Big M Freshmen Stakes-winners Return for Hambletonian

Big M Freshmen Stakes-winners Return for Hambletonian

By Ken Weingartner/Harness Racing Communications/USTA 
Photos by Lisa Photo 

Two horses enter Saturday’s $1.2 million Hambletonian Stakes at Meadowlands Racetrack having already posted victories at the Big M on Hambletonian Day – colt Centurion ATM and filly Mission Brief. Centurion ATM won last year’s Peter Haughton Memorial while Mission Brief captured the Merrie Annabelle, both in world-record-equaling times.

Mission Brief & Yannick Gingras

Mission Brief & Yannick Gingras

On Saturday the two will compete in the Hambletonian, marking only the second time that the winners of the Meadowlands’ top races for 2-year-old trotters have returned in the same year for the premier event for 3-year-olds. The first occurrence was in 1986 when filly Britelite Lobell and colt Express Ride finished third and fifth, respectively, in the Hambletonian. 

She also holds the world record for the fastest time for any 2-year-old trotter in history, 1:50.3. This year, she has won three of four races while dealing with back woes, which have improved in recent weeks thanks to chiropractic work. 

Mission Brief is the 6-5 morning line favorite in the second of two $100,000 Hambletonian eliminations. Yannick Gingras will drive the filly. 

“Maybe financially it would have been better to go to the Hambletonian Oaks, but pride-wise and for the sport, it would be better to go to the Hambletonian,” said Ron Burke, who trains and co-owns the filly with Our Horse Cents Stables, J&T Silva Stables, and the partnership of Mark Weaver and Mike Bruscemi. “If we won the Hambletonian Oaks, we’d have been happy, but it’s not going to change anybody’s life. We’ve all done things like that before. We thought this for some of us would be a lifetime experience, so we said let’s go. 

“If you don’t believe in your horse, you might as well not even show up. I’ve always believed in her. She’s given me every reason to believe in her. When she’s sound she’s as good as anyone.” 

Centurion ATM, who won the 2014 Peter Haughton by 3-3/4 lengths over Uncle Lasse in a world-record-equaling and stakes-record 1:53.2, will try to join Donato Hanover (2007) and Muscle Hill (2009) as the only Peter Haughton winners to also win the Hambletonian. 

Centurion ATM & Ake Svanstedt

Centurion ATM & Ake Svanstedt

Last year, Centurion ATM won three of eight starts, missed the top three only once, and earned $241,640. This season he is winless in four races. In his most recent start in the Stanley Dancer Memorial on July 18 at the Meadowlands, Centurion ATM went off stride on the backstretch but rallied to finish second to The Bank. It was the first time in his career that Centurion ATM made a break. 

“I don’t think that’s going to happen again,” trainer/driver Ake Svanstedt said. “He’s been good. Everything is normal. He is coming into good form.” 

Centurion ATM competes in the first of the two Hambletonian eliminations. He will start from post No. 8 and is 9-2 on the morning line. Jimmy Takter-trained Pinkman, the 2014 Dan Patch Award winner for best 2-year-old male trotter, is the 8-5 favorite despite drawing post No. 10. Pinkman’s stablemate, Canepa Hanover, is 3-1 and starts from post nine. 

The top five finishers from each elimination return later in the day for the $1 million Hambletonian final. 

“When you train (Centurion ATM) he feels like just a normal horse, but if you train more, the other horses get tired and he never gets tired,” Svanstedt said. “He gets better and better. I think he can handle (two races in a day). But he must go to the final first.” 

A bay colt by SJ’s Caviar out of the mare ENS Tag Session, Centurion ATM is a full brother to world champion stakes-winner Triumphant Caviar, who finished eighth in the 2009 Hambletonian. Centurion ATM was purchased for $100,000 as a yearling, under the name Triumphant Session, and is owned by Knutsson Trotting Inc. and Courant A B. 

Svanstedt is in his second year of competing in North America. He was Sweden’s Trainer of the Year five times and Driver of the Year on three occasions prior to moving his stable to the U.S. in the winter of 2013. His father, who was in the timber business, used horses for work and raced cold-blooded trotters. Svanstedt began his professional harness racing career at the age of 24 and within several years was the champion at his home track in Bergsaker. 

During his career overseas, Svanstedt won many of the top races in Europe. He captured the Elitlopp twice, with Torvald Palema in 2009 and Gidde Palema in 2004; the Copenhagen Cup three times and both the Oslo Grand Prix and Olympic Trot four times. 

Svanstedt’s hopes for Hambletonian glory do not ride solely with Centurion ATM. He also is sending Workout Wonder and Southwind Mozart to the race. Workout Wonder is 12-1 in the first elimination, with Dan Dube driving from post three, and Southwind Mozart is 20-1 in the second division, with Svanstedt driving from post eight. 

Workout Wonder is by Conway Hall out of the mare Dear Abs. He was purchased as a yearling for $70,000. His family includes 1987 Hambletonian winner Mack Lobell and 1930 Hambletonian winner Hanover’s Bertha, as well as Marla Bar, who is the dam of 2010 Hambletonian Oaks winner Bar Slide. 

In his most recent start, Workout Wonder finished third behind Pinkman and Canepa Hanover in the Zweig Memorial. His two wins this year have come on the New York Sire Stakes circuit. 

“He was very strong, but not so fast (to start the year),” said Svanstedt, who trains Workout Wonder for Juha Paavola’s All Laid Out Stable. “His last race, though, he finished in (1):52.1 and came home very fast. So he has learned to go very fast. He always was a strong horse, but now he’s learned to go fast. He is improving. He was good the last race, so we will take a chance and try.” 

Southwind Mozart is by Muscle Hill out of the mare Missymae Bluestone. He was purchased for $40,000 as a yearling and is owned by Tore Borgersen’s Wolfgang A Stable. His sire, Muscle Hill, won the 2009 Hambletonian. His family includes stakes-winner Have You Ever, who finished fourth in the 2004 Hambletonian Oaks. 

In his most recent start, Southwind Mozart won a conditioned race in 1:54.3. Two weeks earlier, he finished fifth in the Beal Memorial. 

“He didn’t do so much last year because he was sore,” Svanstedt said. “But now he’s better and he raced good in his last race.” 

Post time for Hambletonian Day’s first race is noon. Cable channel CBS Sports Network will air coverage of the Cane Pace, Hambletonian Oaks and Hambletonian from 4 to 5:30 p.m. (EDT). 

Following are the fields for the Hambletonian and Hambletonian Oaks with drivers, trainers and morning line odds: 

$1.2 million Hambletonian-$100,000 1st elim.-Race 8 
HN-Post-Driver-Trainer-Line 
1. Donatomite, Trond Smedshammer, Trond Smedshammer, 15-1 
2. The Bank, Jimmy Takter, Jimmy Takter, 8-1 
3. Workout Wonder, Daniel Dube, Ake Svanstedt, 12-1 
4. Habitat, Brian Sears, Ron Burke, 6-1 
5. Total Darkness, Tim Tetrick, Jonas Czernyson, 20-1 
6. Fashion Creditor, David Miller, Tom Fanning, 20-1 
7. Jacksons Minion, Tom Jackson, Tom Jackson, 30-1 
8. Centurion ATM, Ake Svanstedt, Ake Svanstedt, 9-2 
9. Canepa Hanover, Jimmy Takter, Jimmy Takter, 3-1 
10. Pinkman, Yannick Gingras, Jimmy Takter, 8-5 

$1.2 million Hambletonian-$100,000 2nd elim.-Race 9 
HN-Post-Driver-Trainer-Line 
1. Billy Flynn, Tim Tetrick, Staffan Lind, 15-1 
2. Mission Brief, Yannick Gingras, Ron Burke, 6-5 
3. Cruzado Dela Noche, David Miller, Nancy Johansson, 20-1 
4. Aldebaran Eagle, Corey Callahan, Jonas Czernyson, 20-1 
5. Wings Of Royalty, Tim Tetrick, George Ducharme, 12-1 
6. French Laundry, Brett Miller, Jimmy Takter, 4-1 
7. Uncle Lasse, Johnny Takter, Jimmy Takter, 5-2 
8. Southwind Mozart, Ake Svanstedt, Ake Svanstedt, 20-1 
9. Muscle Diamond, Tim Tetrick, Brett Bittle, 8-1

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