Takter seeks rare Hambletonian repeat

by Ken Weingartner, Harness Racing Communications

Ken Weingartner

Freehold, NJ — Jimmy Takter will try to become the sixth trainer in harness racing history to win the Hambletonian Stakes in back-to-back years when he sends five horses into Saturday’s 90th edition of the trotting classic for 3-year-olds at Meadowlands Racetrack.

Mission impossible? No. But standing in his way could be Mission Brief.

Takter’s Pinkman is the 8-5 morning line favorite in the first of two $100,000 Hambletonian eliminations Saturday at the Meadowlands. Mission Brief, who is trying to become the first female trotter to win the Hambletonian since Continentalvictory in 1996, is the 6-5 choice in the second division.

The top five finishers from each elimination advance to the $1 million final later in the day. Coverage of the Hambletonian will air from 4-5:30 p.m. on CBS Sports Network.

The last trainer to win the Hambletonian in consecutive years was Per Eriksson in 1991 and 1992. Takter, who won last year’s Hambletonian with Trixton and has captured the race three times, also has The Bank and Canepa Hanover in the first elimination and French Laundry and Uncle Lasse in the second division. Pinkman, who has won six of seven races this year and 12 of 15 in his career, will start his elimination from post No. 10, the most outside spot on the gate.

USTA photo

Trainer Jimmy Takter will start five horses in Saturday’s Hambletonian.

“I wasn’t happy of course getting the 10 post with Pinkman,” said Takter. “He’s my strongest contender, but it’s two heats. He’s in good form so maybe we have to do it the hard way. But it is what it is.”

The Bank, who is 8-1 on the morning line in the first elimination and will be driven by Takter’s brother Johnny, has a win and four second-place finishes in his five most recent races.

“Horses in great form are normally the horses that win this race and he’s by far the horse that improved the most out of all my horses the last month,” Takter said. “I see I have a very good spot there. He can leave the gate very good and he’s the kind of horse that he wants to dictate the pace.

“It’s a couple horses in this race that are definitely good. Last year I had the three best ones. This year, it’s a wide-open race but I got five good horses and they really deserve to be there.”

Prior to Mission Brief entering the Hambletonian, the most recent filly to attempt to beat the boys in the first leg of the Trotting Triple Crown was Pampered Princess, who happened to be trained by Takter, in 2007. She won her elimination division and finished sixth in the final, which was won by Donato Hanover.

Mission Brief was the 2014 Dan Patch Award winner for best 2-year-old female trotter and has won 12 of 17 career races and earned $791,417. She also holds the world record for the fastest time for any 2-year-old trotter in history, 1:50.3. This year, she has won three of four races while dealing with back woes, which have improved in recent weeks thanks to chiropractic work.

Yannick Gingras will drive the filly, who is bypassing the $500,000 Hambletonian Oaks, which is solely for female trotters, for a shot at history.

“Maybe financially it would have been better to go to the Hambletonian Oaks, but pride-wise and for the sport, it’s better to go to the Hambletonian,” said Ron Burke, who trains and co-owns the filly. “If we won the Hambletonian Oaks, we’d have been happy, but it’s not going to change anybody’s life. We’ve all done things like that before. We thought this for some of us would be a lifetime experience, so we said let’s go.

“If you don’t believe in your horse you might as well not even show up. I’ve always believed in her. She’s given me every reason to believe in her. Her best is as good as anybody’s best.”

Following are the fields for the Hambletonian eliminations in post order with drivers, trainers and morning line odds. The Hambletonian final is Race No. 13:

$1.2 million Hambletonian-$100,000 1st elim.-Race 8
1. Donatomite, Trond Smedshammer, Trond Smedshammer, 15-1
2. The Bank, Johnny Takter, Jimmy Takter, 8-1
3. Workout Wonder, Daniel Dube, Ake Svanstedt, 12-1
4. Habitat, Brian Sears, Ron Burke, 6-1
5. Total Darkness, Tim Tetrick, Jonas Czernyson, 20-1
6. Fashion Creditor, David Miller, Tom Fanning, 20-1
7. Jacksons Minion, Tom Jackson, Tom Jackson, 30-1
8. Centurion ATM, Ake Svanstedt, Ake Svanstedt, 9-2
9. Canepa Hanover, Jimmy Takter, Jimmy Takter, 3-1
10. Pinkman, Yannick Gingras, Jimmy Takter, 8-5

$1.2 million Hambletonian-$100,000 2nd elim.-Race 9
1. Billy Flynn, Scott Zeron, Staffan Lind, 15-1
2. Mission Brief, Yannick Gingras, Ron Burke, 6-5
3. Cruzado Dela Noche, Orjan Kihlstrom, Nancy Johansson, 20-1
4. Aldebaran Eagle, Corey Callahan, Jonas Czernyson, 20-1
5. Wings Of Royalty, Brian Sears, George Ducharme, 12-1
6. French Laundry, Brett Miller, Jimmy Takter, 4-1
7. Uncle Lasse, David Miller, Jimmy Takter, 5-2
8. Southwind Mozart, Ake Svanstedt, Ake Svanstedt, 20-1
9. Muscle Diamond, Tim Tetrick, Brett Bittle, 8-1

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