East Rutherford, NJ — Sixteen 3-year-old trotters entered Saturday’s 94th Hambletonian Stakes at The Meadowlands, requiring two eight-horse eliminations to reduce the field to 10 for the $1 million final later that afternoon. Gimpanzee is the 2-1 morning-line favorite in the first elimination and Greenshoe is the 4-5 favorite in the second.
The draws for the Hambletonian and companion Hambletonian Oaks, which is restricted to 3-year-old female trotters, were held Tuesday at The Meadowlands. Gimpanzee drew post No. 7 in his elimination and Greenshoe drew post No. 5. Both colts are trained by Marcus Melander. The top-five finishers from each $70,000 elimination return for the final.
Millies Possesion, who won one of last week’s two eliminations for the Hambletonian Oaks, is the 9-5 morning-line favorite in the $500,000 final. When Dovescry, the other elimination winner, is the 5-2 second choice. As elimination winners, Millies Possesion and When Dovescry drew for spots in posts one through five, with Millies Possesion getting post two and When Dovescry getting post five.
The Hambletonian Day card begins at noon. The Hambletonian and Hambletonian Oaks will be featured on a live 90-minute broadcast on CBS Sports Network from 4-5:30 p.m. (EDT).
Greenshoe, the No. 1-ranked horse in Meadowlands announcer/analyst Ken Warkentin’s Road to the Hambletonian, has won four of five races this year, with his only loss a second-place finish by a head to Marseille in the Earl Beal Jr. Memorial. Greenshoe heads to the Hambletonian off a 1:50.1 win in his division of the Stanley Dancer Memorial on July 13 at The Meadowlands. The time is the fastest of the season for a 3-year-old trotter.
Gimpanzee is undefeated in 12 career starts and will try to become only the second unbeaten horse to win the Hambletonian. Deweycheatumnhowe accomplished the feat in 2008. Gimpanzee, owned by Courant Inc. and Lennart Agren’s S R F Stable, was the 2018 Dan Patch Award winner for best 2-year-old male trotter. He also will have Sears in the sulky in his elimination.
Greenshoe and Gimpanzee are two of four horses trained by the 27-year-old Melander in the Hambletonian. The others are Green Manalishi S and Gerry. Green Manalishi S, who has never finished worse than third in 14 career races, winning seven, is owned by Courant Inc. and is the 5-2 second choice in the first elimination. S R F Stable, which won the Hambletonian in 2017 with Perfect Spirit, owns Gerry.
“With a horse like Greenshoe, when he’s going to be the big favorite, of course it’s going to be a little pressure,” said Melander, who is making his third appearance in the Hambletonian. “But I can’t do much more. I think I’ve prepared the horses the best I can. Now it’s just up to the horses. I can’t be more happy with them, how they feel at home, and how they’ve been racing. I’m excited, I have a good feeling. As long as they’re fine, I think they will do a good race.
“Like I said, I can’t do much more. We need some racing luck, of course. There is so much that can go wrong in a race, you need a little bit of luck, a little bit of racing luck. Hopefully, we’ll have that too.”
Other contenders include Don’t Let’em, who with a 1:50.2 win in last week’s Reynolds Memorial is the season’s second-fastest 3-year-old trotter, hails from the stable of trainer Nancy Johansson. Don’t Let’em, who is 4-1 in the second elimination, won last year’s Peter Haughton Memorial for 2-year-old male trotters on Hambletonian Day and is bidding to become the first Haughton champ to capture the Hambletonian since Muscle Hill in 2009.
Marseille, trained by Ake Svanstedt, captured a division of the Tompkins-Geers Stakes in addition to winning the Beal Memorial. He is 5-1 in the second elimination. Svanstedt, who trained Perfect Spirit in 2017, is the only trainer in this year’s Hambletonian to previously win the race.
Swandre The Giant, who won a division of the Stanley Dancer Memorial by a length over Green Manalishi S, is the 7-2 third choice in the first elimination. He is trained by Ron Burke.
In the Hambletonian Oaks, Millies Possesion, unraced at age 2, will try to extend her career win streak to nine against a field of nine rivals. She won her Oaks elimination by a nose over Evident Beauty in 1:52.3.
“I thought (Evident Beauty) had the momentum on her (in the stretch) but Millie dug in,” said Jim Campbell, who trains the filly for owner Fashion Farms. “She’s a true professional. She just knows what she’s supposed to do.”
When Dovescry won her elimination by three lengths over Southwind Casha in 1:51.3. She has hit the board in all 12 lifetime starts, winning six.
“She’s amazing,” said Simon Allard, who drives the filly for his brother Rene, and owners Go Fast Stable, Yves Sarrazin, Kapildeo Singh, and Lawrence Dumain. “You could put a glass of water on her back and nothing would spill, she just trots so nice. You don’t get the chance to drive horses like that every day. I’m so happy to be able to do this.”
Hambletonian Elimination One
1-Cantab Fashion-Dexter Dunn-Jim Campbell-6/1
2-Summit In Sight-Andy Miller-Julie Miller-20/1
3-Swandre The Giant-David Miller-Ron Burke-7/2
4-Soul Strong-Dexter Dunn-Ake Svanstedt-8/1
5-Mr Vicktor-Tyler Buter-Jennifer Lappe-15/1
6-Osterc-Yannick Gingras-Per Engblom-15/1
7-Gimpanzee-Brian Sears-Marcus Melander-2/1
8-Green Manalishi S-Tim Tetrick-Marcus Melander-5/2
Hambletonian Elimination Two
1-Forbidden Trade-Bob McClure-Luc Blais-12/1
2-Gerry-Orjan Kihlstrom-Marcus Melander-20/1
3-Pilot Discretion-Andrew McCarthy-Tony Alagna-10/1
4-Reign Of Honor-David Miller-R. Nifty Norman-20/1
5-Greenshoe-Brian Sears-Marcus Melander-4/5
6-Don’t Let’em-Yannick Gingras-Nancy Johansson-4/1
7-Super Schissel-Scott Zeron-Per Engblom-10/1
8-Marseille-Ake Svanstedt-Ake Svanstedt-5/1
Hambletonian Oaks final
1-Southwind Casha-Scott Zeron-John Bax-15/1
2-Millies Possesion-Dexter Dunn-Jim Campbell-9/5
3-Sonnet Grace-Yannick Gingras-Ron Burke-15/1
4-Evident Beauty-David Miller-R. Nifty Norman-7/2
5-When Dovescry-Simon Allard-Rene Allard-5/2
6-Sweet Chapter-Matt Kakaley-Blake MacIntosh-20/1
7-Asiago-Tim Tetrick-Per Engblom-15/1
8-Queen Of Trixs-Andrew McCarthy-Lucas Wallin-15/1
9-Princess Deo-Andrew McCarthy-Lucas Wallin-12/1
10-Miss Trixton-Brian Sears-Marcus Melander-30/1