Out conqueror Maven and the record-setting Holier Than Thou, a recent impressive winner in Pennsylvania Sire Stakes action at Pocono. 

  

The Keystone State is extremely well represented in this year’s Hambletonian with 13 of the 25 colts named by Pennsylvania stallions. 

  

Czernyson seemed extremely happy of getting and retaining six-time Hambletonian winning driver John Campbell for Lightning Storm. 

  

While the rail may be a good place for Lightning Storm to start, the colt may be up against the most formidable division of the three. Stormin Normand starts directly outside of him. That colt has been no worse than second in 12 career starts but will be racing without Lasix for the first time this year. 

  

Beer Summit has also shown high-class ability with a victory in the Goodtimes at Mohawk to his credit this year. Last year’s winning Hambo driver George Brennan will guide him. 

  

It’s also hard to count out trainer Jeff Gillis’ Knows Nothing, a recent Canadian Breeders champion and the undefeated and untested sophomore Riccolo in this division. 

  

“He’s trained very well for this race,” said Czernyson quite confident that Lightning Storm will show up on Saturday. 

  

A lightning storm interfered with the racing program this past Thursday at the Meadowlands.  Owner Thomas Dillon and his new partner Muscara Racing Trust hope their “Storm” can disrupt the ambitions of seven rivals on Saturday and earn a berth in the $1.5 million Hambletonian on August 4. 

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