Duenna - 1983
Duenna: A Storybook Ending In what can only be described as a storybook ending, Duenna overcame seemingly unbeatable odds, and driver Stanley Dancer conquered painful grief to win the 58th edition of the Hambletonian. The drama of the 1983 Hambletonian began long before post time. Dancer’s prize colt, Dancer’s Crown, overwhelming favorite to win that year’s Hambletonian, died 18 days before the race of complications resulting from a displaced colon. Dancer’s hopes of winning the classic seemed all but gone, but owner Norman Woolworth gave Dancer a second chance-however remote it seemed-when he decided to bypass the Hambletonian Oaks and enter his filly against colts in the Hambletonian. There were 25 names in the entry box, necessitating two divisions, with 12 and 13 respectively, in the first million dollar Hambletonian. Duenna and Winky's Gill were the only fillies. In the first division, the highly regarded Joie De Vie, handled by John Campbell, conquered a second tier 12 post and a tough trip on the outside to score over a sloppy oval in 1:59. In the next division, Duenna also had to overcome a second tier post to after the half and drew away for an easy win in 1:57.3. In what turned out to be the final, Duenna easily won in 1:57.2, leading almost every step of the mile. There was a five-horse photo for second and the picture showed the other filly, Winky's Gills, a neck ahead of Speedy Claude for the place spot. Joie De Vie and Astro Hill dead-heated for fourth. Duenna thus became the twelfth filly to win the prestigious Hambletonian, and the first since Kerry Way outclassed her field in 1966. For Dancer, it was his fourth Hambletonian win, a feat accomplished by only two other drivers: Ben White and Billy Haughton.
First $1,000,000 purse in the Hambletonian. Duenna was the twelfth filly to date to win the Hambletonian - the first filly winner since the Hambletonian Oaks was inaugurated in 1971. Trainer/driver Stanley Dancer won his fourth Hambletonian (record tying fifth as a trainer). He is also the only driver to win the classic in three different decades. For only the third time in the history of the classic, fillies finished 1-2 in the final as Winky's Gill was 3-x-2 in the heats. In 1927 Iosola's Worthy and Nescopec were 1-2 in the final heat; Emily's Pride and Sandlewood were the first two across the wire in 1958. It was a storybook ending as a 2-year-old champion Dancer's Crown, owned, trained and driven by Dancer, died just days before the race. Duenna, a daughter of 1977 Hambletonian winner Green Speed, was voted Trotter of the Year.