Evident Beauty heads to Oaks off Miller victory
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Before trainer Jimmy Takter went on his record run of five consecutive Hambletonian Oaks wins, Richard “Nifty” Norman posted back-to-back victories in the sport’s premier race for 3-year-old filly trotters. Norman could become only the fourth trainer in history to collect three trophies if all goes well for Evident Beauty the next two weekends.
“This is the race you circle on the calendar,” Norman said. “These next two weeks are the weeks you want to race your horses at the Meadowlands; it’s something to look forward to.
“We’re here, we’ll just let the chips fall where they may.”
Evident Beauty was among 19 horses entered in the Hambletonian Oaks at The Meadowlands. Two $50,000 eliminations will be contested Saturday with the top-five finishers from each division returning on Aug. 3 for the $500,000 final. Elimination winners will draw for posts one through five for the final.
The first Oaks elimination features four of the five fastest 3-year-old filly trotters of the season: Millies Possesion (1:51.1), Seaside Bliss (1:51.4), Golden Tricks (1:52.2) and Evident Beauty (1:52.3). The remaining horse in the quintet, The Ice Dutchess (1:52), is in the second elimination.
Evident Beauty has won four of five races this year and seven of 14 lifetime, missing the board only twice in her career. Her victories this season include the New Jersey Sires Stakes final and a division of the Delvin Miller Memorial, which came in her most recent start on July 13, also at the Meadowlands.
“Everything has gone to plan so far,” said Norman, who trains the filly for owners Mel Hartman, Jeff Gural’s Little E LLC, and Wayne Giles’ R A W Equine Inc. “Hopefully we get to race two weeks in a row here. She seems good, she’s been good all year, so we’ll hope she’s still good.”
Evident Beauty showed a new aspect to her game in the Miller, leading for much of the way in her neck triumph over Cloud Nine Fashion. It was only the second time in her career that she led a race prior to the stretch.
“Obviously, that’s not her forte; she’s better from off a helmet,” Norman said. “That’s her go really. She loves to chase a horse down. But then the fact she was able to leave the race before, she showed she could race either way, so I think that’s a big help.
“She’s a good honest horse, hardly ever makes a mistake. I wouldn’t swap her for anybody.”
Norman won his previous Oaks finals with Bee A Magician in 2013 and Personal Style in 2012. The only trainers with more than two Hambletonian Oaks wins are Takter (eight), Jan Johnson (six), and Glen Garnsey (three).
Millies Possesion, who was unraced at age 2, heads to the first elimination undefeated in seven lifetime races. She is trained by Jim Campbell, who won the 2009 Hambletonian Oaks with Broadway Schooner. Another Oaks winning trainer, recent Hall of Fame inductee Joe Holloway, sends out Starita, also in the first elim.
“I’m very impressed with Jim Campbell’s horse,” Norman said. “She’s come from zero to hero. She probably looks like the best filly in the country at the moment. I like mine because she can race first-over, in the front, from the back, and (Millies Possesion) is the same. She looks like she can do it any way.”
Rounding out the first elimination are Asiago, Sonnet Grace, Queen Of Trixs, and Grimmie Hanover.
“Someone good is probably going to miss out,” Norman said. “It’s a very strong division. It might be good for (Evident Beauty) in a way because they might race a little bit harder and that’s right up her alley. You can’t win from the outside (posts) if you get back. They’re good horses and I’m sure they’re going to be heading out of there. It could be a real tough race.”
The second elimination features The Ice Dutchess, who won two of last season’s most lucrative stakes for 2-year-old filly trotters, the Jim Doherty Memorial and Peaceful Way. She was trained by Takter, who retired at the end of last season, and is now in the stable of Nancy Johansson.
In addition, the group includes 2018 Matron Stakes winner When Dovescry and open stakes winners Cloud Nine Fashion and Princess Deo. (Ken Weingartner/USTA)