With high-level two-year-old credentials to build on, Murmur Hanover has license to be a serious Hambletonian contender for Quebec-based brothers, Claude Bardier, 48, and Normand Bardier, Jr., 50.
The $1.2 million Hambletonian at the Meadowlands Racetrack is on Saturday, August 3.
The colt by Majestic Son was a major force in the Ontario Sires Stakes program in 2012 for Mario and Benoit Baillargeon. He won two OSS Gold Finals, finished second to the top-rated Wheeling N Dealin in the $475,860 William Wellwood Memorial at Mohawk, and was third from post nine in the $600,000 Breeders Crown at Woodbine.
Murmur Hanover hit the board in nine of 14 starts, took a mark of 1:55.2, and earned $418,955, while racing exclusively in Canada for owner Richard Berthiaume of Point-Aux-Trembles, Quebec.
Berthaiume, who also owns millionaire pacing mare Voelz Hanover, Upfront Hoosierboy [$565,780] and Odysseus Blue Chip [$300,730], decided to make a stable change for 2013.
In 2000, Yankee Paco became the first Canadian-sired Hambletonian winner, being a son of the late Balanced Image. Balanced Image would strike again in 2003 when Amigo Hall paid $57.00 as the longest shot in Hambletonian history.
Now a colt from the first crop of another Ontario stallion, Majestic Son, has his sights set on the first Saturday in August.
“He’ll qualify soon, probably in two weeks,” said Claude Bardier. “He’s with us on our farm in Sainte-Anne-Des-Plaines, Quebec, about half an hour north of Montreal. The horse spent his entire Winter here and it went well.”
As a freshman, Murmur Hanover was an aggressive colt who needed to leave the gate his way before settling down. The $70,000 Harrisburg yearling purchase made breaks in three of his last four starts last year.
“After he made a break in the OSS Super Final [on November 10, 2012], he was given lots of time off over the Winter, two months, and we started back with him in February,” noted Bardier. “He’s had no physical nor sickness issues, and just had the needed time to mature.
“He’s still not an easy horse to train and deal with,” admitted Bardier. “He’s a bit, how you say, studdy, but we’ve been in 2:05 with him. After qualifying, he’ll go in an Ontario Sires Stakes Gold elimination at Mohawk on June 28. Hopefully, after that, if things go right, we’ll ship to the Meadowlands for the Stanley Dancer and Hambletonian.”
Understandably, the Bardiers have been keeping tabs on the competition, such as the undefeated Wheeling N Dealin, and Smilin Eli, who recently swept the three-week New Jersey Sires Stakes series at the Meadowlands.
“Yes, we’re a brother act just like the Minors, Deshawn and Dewayne, who have that good one, Smilin Eli. I’ve seen how impressive he is. Our good friend, Dustin Jones, trains Wheeling N Dealin, and he’ll be tough to deal with. My brother, Normand, myself, and the owner have had horses together for 30 years, and this is a dream horse for us.”
The Bardiers experienced some top level excitement with Quebec sensation Val Taurus, who went undefeated in 15 Quebec starts spread over two years in 2006 and 2007, and was crowned that province’s Horse of the Year at two and three.
“We had that very good Quebec-bred trotter by Taurus Dream, Val Taurus [1:53.2, $362,444]. He won a Canadian Trotting Classic elimination in 2007, yet unfortunately broke in the final.
“We’re going on five years there’s been no harness racing in Montreal, but we’re surviving. There is some racing now at Hippodrome Trois-Rivieres conducted by the Quebec Jockey Club for horses sired in Quebec. They have about 50 dates this year, and it’s about an hour and half from where we are. We break and train young horses we buy at sales like Harrisburg, two and three-year-olds, and ship them to the Toronto area to race.”
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