The Ambassador - 1942
By all the laws of breeding, The Ambassador should have been one of the most highly regarded of Hambletonian candidates. By the mighty Scotland, sire of two previous winners and champions in Rosalind & Spencer Scott, his dam was Margaret Arion whose previous performers included the champion Protector, the Hambletonian winner The Marchioness, & His Excellency, a heat winner in the Hambletonian. Further, he was trained by the most famed of all developers, Ben White. Still, the high-going colt owned by the popular Bill Strang of Brooklyn, NY, was given little consideration by either the experts or the public.
A few weeks before, The Ambassador had won the first heat of his life in an overnight event at Old Orchard, but it was a major effort for him to trot in 2:06½ over the kite track. The erratic but phenomenally fast Colby Hanover still retained a firm grip on the favorite role, however, for the forthcoming Goshen battle. The 1942 Hambletonian will go down as one of the genuinely wild and woolly struggles, with excitement at its peak as the various participants strutted their stuff in scorching finishes. A combination of bad starting luck and a subsequent exhibition of bad manners eliminated Colby Hanover from all contention, throwing the race wide open. Follow Me, Green Diamond, The Ambassador and Scotland’s Comet were all in the bunch massed at the head of the lane as the final drive began. The sixteenth was a thrilling spectacle as five horses charged to the finish. The photo showed that canny Lee Smith had saved enough ground with Pay Up to get up by inches over Scotland’s Comet on the extreme outside. The second heat again saw little backing for The Ambassador though the Scotland colt had been only a half a length back at the wire. Ben White handled him confidently, going to the top nearing the half and holding sway to the end to win by a length.
The pay-off of $68.20 on The Ambassador was the highest odds ever quoted on a winner to that time. The final showed that the second heat was no fluke, as The Ambassador was cleverly rated until turning for home, catching Scotland’s Comet that had led from the five-eighths to win by two lengths in 2:04. The Ambassador never lived up to his great race again, though a contender in many other stakes. Retired to Peninsula Farm after taking a mark of 2:02, his first crop included a pair of 2:05 three-year-old trotters, but his sale to Sweden ended his American stud career.
One of the longest shots to win the Hambletonian, The Ambassador was 33-1 when he won the second heat. At $3.40 on the dollar in the third heat, he was the third longest priced winner in the final. Only The Intruder ($4.45 in 1956) and Nuclear Kosmos’ dollar odds ($3.50 in 1986) were higher. The Ambassador was a half-brother to 1932 winner The Marchioness. He was the first winner who had not started as a 2-year-old and had only won the first heat of his career a few weeks earlier. Pay Up won the first heat in 2:06 for the same connections as Bill Gallon, the previous year’s winner. Actor Jimmy Cagney presented the trophy.