Takter with 4 hopes for Hambletonian win No. 5
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Jimmy Takter has an idea of what to expect in Saturday’s 93rd Hambletonian at The Meadowlands.
Takter, who will send four horses into the sport’s grand event for 3-year-old trotters as he tries for a record-tying fifth win, said the Hambletonian is a race that rarely follows conventional wisdom.
Only five favorites have won the Hambletonian in the 21st century, and three came in the span of three years, 2007-2009, when future Hall of Famers Donato Hanover, Deweycheatumnhowe and Muscle Hill claimed the trophy. The other favorites to win were Royalty For Life in 2013 and Scarlet Knight in 2001. Ten winners during that span were at odds of more than 4-1.
"I think it’s going to be a (1):50 mile," Takter said about Saturday’s race. "But the Hambletonian, somehow, is not known to be a record-breaking day. I don’t know; maybe there is so much tension. That race never goes as you predict it will go. Always something happens in that race.
"It’s a lot of tension in that race. You can feel it. When you go out behind the gate, you see the drivers and they don’t have the same coolness in their face. That includes myself. The horses don’t know it, but the people do. People say to treat it just like another race, but it doesn’t work like that.
"But you’ve got to be cool and you’ve got to let the horse do the work."
Takter has the 5-2 morning-line favorite, Wolfgang, in the first of Saturday’s two $100,000 eliminations. The top-five finishers from each elimination return later in the day for the $1 million final.
Wolfgang is 3-for-3 this year, with wins in the Goodtimes Stakes and a division of the Stanley Dancer Memorial, but faces a field that includes the race’s lone filly, Atlanta, and Earl Beal Jr. Memorial winner Crystal Fashion. Atlanta is undefeated in five races this season and Crystal Fashion has been no worse than second in eight starts, with five victories.
"He’s very good," Takter said about Wolfgang. "I trained him a (1):56 mile here last Friday with a good last half and he felt awesome. You try to peak them as best you can.
"He’s been very good every start. He’s so professional. He’s most likely the most reliable horse I have in the Hambletonian this year."
Takter also has Zephyr Kronos, at 10-1, in the first elimination. The horse has won four of nine races this year. All of his victories came in conditioned races, but he was third in the Dancer division won by Wolfgang on July 14 and second in the Tompkins-Geers on July 21.
"He’s been a project, but I like the program we’ve set for him," Takter said. "I did not leave the Meadowlands. I was going to sit there and milk him in the (conditioned) class. The horse is coming in as good as I can have him. He’s a strong horse. He hasn’t really been down to the speed that it’s possible he’ll have to go, but he’s trotted a :54.2 last half so I know he has the speed. He’s kind of an interesting horse."
In the second elimination, where Six Pack is the 2-1 favorite, Taker sends out Tactical Landing (4-1) and You Know You Do (8-1).
Tactical Landing was purchased for $800,000 at the 2016 Lexington Selected Sale, the second-highest yearling price in harness racing history. The colt is a full brother to Mission Brief, the two-time Dan Patch Award-winner and multiple world-record-holding filly who finished second to Pinkman in the 2015 Hambletonian. He joined Takter’s stable in the spring after going off stride in his only two races at age 2.
The colt has won two of three races this year, but has yet to face open stakes company in his career.
"I don’t think two heats will bother him," Takter said. "He’s a low-pulsed horse; he recovers very well after races. His lack of experience might hurt him.
"He’s more a grinder type of horse. He doesn’t care if he’s outside. I like him. His last start, I felt comfortable with him. I felt I could trust him a little bit more. I think he has confidence. He’s a smart colt. If he wins this race it will be a remarkable story. I don’t think it’s impossible."
You Know You Do, last year’s Peter Haughton Memorial winner, has won six of 16 career races and enters the Hambletonian off a second-place finish behind Six Pack in their Dancer division.
"He’s a little sleeper," Takter said. "He’s also coming in I think in the right form. I feel optimistic about him. He’s a very gifted horse. And he’s got a good attitude, he’s not selling himself short. He’s a real fighter. He likes to be up in contention and if he gets a decent spot I wouldn’t rule him out."
Takter is tied with Chuck Sylvester for the second-most training wins in the Hambletonian. Billy Haughton, Stanley Dancer and Ben White share the record of five. Takter won the Hambletonian in 1997 with Malabar Man, 2010 with Muscle Massive, 2014 with Trixton, and 2015 with Pinkman. He drove Trixton to his victory.
The $1 million Hambletonian and $500,000 Hambletonian Oaks will be shown live from 4-5:30 p.m. (EDT) on CBS Sports Network. The stakes-filled Hambletonian Day card begins at noon.
Following are the fields for the Hambletonian eliminations.
Hambletonian Elimination One
PP-Driver –Trainer-Morning Line
1-Shoshie Deo-George Brennan-Dewayne Minor-10/1
2-Evaluate-Orjan Kihlstrom-Marcus Melander-15/1
3-Met’s Hall-Andy Miller-Julie Miller-10/1
4-Lawmaker-David Miller-Andrew Harris-8/1
5-Wolfgang-Yannick Gingras-Jimmy Takter-5/2
6-Crystal Fashion-Tim Tetrick-Jim Campbell-7/2
7-Atlanta-Scott Zeron-Rick Zeron-3/1
8-Hat Trick Habit-Brian Sears-Scott DiDomenico-12/1
9-Zephyr Kronos-Jimmy Takter-Jimmy Takter-10/1
Hambletonian Elimination Two
PP-Driver –Trainer-Morning Line
1-Fashionwoodchopper-David Miller-Jim Campbell-10/1
2-Patent Leather-Tim Tetrick-Jim Campbell-15/1
3-Classichap-Trond Smedshammer-Trond Smedshammer-6/1
4-Alarm Detector-Trevor Henry-Benoit Baillargeon-10/1
5-Fourth Dimension-Brian Sears-Marcus Melander-10/1
6-Southwind Chrome-Scott Zeron-Paula Wellwood-5/1
7-Tactical Landing-Jimmy Takter-Jimmy Takter-4/1
8-You Know You Do-Yannick Gingras-Jimmy Takter-8/1
9-Six Pack-Ake Svanstedt-Ake Svanstedt-2/1
Ken Weingartner for USTA