American Winner - 1993
American Winner Trots Off on His Own The often bulky Hambletonian field shrinks in a hurry when a dominant horse emerges in the three-year-old ranks. The 1993 Hambletonian produced just that scenario. American Winner, a homebred of Robert Key of Leechburg, Pennsylvania and Dr. John Glesmann of Bridgewater, New Jersey had reigned supreme throughout virtually every three-year-old stake race of 1993. American Winner, victorious in the Yonkers Trot, looked to be a serious contender for the trotting Triple Crown if he could win the Hambletonian and then the Kentucky Futurity at Lexington’s Red Mile in October. The colt, sired by the 1972 trotting Triple Crown, Super Bowl, had reeled off seven straight stakes wins prior to the final of the $414,500 Budweiser beacon Course, the Meadowlands' prep race just one week prior to the Hambletonian. In the final of the Budweiser Beacon Course, American Winner tussled with an emerging power, a bargain-priced ($17,000 as a yearling) colt named Pine Chip. The luck of the draw put Pine Chip and American Winner in the same elimination of the 14 horse Hambletonian field. American Winner, trained by retired navy Chief Milton Smith and drive by Ron Pierce, trotted out to grab the lead by the half mile mark. Pine Chip, with John Campbell aboard, had a tougher time of it, moving from sixth to tuck in behind American Winner at the three-quarters. Pierce and "Winner" trotted away from the field to win the first elimination by three and 3/4 lengths. Pine Chip moved along the outside to get into second position, a head behind "Winner" at the three-quarters. But Pine Chip lacked the brush to get by American Winner, was overtaken by Toss Out, and finished third. Pine Chip would have another shot at American Winner, though. In the final, American Winner gained the lead without challenge by the quarter mile mark, with Pine Chip going three wide from sixth to get behind that rival at the three quarters. But when it came time to trot for the lead, American Winner was the stronger of the two, as he trotted off by himself, winning by a comfortable two and three quarters lengths.
Bob Key became the first owner to win both elimination heats (with Hi Noon Star and American Winner) as well as the final. Milton Smith became the first African-American trainer to win the Hambletonian. Milton Smith was the second trainer to win both elimination heats as well as the final. Bill Haughton had previously accomplished that feat with Burgomeister and Final Score in 1980 at DuQuoin. The Medio maternal family produced a record ninth Hambletonian winner. American Winner also won the Yonkers Trot, the second leg of the Trotting Triple Crown, but was beaten by Pine Chip in the Kentucky Futurity. Anna-Lena Ljunggren, a 33-year-old native of Sweden, became the first woman to train a horse in the Hambletonian. She started Baltic Baby for fashion designer Oleg Cassini.