Hambletonian 2013

America's Greatest Trotting Race

Hambletonian Greatest Moment #3

3. Walter Cox and his Four Aces

Walter Cox was known throughout harness racing as “Longshot” for his uncanny habit of winning with outsiders. But in the 1929 Hambo, Cox held all the aces and the rival horses were the outsiders.

That’s because half of the eight starters in the Hambletonian were trained by Cox. In a show of domination that has never been equaled, his horses took home the first four places in the race. The purse was $60,309 and Cox’s quartet pocketed $58,309.

Under the prevailing rules, Cox’s horses had to be assigned to other trainers before the race, but everyone knew that each horse carried a “Made by Walter Cox” label.

This Hambletonian was contested at Lexington because it had been rained out during the New York State Fair program. Cox understandably picked the best of his four aces to drive himself. That was Walter Dear. It was thought that Volomite might give his stablemate some competition, but Walter Dear was much the best. Volomite finished 2-2 while Sir Guy Mac and the filly Miss Woerner took third and fourth monies.

Walter Dear later went to Europe and won the prestigious Prix d’Amerique in France in 1934, but disappeared during  World War II and his whereabouts was never discovered. Volomite retired after his sophomore season and spent his stud career at Walnut Hall Farm, where he became the most influential stallion of the 20th century, siring champion trotters and pacers.

Catch this year’s Hambletonian on August 3rd starting at 3pm ET on CBS Sports Network (check here for channel and availability in your area). A live streaming broadcast can also be viewed here and all the pre-, during, and post-race action can be followed on FacebookTwitter and Instagram. .

Hambletonian Greatest Moment #4

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4. Mack Lobell’s margin greatest in Hambo history

Mack Lobell had so much speed that he often didn’t have to try hard to win races.

There were times when Mack surged ahead of his rivals and then simply lost interest since he found himself without competition. But when Mack Lobell brought his “A game” to the track, the other horses should have stayed in their stalls. They were racing for second place.

Mack was understandably the heavy favorite coming into the ’87 Hambo.

Sharp-eyed observers noticed, however, that Mack actually shifted into a pace prior to the start of his elimination heat. That was perhaps a bad omen. But when Mack  got behind the gate, he was all business. That meant it was hopeless to catch him as he trotted the fastest mile ever (1:54) in Hambletonian history.

But Mack broke into a gallop past the wire in that opening heat  and driver John Campbell and trainer Chuck Sylvester knew that the colt’s feet were stinging him. So they added pads for the second heat.

Again, the race itself was no contest. But if Mack could’ve talked as he trotted down the homestretch, he might well have said, “Feets, don’t fail me now.”

His feet didn’t fail Mack until a step or two beyond the finish when he again broke into a gallop.

Still, the victory was assured and Mack’s margin was 6-3/4 lengths, the largest winning margin in Hambletonian history.  His time of 1:53.3 lowered the Hambletonian record he’d set an hour earlier.

Catch this year’s Hambletonian on August 3rd starting at 3pm ET on CBS Sports Network (check here for channel and availability in your area). A live streaming broadcast can also be viewed here and all the pre-, during, and post-race action can be followed on FacebookTwitter and Instagram

 

Hambletonian Greatest Moment #5

5.  Continentalvictory becomes the 13th filly to beat the boys

The Hambletonian always has its share of drama simply because of its importance and its prestige in the world of trotting. But when a filly decides to challenge the colts in the big event, the Hambo takes on even greater appeal.

Females racing in the Hambletonian were plentiful in the race’s early decades because they had no comparable event restricted to fillies. In 1971 the Hambletonian Oaks was created to give the girls a race of their own. That caused a drop in the number of fillies entering the “open” division and only one filly (Duenna) won the open Hambletonian for the next 25 years.

In 1996, a supersonic lass named Continentalvictory showed that she had the right stuff to challenge the boys. She won her Hambo elimination heat in a sensational 1:52.1, setting up a second heat challenge with Lindy Lane, the other elimination winner.

Driver Mike Lachance sent Continentalvictory to the front at the start of the second heat and Bill O’Donnell tucked Lindy Lane behind her. In the stretch, Lindy Lane launched his attack and what ensued was one of the epic homestretch duels of all time. But the filly was not to be denied and she refused to be caught. Continentalvictory was the queen.

No filly has won the Hambletonian since 1996.

Catch this year’s Hambletonian on August 3rd starting at 3 pm on CBS Sports Network (check here for channel and availability in your area). A live streaming broadcast can also be view here and all the pre-, during, and post-race action can be followed on FacebookTwitter and Instagram

Hambletonian Greatest Moment #6

6. Guy McKinney wins a jackpot in the first Hambletonian

The Hambletonian was the brainchild of Harry Reno, a trotting fancier from Chicago who decided in the early 1920s that there should be a grand stake for 3-year-old trotters to showcase harness racing. When Reno got an idea, it was advisable to step aside and let him have his way.

He found supporters for his grand plan for this new race and soon his dream seemed like it might come true. One thing he didn’t have was a name. At a meeting in Chicago, John Bauer, publisher of The Horse Review, was seated in front of a portrait of Hambletonian and said, “Let’s call it the Hambletonian.” And so it was.

Reno didn’t know how well his idea would be supported by breeders and owners. They would have to pay in money—-lots of money—-to build the purse for the new race. They had no assurance of getting any money back.

The purse of the inaugural Hambletonian reached $73,451, surpassing Reno’s expectations. (He had also started the richest race for pacers but its purse was only $25,000.) Earlier that year, the Kentucky Derby carried a purse of only $60,075. The huge Hambletonian purse got the attention of the nation’s sports reporters. Surely any horse race offering that much money (comparable to $930,000 today) was newsworthy. No pacing event even came close to the Hambletonian’s purse. The winning trotter Guy McKinney took home $45,816 for his owner and the Hambletonian was an instant classic with immediate prestige.

The Depression and World War II years took a toll on harness racing and it wasn’t until 1950 that the Hambletonian purse surpassed what was offered in 1926.

Catch this year’s Hambletonian on August 3rd starting at 3 pm on CBS Sports Network (check here for channel and availability in your area). A live streaming broadcast can also be view here and all the pre-, during, and post-race action can be followed on FacebookTwitter and Instagram