Engblom eyes a second Dexter Cup with ‘Ethan’

Ken Weingartner

Hightstown, NJ — Per Engblom would enjoy seeing his 3-year-old trotter Ethan T Hanover on the road to the Hambletonian but the trainer is going to let the colt determine his own path for the season.

Ethan T Hanover is the 5-2 morning-line favorite in Saturday’s $38,529 elimination of the Dexter Cup at Freehold Raceway. The Dexter Cup is the season’s first Grand Circuit race for 3-year-old trotters and features several horses eligible to August’s Hambletonian Stakes, the sport’s premier event for sophomore trotters.

A total of 10 horses entered the Dexter Cup, resulting in Saturday’s single elimination. The top-six finishers in the eight-horse elimination will join bye recipients Ambassador Hanover and Sunny Crockett in the May 1 final.

Elimination participants Ethan T Hanover and Royson’s Punch as well as Ambassador Hanover are eligible to the Hambletonian. The $1 million Hambletonian final is Aug. 7 at The Meadowlands.

Ethan T Hanover hit the board a total of seven times in 2020, and earned $96,142. USTA/Ken Weingartner photo.

Ethan T Hanover is making his first start of the year. In 2020, the colt won one of 12 races, hit the board a total of seven times, and earned $96,142. His top-three finishes included the Matron Stakes and two divisions of the Pennsylvania Sire Stakes.

“He had a good year, but was lacking a little speed,” Engblom said. “I think he’s getting there this year because he’s stronger and can carry his speed better. He was a medium-sized horse last year and he grew a lot (during the winter).

“To be an immature colt, he had a decent year. Last year, he had a little hitch in his gait. He has a big gait, and he wasn’t mature enough to handle it. He didn’t make many breaks, but he just got a little tired. This year, I think he’s going to handle his big gait a little better.”

Engblom, a former assistant to Hall of Fame trainer Jimmy Takter, won the 2019 Dexter Cup with Osterc. It was Engblom’s first stakes victory following the start of his own stable earlier that year. Osterc raced in the Hambletonian, finishing second by a neck to Green Manalishi S in his elimination and eighth in the final from post nine.

The trainer shares ownership of Ethan T Hanover, a son of Bar Hopping out of Emmylou Who, with Doug Sipple and Mal and Janet Burroughs. Ethan T Hanover, purchased as a yearling for $130,000 at the 2019 Standardbred Horse Sale, is a half-brother to O’Brien Award winner and two-time Breeders Crown champion Emoticon Hanover.

Ethan T Hanover prepped for the Dexter Cup with two qualifiers at The Meadowlands. He was timed in 1:56.2 in the first and 1:54.4, with a last quarter-mile of :27.1, in the most recent on April 10.

“I’ve been happy with him,” Engblom said. “The first qualifier we just sat in and finished up the rail good. The second time we stretched him a little bit, so that was good.”

In addition to the Dexter Cup and Hambletonian, Ethan T Hanover’s stakes list includes the Yonkers Trot.

“I’m not saying he’s going to win all the big dances, but I think he can make money, especially if we race him smart,” Engblom said. “We kept him eligible to a lot of races. We’ll see. Wherever the season takes us, we’re going to go.

“There are a lot of horses that don’t like the smaller tracks, so if you have one that doesn’t mind, that’s always good. But I think he’s versatile. We’ll do whatever he tells us.”

For more on Saturday’s Dexter Cup elimination field, click here. For Saturday’s complete Freehold entries, click here. Racing begins at 12:30 p.m. (EDT).

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