The 88th edition of the classic trot for sophomores will return to heat racing, as it was from 1991-1996, presenting eliminations and a final on the same day. Eliminations for the “Oaks,” if necessary, will be raced the prior week on Saturday, July 27.
Owned by Quebec businessman Serge Godin, Wheeling N Dealin, a son of Cantab Hall, was undefeated in 2012, with nine wins and earnings of $696,112. His victories included the William Wellwood Memorial and Breeders Crown for trainer Dustin Jones, whose only two Hambletonian entries, Uhadadream (2000) and Prestidigitator (2012), finished seventh.
“He just trained excellent,” Jones said of Wheeling N Dealin, “I went a doubleheader with him and I’m aiming to qualify him the first week in June. I’m hoping to get two or three starts into him at Mohawk … maybe a prep race at the Meadowlands the week before the Hambletonian so he can go over the track and get used to things.”
As for the return to heat racing in the summer event, Jones isn’t concerned.
“It’s the Hambletonian,” he said. “I want to be in it no matter the format.
“As a kid in Quebec we went heats all day long and it didn’t bother the horses. This horse in particular is easy on himself, warms up so relaxed and is so easy to drive.”
The 2012 Peter Haughton Winner, Aperfectyankee, is also on the eligible list. Only two other winners of that freshman-stakes have gone on to win the Hambletonian, which would place the Jim Oscarsson-trainee in the esteemed company of Donato Hanover (2007) and Muscle Hill (2009).
Both colts were ranked well behind fillies Bee A Magician and To Dream On, the two top frosh trot earners with $766,652 and $727,320 respectively. To Dream On also took divisional and Breeders Crown honors. The list of 91 fillies are eligible to the Oaks.
The Hambletonian Society, which has owned and serviced the race since its inception in 1926, received 207 total payments for the 88th edition of the classic race, hosted by the Meadowlands since 1981. There are no supplemental entries permitted in the Hambletonian and Oaks, nor are participants allowed to race on Lasix or Butazolidin. Along with the four juvenile Breeders Cup races for thoroughbreds, they are the only events in North American horse racing that prohibit the use of any race-day medication.
The Hambletonian is the second leg of trotting’s triple crown. The first, the Yonkers Trot, takes place Saturday, July 27 at Yonkers Raceway. The third leg, the Kentucky Futurity, will be raced Sunday, Oct. 6, in Lexington. The last trotter to win the “crown” was Glidemaster in 2006.
The Hambletonian Trail commences Saturday (May 4), with the Dexter Cup at Freehold Raceway. Keep watching this blog for updates and races involving eligibles through July and for live coverage from TwinSpires on Hambletonian Day.
Eligibles for the Hambletonian/Hambletonian Oaks can be found at this link.