Hightstown, NJ — Linda Toscano won the 2012 Hambletonian with Market Share and on Saturday will try to add the Hambletonian Oaks to her list of accomplishments. If she accomplishes the feat, it would be meaningful to Toscano on several levels.
The $500,000 Hambletonian Oaks is the filly-restricted companion race to Saturday’s $1 million Hambletonian for 3-year-old trotters at The Meadowlands. Toscano had one of this past Saturday’s two Oaks elimination winners, Lady Chaos.
“First of all, this is home,” Toscano said about racing in the Oaks. “Second of all, when you’re in that chosen group that has won the Hambletonian, it almost doesn’t feel right if you don’t try to at least get one in the Oaks.
“I started my career as a filly trainer, so this is one (race) I’ve always wanted. I love my fillies. I’ve always loved my fillies. I started out as a filly trainer because I couldn’t afford the colts. Now, to be able to train one and hope maybe to get lucky is special.”
Toscano has had one Hambletonian Oaks finalist in her career. Dream Child finished seventh in 2016.
Lady Chaos was the Breeders Crown champion at age 2 and has won eight of 19 career races for owners Richard Gutnick, Tom Pontone, Joseph Lozito Jr., and Enviro Stables. Prior to winning her Oaks elimination by a head over Bella Bellini, Lady Chaos had three second-place finishes and one third-place finish in her previous four starts.
“She has been the picture of consistency,” Toscano said about the filly, a daughter of Cantab Hall-Strong Legacy who has earned $690,395 in her career. “She’s shown up every week and given us a great effort every week.
“But we’ve been more bridesmaid than bride. That’s very frustrating for a trainer. It’s great that they’re making money, but as a trainer you want the ‘W’ not the second. That’s what we do it for.”
Toscano made a bridle change for the Oaks elimination.
“She was on the lead and getting caught a couple times, and that was bothering me,” Toscano said. “And then she would chase them home and always go the fastest last quarter, but we were kind of losing a little bit in the last turn. I had to figure out a way not to lose that length we had to make up again in the stretch. I’ve been fiddling with her bridle and ultimately decided to go with the blind (bridle) and it worked.
“She is an absolute pleasure to train,” Toscano added. “Everyone should have one like her. She’s beautifully gaited, she’s got a nice temperament in the barn, she’s just been a lovely filly right from day one.”
Hambletonian Oaks elimination winners Lady Chaos and Chris Beaver-trained Awesome Trix will draw for an inside post position, one through five, in the final. The remaining finalists will go in an open draw after the elimination winners receive their post.
Post positions for the Hambletonian and Hambletonian Oaks finals will be drawn at 1 p.m. Tuesday on Meadowlands Facebook live. Both finals will air live from 5:30-6:30 p.m. Saturday on CBS Sports Network. First-race post time on Hambletonian Day is noon.
Toscano is not the only Hambletonian-winning trainer with an Oaks finalist. Ake Svanstedt, who won the 2017 Hambletonian with Perfect Spirit, will send out Flawless Country in Saturday’s Oaks while George Ducharme, who won the Hambletonian in 2013 with Royalty For Life, has Contested Hanover.
Ten trainers have won both the Hambletonian and Hambletonian Oaks in their careers.
Ducharme is starting his first Oaks finalist. Contested Hanover finished fourth in her elimination, only three-quarters of a length behind Lady Chaos.
“She’s coming along good at the right time,” Ducharme said. “I was happy with the way she raced in her elimination. She doesn’t have a quick step, so not shaking loose until late sort of hurt her a little, but I was happy with how she was still going forward at the end. I think she should be much better this week.”
The 10 finalists for Saturday’s $500,000 Hambletonian Oaks follow in alphabetical order below:
Awesome Trix-Chris Beaver *
Bella Bellini-R. Nifty Norman
Contested Hanover-George Ducharme
Darlene Hanover-Brett Bittle
Flawless Country-Ake Svanstedt
Hot As Hill-Ron Burke
Lady Chaos-Linda Toscano *
Piper Hanover-Tony Alagna
You Ato Dream-Jeff Gregory
* Elimination winner