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Trackside View of The Hambletonian
by HOWARD DeFREITAS
A TWENTY‑THIRD NAMEPLATE has been affixed to a great silver bowl. Freshly engraved, it glistens among an array bearing the names of Guy McKinney, Spencer, Hanover's Bertha, Greyhound, Rosalind, Spencer Scott, Bill Gallon, Volo Song, Titan Hanover, Hoot Mon and twelve others who have gained immortality in the trotting world by capturing the most coveted of all harness races, the Hambletonian. And even if this latest trotter to get his name on the Hambletonian trophy never wins another race, his right to join such a select group will go unchallenged. For, in winning the 1948 Hambletonian Stake before more than 20,000 cheering fans at Goshen's Good Time Park on August 11, Demon Hanover left no doubt about his being a truly outstanding colt trotter.
Before the Goshen classic, there were more than a few who had some qualms about the trim little son of Dean Hanover, 3, 1.581/2 and Sorceress 2.13. Some said he was too small, his legs too slight. Others said he wouldn't hold up against real top‑flight opposition. Finally, there were many who were sure that he'd never win the Hambletonian, if for no other reason than he had an amateur trainer and driver.
That was before the Hambletonian.
Today, most horsemen are confident that Demon Hanover will be a two‑minute performer by the end of the season. What they saw him do in the Hambletonian was more than sufficient to prompt such a prediction. To put it plainly and simply, Demon won the race looking for horses, with miles in 2.031/5 and 2.02. Certainly, 38‑year‑old Harrison R. Hoyt of Bethel, Conn., the man who shares ownership of the colt with his wife and who has trained and driven him from a twoyear‑old, was looking for horses, even if, strictly speaking, Demon wasn't. Several times during the race, Hoyt turned around to see if there was any need for greater speed. There never was, for Demon led from wire to wire in both trips and never once encountered a serious challenge. He took the first heat by a length and a half and triumphed by two in the clincher.
In winning and taking down $32,500.15 of the third largest Hambletonian purse—$50,941.18—Demon Hanover vanquished the cream of the current crop of three‑year‑old trotters and did it with apparent case. It was the first time he had encountered such highly‑regarded colts as Rollo, Egan Hanover and Madison and his first meeting, too, with fast fillies like Adeline Hanover and Mercy Abbey. These five and five others who made up the Hambletonian field all fell victim to Demon's flying hoofs.
Rollo, pride of the Coldstream Stud, Lexington, Ky., and original winter‑book choice for William H. Cane's big event, made his first start of 1948 and did well, but not well enough to lick Demon. With Tommy Berry up, he finished second in both miles and so earned second money of $11,818.24. Rollo had trained in grand style for the race, matching Demon with a 2.03 work‑out mile just eight days before the Hambletonian. If Demon hadn't been around on the afternoon of the race, Rollo unquestionably would have been the victor. Unfortunately for Rollo, Berry and those who made the colt the second choice in the parimutuels, Demon was too much in evidence.
Third horse in each heat and in the summary was the Saunders Mills colt, Egan Hanover, full brother to Rodney 1.58. The son of Spencer Scott 1.571/4 and Earl's Princess Martha, 3, 2.013/4 perhaps was a slight disappointment to some observers who bad expected the big fellow to come pounding home on top with the same decisiveness that be had at Santa Anita and Fairmount Park earlier in the campaign. He went a good race, though, and enabled his owner, C. M. Saunders, to pocket $7,090.94.
A little on the surprising side, and a happy turn of events for sixteen-year‑old Mary Lou O'Connor of Warwick Downs, R. I., was the 5‑4 standing of Jeff Hanover, which earned fourth money of $3,545.47. Frank Safford had the mount behind Jeff, who became the property of Mary Lou at the Harrisburg sale last fall. Fifth money went to Bill Strang's Madison Hanover, the Brooklyn hope. Ben White, only fourtime victor in the classic, got Madison going in high over the last half of the first heat and it was the fourth place be gained with this spurt that put him in the chips for he was tenth, due to an early break, in the final trip. Thus did Mr. Strang collect $2,363.65.
The sixth and final prize of $1,772.73 was garnered by W. N. Reynolds' Judge Moore. The redoubtable Judge, with Del Miller in the seat, got off well in both miles and managed to get in the money bracket with a 6‑5 standing.
Though Demon's victory required no great display of driving skill on the part of Hoyt, it was agreed by those who think about such important matters that the very manner in which the colt sped away from the pack in each heat was a tribute to the young amateur's ability as a trainer. That Hoyt had done his bit to produce such excellent manners and to have the colt in such perfect shape for the race, there was no question. From all indications he did very well and particularly so for a man who never drove in a harness race until four years ago. He rated his charge perfectly in both miles and sat with a stillness usually found only in a professional. As the first amateur to win the Hambletonian, he acquitted himself well.
In the first heat, Demon raced to the front as they headed for the lower turn with Judge Moore and Jeff Hanover right behind him. Egan Hanover and Rollo, who encountered a little delay in the turn, quickly moved into contention as they straightened out going up the long stretch past the quarter toward the half. Madison Hanover was sixth behind Rollo as they passed the quarter. Approaching the half, Ralph Baldwin pulled Egan out, passed Jeff Hanover and Judge Moore and then dropped into the number two hole.
Rollo and Madison didn't begin to make their moves until after the half had been passed in 1.023/5. They made up ground rapidly and at the three‑quarter pole, which Demon hit in 1.332/5, Egan was still second, but Rollo was third, Judge Moore fourth and Madison fifth with Jeff dropping back to sixth. Rollo continued to come as they headed for home and passed Egan half‑way through the stretch. But there was no nabbing Demon. Egan made a break right at the wire but took third with a little to spare from the flying Madison. Meantime, Judge Moore faded to sixth as Jeff Hanover came on to be fifth. The mile was in 2.031/5, with the final quarter in 294/5 seconds.
Rollo and Egan Hanover had every chance to challenge Demon in the second heat, but they just couldn't get to him. Egan trailed the leader most of the way with Rollo a close third. Rollo again passed Egan in the stretch, but Demon stayed beyond reach as be negotiated the, 2.02 mile handily.
A disappointment in the race was T. J. Zornow's Adeline Hanover from Pittsford, N. Y. This filly who behaved so well and looked so smart in capturing the rich Coaching Club Oaks earlier in the year, made breaks at the start of both miles, and Gib White' her popular trainer‑driver, never had a chance to get in the thick of things.
So the 1948 Hambletonian Stake now belongs to history. Another great three‑year‑old trotter has joined the long list of winners, and another driver has accomplished what every reinsman in racing dreams of doing before be dies.
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