The Hambletonian format calls for eliminations to be contested the same day as the final. A total of 19 horses entered this year’s event, requiring two $100,000 eliminations from which the top five finishers in each division advance to the final. Elimination winners draw for inside posts 1-5 and all other finalists will then be placed in an open draw. The winner of the $1 million final is the Hambletonian champion.
CBS Sports Network will air live coverage of the Hambletonian from 4:00-5:30 p.m. (EDT) Saturday. The Sam McKee Memorial (formerly U.S. Pacing Championship) and Hambletonian Oaks also will be featured during the 90-minute broadcast. First race post time on Hambletonian Day is noon. The Hambletonian final is 5:11 p.m.
International Moni, who drew post five in the nine-horse elimination and is the 5-2 favorite, is undefeated in three races this year. He won the Goodtimes Stakes at Mohawk Racetrack on June 17, but suffered a bout of colic in early July that forced him to miss the Stanley Dancer Memorial, expected to be the colt’s final Hambletonian prep, at the Meadowlands on July 15.
He bounced back with a career-best 1:52 win July 22 in a 3-year-old open at the Meadowlands.
Zeron won last year’s Hambletonian, and eventually the Trotting Triple Crown, with Marion Marauder. He is attempting to become the first driver to win the Hambletonian in consecutive years since John Campbell in 1987-88.
International Moni, a son of French stallion Love You out of the two-time Horse of the Year Award-winning mare Moni Maker, is owned by breeder Moni Maker Stable. The colt, trained by 33-year-old Frank Antonacci, has won four of 15 career races and earned $264,452.
Antonacci trains International Moni for an ownership group that includes his father, also Frank, Gerald Antonacci, and David Reid. The Antonacci family and/or its Lindy Racing have been involved in the ownership of five Hambletonian winners: Lindy’s Pride (1969), Speedy Crown (1971), Probe (1989), Harmonious (1990) and Victory Dream (1994).
Devious Man, from the wife-and-husband team of trainer Julie Miller and driver Andy Miller, has won four of six races this year and finished no worse than second in his remaining starts. He drew post nine in the 10-horse elimination and is the 5-2 favorite.
His victories include the Earl Beal Jr. Memorial at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono on July 1 and the Empire Breeders Championship at Vernon Downs in a career-best 1:52.2 on June 18.
The colt, owned by the Andy Miller Stable and Stroy Inc., heads to the Hambletonian off a second-place finish to Walner in a division of the Stanley Dancer Memorial. Walner, last year’s Dan Patch Award winner for best 2-year-old male trotter, will miss the Hambletonian because of a minor injury.
Devious Man, a son of Credit Winner out of the mare Miss Garland, has won 11 of 18 lifetime races and earned $750,200. He is a half-brother to 2005 Hambletonian winner Vivid Photo.
What The Hill drew post one in the elimination with Devious Man and is the 3-1 second choice. He is from the stable of trainer Ron Burke, who has finished second in the past two Hambletonians. What The Hill has won four of six races this year and heads to the Hambletonian off a career-best 1:52.1 win in the Reynolds Memorial last weekend at the Meadowlands.
For his career, What The Hill has won seven of 20 races and earned $417,236. His wins include the 2016 Peter Haughton Memorial for 2-year-old male trotters on last year’s Hambletonian Day. The most recent Haughton winner to return and win the Hambletonian was Muscle Hill in 2009.
What The Hill, a son of Muscle Hill out of the mare K T Cha Cha, is owned by Burke Racing, Our Horse Cents Stables, J&T Silva Stables, and Deo Volente Farms. David Miller is the driver.
The colt is one of three entries from the Burke Stable, with Southwind Cobra and Southwind Woody.
“What The Hill is a legitimate contender,” Burke said. “He’s going to be able to race either way (from the front or behind) and puts himself in play and tends to always finish right on the wire with everybody else. I think two heats is an advantage for him. He’s a big, strong horse. If anything, he’ll go better the second heat than the first. So that doesn’t bother me at all.”
Ariana G is the 6-5 morning line favorite in Saturday’s $500,000 Hambletonian Oaks for 3-year-old female trotters. Ariana G won her Oaks elimination last weekend by two lengths over Dream Together in 1:51.3 and will start the final from post four. She has won five of six starts this year and 14 of 17 lifetime for trainer Jimmy Takter and driver Yannick Gingras.
Ariana G, a daughter of 2009 Hambletonian winner Muscle Hill out of the mare Cantab It All, is owned by breeders Marvin Katz and Al Libfeld.
Magic Presto, who won the other Oaks elimination, drew post five and is the 5-1 second choice.
Fans can follow the action at www.Hambletonian.com, www.meadowlandsracetrack.com and on Twitter at #Hambo17.
Hambletonian Elimination (10-horse division)
1-What The Hill-David Miller-Ron Burke-3/1
2-Seven And Seven-David Miller-Tom Durand-8/1
3-Sortie-Andy McCarthy-Noel Daley-10/1
4-Shake It Off Lindy-Brett Miller-Frank Antonacci-20/1
5-Dover Dan-Brian Sears-John Butenschoen-8/1
6-Enterprise-Tim Tetrick-Marcus Melander-9/2
7-Southwind Cobra-Yannick Gingras-Ron Burke-15/1
8-Achille Duharas-Yannick Gingras-Jimmy Takter-20/1
9-Devious Man-Andy Miller-Julie Miller-5/2
10-Perfect Spirit-Ake Svanstedt-Ake Svanstedt-12/1
Hambletonian Elimination (9-horse division)
1-Southwind Woody-Matt Kakaley-Ron Burke-12/1
2-Bill’s Man-Corey Callahan-John Butenschoen-5/1
3-Guardian Angel As-Jason Bartlett-Anette Lorentzon-10/1
4-Giveitgasandgo-Corey Callahan-John Butenschoen-8/1
5-International Moni-Scott Zeron-Frank Antonacci-5/2
6-Stealth Hanover-Francisco Del Cid-Francisco Del Cid-30/1
7-Victor Gio IT-Yannick Gingras-Jimmy Takter-6/1
8-Long Tom-Tim Tetrick-Marcus Melander-3/1
9-Jake-Dan Dube-Luc Blais-8/1
$500,000 Hambletonian Oaks
1-Southwind Avanti-Jason Bartlett-Anette Lorentzon-10/1
2-Dream Together-Daniel Dube-Luc Blais-8/1
3-Caviart Wonder-Andy McCarthy-Noel Daley-20/1
4-Ariana G-Yannick Gingras-Jimmy Takter-6/5
5-Magic Presto-Brian Sears-R. Nifty Norman-5/1
6-Fine Tuned Lady-Corey Callahan-John Butenschoen-10/1
7-Feed Your Head-Tim Tetrick-Jimmy Takter-6/1
8-Sunshine Delight-Brett Miller-Staffan Lind-20/1
9-Overdraft Volo-Andy Miller-Julie Miller-10/1
10-Dream Baby Dream-Rod Allen-Rod Allen-15/1