Reaching the Hambletonian is gratifying. Winning your Hambletonian elimination and going off the favorite in the final is a major thrill. Getting parked every step in that final — and still losing by only 1-1/4 lengths — is the pits.
That’s what Crystal Fashion, trainer Jim Campbell and owner Jules Siegel of Fashion Farms endured. Yet they’ve climbed out of the pit and regrouped, and they’ll lead the field in Wednesday’s (Aug. 22) Hickory Smoke, a $167,288 Pennsylvania Sires Stake for 3-year-old colt and gelding trotters, at The Meadows.
Crystal Fashion leaves from the rail in the first race, with Tim Tetrick aboard. Wednesday’s card also features a $40,000 PA Stallion Series stake for sophomore colt and gelding trotters. First post is 1:05 p.m.
Campbell didn’t allow himself the luxury of time off following the bitter Hambletonian defeat.
"When you win the first heat, you’re all pumped up and hoping for the best," he says. "It’s all very exciting to be in that race, and when you win one of the divisions, it gets you fired up. But we’ve continued to race at a number of tracks. This is the time of year you want to be busy."
Crystal Fashion, however, did enjoy a breather.
"I didn’t think two heats would bother him, but he was obviously much better in the first heat that he was in the second," Campbell said. " We gave him lots of time to come back from it. He seems good now, and he doesn’t require a lot of training.
"We could have gone to the Zweig with him, but Jules and I decided to give him an extra few days and get some points for the sires stake final."
The Cantab Hall-Window Willow gelding, who has banked $645,252 for Fashion Farms, currently is tied for third in PASS points. With only five others in the Top 15 in the Hickory Smoke, Crystal Fashion seems a likely finalist.
Campbell also will send out Muscle M Up (race four, post six, Tetrick), a Muscle Hill-Fashion Athena colt making his PASS debut.
"Early on, we thought he was our best 2-year-old," Campbell says. ""But there’s a dark cloud over him. At first he was more immature than anything else. Then he bled. Then he got sick a couple times. He’s had a good week, but he doesn’t have a lot of racing under his belt." (The Meadows)