If people think of the chances of owning a Hambletonian-winning horse as one in a million, Chuck Sylvester at least has a colt with the right name to be successful.
Sylvester trains and is among the owners of 3-year-old colt trotter One In A Million, who enters this weekend's final stakes prep for the upcoming Hambletonian off a career-best 1:53.3 win in a non-stakes event on July 6.
On Saturday, One In A Million will face seven rivals in the second of two divisions of the Stanley Dancer Memorial Stakes at the Meadowlands Racetrack. One In A Million, with Brian Sears listed to drive, drew post eight in a field that includes world champion Googoo Gaagaa and 2-year-old divisional champ.
One In A Million, who saw his 2-year-old campaign cut short by injury, has won two of three races this season and will be competing in stakes action for the first time this year. In 2011, he won three of five starts, including the American-National Stakes.
All of One In A Million's races this year, including two qualifiers, have been at the Meadowlands, which hosts the Hambletonian eliminations on July 28 and the $1.5 million Hambletonian final on August 4. Sylvester is a four-time winner of the Hambletonian and could join Billy Haughton, Stanley Dancer and Ben White as the only trainers with five victories in the classic.
"We're right on schedule as far as we're concerned,” Sylvester said. "I didn't want to race him anywhere but on a mile track prior to the Hambletonian; the horse only had five starts last year so I wanted to keep him here and give him some experience. He's doing everything we've asked of him so far. Saturday will be a good test.”
One In A Million was purchased as a yearling for $200,000 at the Lexington Selected Sale. A son of Donato Hanover out of the mare Mom's Millionaire, he is a half-brother to 2007 divisional champion filly trotter Snow White, who still holds the world record (1:52.4) for the fastest mile ever by a 2-year-old trotter.
"He's bred to be a good horse and he's got plenty of talent,” said Sylvester, who owns the colt with Neal Goldman and Amy Lynn Stoltzfus (as SGS Partners) along with Melvin Hartman, Perretti Racing Stable and KR Breeding. "I don't think we're close to the bottom yet, I can tell you that. He takes care of himself. It's just a matter of putting it all together.”
One In A Million won three of his first four races before suffering a foot injury while finishing last in a division of the Bluegrass Stakes at Lexington's Red Mile in September.
"Last year, we started him up late and he was racing good,” Sylvester said. "In Kentucky he got in an accident and cut his left front foot and that was the end of him for the year. We planned on racing him three or four more times last year and unfortunately he didn't get to race. We gave him the time off and right now everything is good.
"He's still a green horse, but he's learning how to race more every week. We're in a good spot right now, I think.”
In his most recent start, One In A Million and Sears went to the front from post seven, yielded the lead to Quit Smoking Now at the halfway point, and then reclaimed the advantage by the top of the stretch on his way to a 3-1/2 length victory.
"That's the first time we ever left with him,” Sylvester said. "He was good and came out of it good. I really think we're ready for this week.”
The Dancer will be a test, with stakes-winners Gym Tan Laundry, Guccio, Money On My Mind, Possess The Will, Little Brown Fox, and Googoo Gaagaa in One In A Million's division. All are eligible to the Hambletonian with the exception of Googoo Gaagaa, who trotted history's fastest mile on a five-eighths track (1:50.4) in winning the Beal Memorial on June 23 at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs but uncharacteristically went off stride twice in last week's Yonkers Trot at Yonkers Raceway.
"He can go with them,” Sylvester said about One In A Million, adding, "If anybody in that race can beat Googoo Gaagaa, they'll be the favorite for the Hambo.” (Harness Racing Communications)