Crystal Fashion has played a big role in what has already been a memorable year for Jules Siegel and Jim Campbell. He could add to those memories in a big way Saturday. The stakes-winning colt is one of three horses for owner Siegel and trainer Campbell in Saturday’s $1.2 million Hambletonian at The Meadowlands Racetrack.
Siegel, the owner of Fashion Farms in New Hope, Pa., was inducted into the Harness Racing Hall of Fame on July 1. Less than 24 hours earlier, Crystal Fashion had won the Earl Beal Jr. Memorial and stamped himself a top Hambletonian contender.
"It was a very exciting weekend," Campbell said. "We were all so happy for Jules to be in the Hall of Fame. He rightfully deserves to be in there, and to have that weekend the way it was with Crystal winning the Beal and Jules going into the Hall of Fame, it was just a great and exciting weekend."
Siegel and Campbell teamed to win the 1995 Hambletonian, harness racing’s premier race for 3-year-old trotters, with Tagliabue. Crystal Fashion and stablemates Fashionwoodchopper and Patent Leather will try to provide a second.
Crystal Fashion is in the first of the event’s two $100,000 eliminations, with 5-2 morning-line favorite Wolfgang and 3-1 second choice Atlanta, who is the lone filly in the Hambletonian. Crystal Fashion, a son of Cantab Hall out of Window Willow, has won five of eight races this year and is 7-2 with driver Tim Tetrick. Two of the colt’s losses were by a nose.
The top-five finishers from each elimination return later in the day for the $1 million final, which is set for a 5:14 p.m. post time and will air live on CBS Sports Network during a 4-5:30 p.m. broadcast.
"He’s been great," Campbell said. "He hasn’t been any worse than second and has been a very dependable horse for us. He’s a little bit bigger (than last year) and carries his speed a little further."
Crystal Fashion brings a three-race win streak into his elimination. He was off for three weeks following the Beal before returning to win a Pennsylvania Sire Stakes division on July 20 and a Reynolds Memorial division on July 28.
"That was by design," Campbell said. "I didn’t want to have any more than two races before the Hambo after the Beal, so we raced him the one time at (Harrah's Philadelphia) and used (the Reynolds) as his final prep.
"I was very happy with the way he raced in the Reynolds. He’s a horse that doesn’t get too excited about too much, but as soon as Timmy moved him over in the lane he just put his head down and kept on going. He’s got a real nice way of going and I was very, very happy with him."
Fashionwoodchopper and Patent Leather are in the second elimination, starting side-by-side in posts one and two. Six Pack is the 2-1 morning-line favorite, with Fashionwoodchopper at 10-1 and Patent Leather at 15-1.
Crystal Fashion starts his elimination from post six.
"We got a really good draw," Campbell said. "We got a good place to start. Hopefully the colts all bring their ‘A’ game. We’re in it, we’re excited, and we’re ready to go."
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Marcus Melander also will send out multiple horses in the Hambletonian, with 2017 Dan Patch Award-winner Fourth Dimension at 10-1 in the second elimination and Evaluate at 15-1 in the first.
Fourth Dimension, owned by Unibet-founder Anders Strom’s Courant Inc., won eight of 11 races last year including the Valley Victory Stakes.
This year, Fourth Dimension made his seasonal debut with a second-place finish in a division of the New York Sire Stakes at Tioga Downs, and then went off stride in his elimination for the Earl Beal Jr. Memorial at Pocono. He also went off stride in his division of the Stanley Dancer Memorial on July 14 at the Meadowlands.
Fourth Dimension, a son of Chapter Seven out of Corazon Blue Chip, enters the Hambletonian off a 1:52.4 win in a qualifier on July 21 at the Meadowlands.
"I was very happy with his qualifier here, he was very good," trainer Marcus Melander said. "He did (1):52.4 very easily. I think he’s going to show a lot more in the Hambo. His season has been a little strange. First he was very good in his first start and then two breaks. It’s been a little weird.
"But he feels very good and I’m very happy how he feels. I think he’s very sharp and in good form. A lot of these horses that are good now maybe weren’t as good last year and they’ve caught up to him."
Melander attributed Fourth Dimension’s two breaks to equipment issues.
"It’s just been a little unlucky," Melander said. "I’m not worried about that."
Evaluate is owned by Melander’s uncle, Stefan Melander, who trained and drove 2001 Hambletonian winner Scarlet Knight. Evaluate, a son of Andover Hall out of Blathin, has won four of 11 career races and finished second four times.
"Of course, he is not one of the favorites, but he’s got some potential," Melander said. "With a good draw he’ll be right there."
Evaluate will be driven by Swedish Hall of Famer Örjan Kihlström, who already has two stakes wins at the Meadowlands in his career, capturing the 2014 Breeders Crown Open Trot with Commander Crowe and 2015 Fresh Yankee with D’One on Hambletonian Day. He drove Cruzado Dela Noche in his Hambletonian elimination in 2015, finishing ninth and failing to advance to the final.
He is perhaps best known internationally for his wins with Nuncio, Magic Tonight, and From Above in the Elitlopp and his win with Maharajah in the Prix d’Amerique. He also has driven stars such as Giant Diablo and Propulsion.
Kihlström’s most recent drive in the U.S. came in 2016 when he finished fourth with On Track Piraten in the Yonkers International Trot.
When he was elected to the Hall of Fame, Kihlström’s bio proclaimed: "Magic hands. Nerves of steel. Ice cold as few. He has the ability many want, but few possess."
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Lawmaker heads into Saturday’s first Hambletonian elimination off a win at the Meadowlands in a conditioned race. The colt has won three of 14 lifetime races, but has gotten a paycheck in all his biggest races to date: third in the Beal and fifth in the Goodtimes this year, and fourth in the William Wellwood Memorial and second in the Pennsylvania Sire Stakes championship last year.
"He’s doing really good," trainer Andrew Harris said. "He came out of his last race really good. I think he’s come full circle. He had a bit of a rough year starting out, he had some issues that needed to be worked on, but he finally got over those and all signs are pointing upwards. He is getting better and better every start. He was really good in the Beal, I was very happy with him in the Beal final.
"I think he’s a really, really nice horse. Whether he’s an Atlanta or a Wolfgang or any of those type horses, I don’t know yet. He’s proved he’s worth giving a shot to."
Lawmaker, who is 8-1 on the morning line, is by Muscle Massive out of Pretty Amigo. He is owned by the Anthony MacDonald-led fractional ownership group TheStable. MacDonald drove Lawmaker in his first 13 career races, winning two and hitting the board a total of 10 times, but weather-related travel issues forced him to miss the colt’s final Hambletonian prep on July 27. David Miller got the drive and won in 1:53.3.
MacDonald decided to keep Miller, a Hall of Famer who ranks No. 2 all time in purse money with $226 million, on board for the Hambletonian.
"As you can imagine, this was a very difficult decision for me, growing up watching the Hambletonian and dreaming of the day I got my shot," MacDonald said. "As a driver, I want to be the one on the gate…but as the co-owner of thestable.ca I have a much bigger responsibility to a huge group of people."
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. (Ken Weingartner/USTA)