Hannelore looks for record win in Armbro Flight
June 14, 2018
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The 2016 Armbro Flight Stakes can be looked upon as Hannelore Hanover's coming-out party, and in the two years that followed she went from an intriguing newcomer among older female trotters to the sport's reigning queen.
Hannelore Hanover was a star on the Indiana circuit at ages 2 and 3, but eight races into her 4-year-old campaign made her presence felt on the Grand Circuit by winning the Armbro Flight by 6 1/2 lengths in 1:51, still the fastest mile ever by a female trotter in Canada. The next week she made her first appearance in harness racing's weekly Top 10 poll and has remained a fixture in the rankings ever since.
Last year, Hannelore Hanover captured Horse of the Year honors in both the U.S. and Canada. On Saturday, she goes for an unprecedented third consecutive win in the Armbo Flight when she faces nine rivals in the $250,000 race for older female trotters at Woodbine Mohawk Park. The 6-year-old mare, unbeaten in three starts this season, is the 2-5 morning-line favorite.
Since the beginning of her 4-year-old season, the Ron Burke-trained Hannelore Hanover has won 30 of 40 races and finished worse than second only three times.
"She just shows up every week and puts in a great effort," said Frank Baldachino, who owns Hannelore Hanover with the Burke Racing Stable, the Weaver Bruscemi partnership, and J&T Silva Stables. "You kind of get spoiled after a while. She's just all racehorse; all business when she goes on the track. Hopefully this week she'll be all business again."
Named in honor of renowned German amateur driver Hannelore Würzinger, Hannelore Hanover is a daughter of Swan For All out of High Sobriety. She was purchased for $32,000 at the 2013 Standardbred Horse Sale and has subsequently earned $2.58 million on the racetrack. Her family includes Mack Lobell, who is joined by Moni Maker as the only two-time Dan Patch Award Horse of the Year honorees in the past 35 years.
Hannelore Hanover, who was the first trotting mare since Moni Maker in 1999 to receive Horse of the Year honors in the U.S., will have the chance to duplicate their accomplishment this year.
"Buying her as a baby we had limited expectations, hoping we had a nice Indiana Sire Stakes horse," Baldachino said. "For her to achieve the success she's had over the last two years is pretty amazing. You never think about that. Then when you get to this level everybody is gunning for you now, trying to knock you off that level, but she just keeps maintaining it. That's what is pretty special."
Hannelore Hanover and driver Yannick Gingras defeated male rivals multiple times last year, most notably in the finals of the Breeders Crown Open Trot and Maple Leaf Trot, as well as in the Allerage Farms Open Trot. She became the fastest female trotter in history when she won the Allerage in 1:49.2 at Lexington's Red Mile and was the first mare to beat the boys in the Breeders Crown Open Trot since Moni Maker in 1998.
She finished last season with a win in the TVG Series championship for trotting mares and brings a six-race win streak to Saturday's Armbro Flight. Hannelore Hanover's victories this season include the Cutler Memorial at the Meadowlands, a track-record-equaling triumph in a division of the Great Northeast Open Series at Harrah's Philadelphia, and a 5 1/2-length win in 1:52 in her Armbro Flight elimination.
"It's been awesome; I couldn't be happier," Baldachino said about the start of the season, which has seen Hannelore Hanover push her career record to 39 wins in 61 races. "She looks great, she's got a great way of going, Yannick's happy with her, Ronnie's happy with her -- we're all happy with her."
Hannelore Hanover and Gingras start the Armbro Flight from post No. 5. The field also includes Emoticon Hanover, who also won an Armbro Flight elimination and handed Hannelore Hanover one of her losses in 2017 with a world-record mile in the Joie De Vie Stakes at Tioga Downs, and stakes-winners Celebrity Ruth, Caprice Hill, Dream Together, and Ice Attraction. Emoticon Hanover and Dream Together are both trained by Luc Blais.
"(Hannelore Hanover) looks great, but Emoticon Hanover is a great horse, too, and there are other nice horses in there," Baldachino said. "All her main competitors are inside of her. I don't think they're just going to let her waltz to the lead and cut her own fractions. There's an entry in there and there could be some horses mixing it up early, so we'll see. Hopefully Yannick gets her in the right spot. We leave it up to him." (Ken Weingartner/USTA)