Yankee Paco - 2000
The 75th anniversary of the Hambletonian was a celebration of the rich history and tradition of trotting's greatest race, but there was nothing conventional about the colt and trainer who brought home the 2000 trophy. While many trainers believe the only way to prep for the Hambletonian is to race at the Meadowlands, Doug McIntosh opted for the road less traveled with his striking chestnut colt Yankee Paco. The Wheatley, Ontario native prepped Yankee Paco for the Hambletonian in rather unusual fashion staying in Ontario for Sire Stakes competition. Yankee Paco did not see the Meadowlands surface until he arrived for the eliminations on July 29. The son of Canadian sire Balanced Image entered the Hambletonian eliminations with a four-race win streak, and made it five straight under the patient hands of driver Trevor Ritchie in the second of the three eliminations. The victory was particularly speical for McIntosh and his wife, Carrie, as it came on their son Dylan's second birthday. "The birth of our son was the greatest thing in my life," said McIntosh just before the eliminations. "Winning the Hambletonian is the only thing I can think of that would come close." A week later, McIntosh could compare the two feelings as Yankee Paco became the first Canadian sired horse to win the Hambletonian, bringing him the highlight of his career at age 57. "It's a great thing for my career and a great thing for Canada," he said. The 1:53.2 mile was a season record for a three-year-old colt and Yankee Paco's mile was all the more impressive by the fact that, leaving from post position seven, he was parked out the entire race, first-over after the half in 55.2. It was probably the first time a horse had won the Hambletonian without seeing the rail at any point in the mile. When Legendary Lover K cleared the lead along the backstretch, Yankee Paco was suddenly left uncovered. In a display of gritty determination, Ritchie and Yankee Paco pulled away midstretch. Mike Farrell of The Record wrote, "For any standardbred, that represents the moment of truth, leading to two options: press on for the glory, or fold and try again another day. On a glorious sun-splashed afternoon, Yankee Paco opted to fight." In many ways, Doug McIntosh has been a man ahead of his time in the harness racing industry. The older brother of more heralded conditioner Bob McIntosh, Doug was a pioneer in communicating with owners and prospective owners. He advertised his services when that was considered "taboo" by the old guard. He was one of the first to publish a monthly newsletter, detailing the accomplishments and progress of his equine pupils. He hopped aboard the Internet explosion in the early stages, developing a comprehensive website and using e-mail to communicate with his clients. Yankee Paco was a modest $30,000 yearling purchase by McIntosh from the Yankeeland Farm consignment at the 1998 Kentucky Standardbred Sale at Fasig-Tipton in Lexington on behalf of longtime clients Harry Ivey, a retired pharmacist, and his son, Dr. Tom Ivey, a heart surgeon.
Yankee Paco was the easiest of winners in his elimination by a length and a quarter. In each of the four years since the eliminations were scheduled the previous week, the winner of the Hambletonian also won his elimination. Yankee Paco is only the second chestnut to win the Hambletonian; Blaze Hanover (1960) was the first. Doug McIntosh may be the first Canadian-based trainer to win the Hambletonian. His brother Bob also had a horse in the final, Berndt Hanover, but was pulled up and did not finish the race. A number of Canadian horseman (such as Nat Ray, Ben White, Ralph Baldwin and Joe O'Brien) have trained the winner over the years but after they had emigrated to the U.S. Trevor Ritchie may also be the first Canadian-based driver to win. It was Ritchie's first drive in the Hambletonian. To date he is the 16th (including Nat Ray who won the first edition) to win the race in this first try. That list includes: Bill Leese, Dick McMahon, Will Canton, Lee Smith Harrison Hoyt, Harry Harvey, Ned Bower, Flave Nipe, Howard Beissinger, John Simpson Jr, Ray Remmen, Ulf Thoresen, Bill Fahy, Jack Moiseyev. It was also the first Hambletonian drive for Dave Magee, who finished fifth with the favorite Dreamaster. It was noteworthy in that Magee had driven in more than 48,000 races, winning more than 8,300, but had never driven in the Hambletonian. He said it was an opportunity that he had dreamed of since growing up in Illinois while the race was at DuQuoin. Of the 10 horses in the final: 14 out of the 25 individual owners were in their first Hambletonian; six of the 10 trainers and five of the 10 drivers were also making their first Hambletonian appearance. It was the second Hambletonian winner in three years bred by Yankeeland Farm. Operated by Charles E. Keller III and his family, Yankeeland was founded by Keller's father, baseball and harness racing hall-of-famer Charlie-Keller, who played for the N.Y. Yankees from 1937 to 1952. Keller was a member of one of the Bronx bombers' greatest outfields with Joe DiMaggio and Tommy Henrich. Yankee Paco was the ninth Hambletonian winner in 16 years (1983-1998) sold as a yearling by Kentucky Standardbred Sale Co. John Campbell drove in his 18th consecutive Hambletonian. The 10 horses in the final were by 10 different stallions: American Winner, Armbro Goal, Balanced Image, Chief Litigator, Garland Lobell, Incredible Abe, Pine Chip, SJ's Photo, Valley Victory and Victory Dream. Not since 1931 - a six-horse field bested by Calumet Butler - were all the horses in the final heat by different stallions. Yankee Paco is the fist Canadian-sired winner of the Hambletonian. He is the first by an Ontario sire. Just five states were responsible for the sires of all the other winners: Kentucky (31), Pennsylvania (30), New Jersey (10), New York (3) and Michigan (1). Speedy Crown got his sixth broodmare credit and tied Peter The Great as the leading broodmare sire of Hambletonian winners. The last dam of a winner by Peter The Great was Elizabeth, the dame of Yankee maid (1944). She also produced Greyhound (1935). All six of Speedy Crown's credits are from different mares. Thirty-one winners, including Yankee Paco, traced their paternal line directly to Volomite (second to Walter Dear in the 1929 Hambletonian). Volotmite was the great-great-great-grandson of Hambletonian 10. Yankee Paco was the 63rd of the 76 winners to trace their paternal line directly to Peter The Great, a great-grandson of Hambletonian 10. DeWayne Minor, the driver of Legendary Lover K (finishing 6th), was the first African-American to drive a horse in the Hambletonian. From 1926 through 2000, 1,088 horse have declared in the entry box for the Hambletonian. With 10 scratched, 1,078 horses have started the first heat or in their elimination. This includes 161 fillies that have faced the starter. Only one filly started in 2000, Ava, who finished 6th in her elimination. She is the first filly to have started since Continentalvictory in 1996.
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