Blaze Hanover - 1960
The gruelling test of stamina and courage that befits a great and classic race like the Hambletonian was evident in the 1960 race, with the gutsy Blaze Hanover earning the winner’s trophy after a long, tiring afternoon. It was an exceptional field which faced the starting gate on this afternoon, with Blaze Hanover, a son of Hoot Mon owned by S. A. Camp Farms taking the first heat in 1:59 4, equalling the stake mark held by Emily’s Pride. Not since 1934 had the Hambletonian gone four heats. In reality, it probably would not have gone that distance had O’Brien, driving Blaze Hanover, not clipped the wheel of another horse making the apparent winning move in the second heat, won in stake record time of 1:59 3 by the Victory Song colt Quick Song and Frank Ervin. The third heat was taken by Hoot Frost, a full brother to 1955 Hambletonian winner, Scott Frost, scoring for Jimmy Arthur in an identi-cal 1:59 3 . It was the first time in history that a three heat race had the first three miles all trotted faster than 2:00. The final, with so much speed, proved to be one of the most memorable of all time. The three speedsters loafed through an opening three-quarters of a mile in 1:43, but then thundered through the long stretch in an unbelievable :27 3 final quarter with Blaze Hanover holding firm over Quick Song and Hoot Frost. The purse was again a new record $144,590 and the winner, again bred by Hanover Shoe Farms, proved his mettle in the heat of battle.
A fourth heat race-off was required after Quick Song won the second heat and Hoot Frost won the third heat in identical miles of 1:59.3 - a stake record. Blaze Hanover equaled the existing record of 1:49.4 in winning the first heat. The long day was made even more difficult by a thermometer reading of 102 degrees, accompanied by Midwest August humidity - probably the hottest Hambletonian ever. The last quarter of the fourth heat race-off was 27.3, the fastest quarter ever in the Hambletonian at DuQuoin. The mile was in 2:10.3. It was Sol Camp and O'Brien's second Hambletonian win, and Blaze Hanover is the only chestnut to win the Hambletonian. O'Brien drove in 25 Hambletonians, second only to Miller's 26. Purchased by Italian interests a few weeks prior to the race, Hickory Fire, a full brother to 1957 winner Hickory Smoke, was driven by Walter Baroncini, the first European driver to start in the Hambletonian.