Hightstown, NJ — Hannelore Hanover enjoyed many big moments in many of harness racing’s biggest races during her illustrious career, but when co-owner Frank Baldachino looked back on the trotting mare’s accomplishments, it was her performance in an open handicap at The Meadowlands in July 2016 that came to the forefront.
Late on a Friday night, the then 4-year-old Hannelore Hanover faced older male rivals with Grand Circuit credentials for the first time since leaving her home state of Indiana. She went off stride just after completing the first quarter of the race but rallied down the stretch with a :26.1 final quarter to beat returning Dan Patch Award-winner JL Cruze by a half-length in a track-record-equaling 1:51.1.
“That just stands out as a great race to me,” Baldachino said Saturday night (Nov. 23) during Hannelore Hanover’s retirement ceremony at The Meadowlands following a third-place finish in the TVG Mare Trot. “It doesn’t get a lot of accolades, but it was a super mile. That’s when I knew she really, really arrived.”
That arrival in 2016 foreshadowed more great moments to come. She ended 2016 with 17 wins in 20 races and took home the Dan Patch Award for best older female trotter.
A year later, Hannelore Hanover became the fastest female trotter in history with a 1:49.2 win at Lexington’s Red Mile, beat the boys in both the Breeders Crown Open Trot and Maple Leaf Trot, and became the first trotting mare since Moni Maker in 1999 to be named U.S. Horse of the Year.
The 7-year-old Hannelore Hanover, by Swan For All out of High Sobriety, was trained by Ron Burke and finished her career with 46 wins in 87 starts and $3.06 million in purses. She was owned by Burke Racing Stable, Weaver Bruscemi, Baldachino, and J&T Silva Stables.
In addition to her Breeders Crown Open and Maple Leaf Trot victories, she won a Breeders Crown Mare Trot, a record three Armbro Flight finals, two TVG Mare Trot championships, the Hambletonian Maturity, Centaur Trotting Classic, Fresh Yankee, Cutler Memorial, Muscle Hill, Allerage Open Trot, and Miami Valley Distaff. She was an Indiana Sire Stakes champ at age 3.
“She’s a tremendous horse,” regular driver Yannick Gingras said. “She’s one of the best ones I’ve ever driven; she’s definitely right there at the top. What I really liked about her is that every time you went on the track you knew what you were going to get. You got behind her and you knew she was going to give you 110 percent. Most nights, 110 percent was enough.”
Gingras pointed to the 2017 Maple Leaf Trot win as his favorite.
“I had never won the Maple Leaf Trot before, and the year before we got beat right on the wire,” Gingras said. “I thought maybe we could have won it that year and (it was great) to come back the following year and win it. It was a dominant year for her. If I had to pick one race, it would definitely be my favorite.”
Hannelore Hanover’s 1:49.2 win in the 2017 Allerage Open Trot was not far from the top, either.
“That’s right up there too,” Gingras said. “She had so many great performances, it’s hard to pinpoint one or two or three. She’s been a pleasure all throughout.”
Added Baldachino about her 1:49.2 mile, “She was the first mare to ever go under 1:50 and they can never take that away from her. That’s pretty special.”
Hannelore Hanover, named in honor of top female amateur driver Hannelore Würzinger of Germany, was bred by Hanover Shoe Farms and will return there to begin her broodmare career. She will be bred to Greenshoe in 2020.
“We have a great business relationship with Hanover Shoe Farms, and it was just the right fit for her to go back home and start her broodmare career,” Baldachino said. “Hopefully it’s real successful. We all can’t wait to see the first one on the ground.”
Gingras said he would like the chance to drive Hannelore Hanover’s first foal by Greenshoe.
“I’d put my name in the hat,” he said with a laugh. “Hopefully my name would come out first.”