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Kallas: Hambletonian Preview

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In this image provided by US Trotting Association, trainer Erv Miller brings Hambletonian favorite Manofmanymissions out of the barn to get ready for a morning workout at Gaitway Farms in Englishtown, N.J., Tuesday, Aug. 2, 2011. Manofmanymissions will start from the No. 2 position in $1.5 Hambletonian harness race at the Meadowlands Racetrack on Saturday in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/US Trotting Association, Mark Hall)

In this image provided by US Trotting Association, trainer Erv Miller brings Hambletonian favorite Manofmanymissions out of the barn to get ready for a morning workout at Gaitway Farms in Englishtown, N.J., Tuesday, Aug. 2, 2011. Manofmanymissions will start from the No. 2 position in $1.5 Hambletonian harness race at the Meadowlands Racetrack on Saturday in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/US Trotting Association, Mark Hall)

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By Steve Kallas
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This Saturday join Marc Malusis at the Meadowlands as WFAN does a live show from 10 am to 1pm on Hambletonian day.

Saturday, August 6, the first Saturday in August, is like the first Saturday in May (Kentucky Derby day) if you follow harness racing.  Over 30,000 will show up at the Meadowlands to watch the 86th edition (and 31st at the Meadowlands) of the Hambletonian, the premier trotting event of the year and a Triple Crown race for three-year-old trotters.

Expected to be the favorite is Manofmanymissions, a colt who won his Hambletonian elimination last Saturday in impressive fashion, pulling first-over and wearing down pace-setter Magnum Kosmos to win by a length in 1:52.4 for the brother trainer-driver combination of Erv and Andy Miller.

The other elimination winner was Broad Bahn, who went down the road for the “Minister of Speed,” George Brennan, to win by three-quarters-of-a-length in 1:53.  The connections of Broad Bahn, trained by Noel Daley, selected his post in the Final first and chose post one (each elimination winner got to choose his respective post; the other eight had an open draw for posts 3-10).  Not surprisingly, the connections of Manofmanymissions chose post two.

SO, HOW DOES THE RACE FIGURE TO GO?

Well, it’s always hard to try and figure out how a race will go, especially when they are going for $1.5 million, which is the purse for this year’s Hambletonian.  But it would seem that George Brennan will want to cut the mile with his colt, Broad Bahn, who has proven to be at his best on the front end.  While it is unlikely that he will go unchallenged early, it would seem that if he has to give up the lead in the first turn then he will take it back at some point around the first quarter pole and cut the mile.

Manofmanymissions, who has had some physical ailments this year but has been dead game in his last two starts (including an excellent 1:52.1 win in the Stanley Dancer Memorial at the Meadowlands on July 16) may very well wind up pulling first-over as he did last week to try and grind down the leader and take his shot at Hambletonian glory.

But it says here that the winner will be the highly-regarded Chapter Seven who, with Hall of Famer (and four-time Hambletonian winner) Mike Lachance in the sulky, will follow Manofmanymissions with an excellent second-over trip and sweep in the stretch to beat all comers.  Chapter Seven, who drew the four post and is trained by the excellent, experienced Linda Toscano, had to fight off a bout of pneumonia this past winter and was way behind the others in training for the Hambo.

But Toscano, ever patient, managed to get two qualifiers and two solid starts into the colt, including a fast-closing second to Broad Bahn in his elimination, to put Chapter Seven in prime position for a big effort this Saturday.

WHAT’S THE KEY FROM A HANDICAPPING PERSPECTIVE?

Well, one of the biggest keys, to this writer, is the final quarter time for each horse in the eliminations.  Of the 18 horses in the two Hambo eliminations, Chapter Seven far and away trotted the final quarter faster than anybody else.  His final quarter time of 27.4 was three-fifths of a second faster than every other horse that raced in the Hambo elims and four-fifths of a second faster than any of the other top three finishers in either elim (generally speaking, a fifth of a second equates to one length on the racetrack).

That, coupled with the fact that Chapter Seven had to tip three-wide around poor cover (the talented Blue Porsche, who was trying to make a go of it last week off a 42-day sickness layoff) and the fact that the experienced Lachance is a four-time Hambletonian winner, seems to point to Chapter Seven as the likely winner of this year’s Hambletonian.

No matter which horse wins the Hambletonian, the Meadowlands will put on a wonderful show with the first race scheduled to go off at 11:30 a.m.  The Hambletonian post time is scheduled for 3:43 p.m. and the track will have many family-friendly things for the kids to do throughout the day.

The Hambletonian horses and drivers in post position order:

1)      BROAD BAHN (GEORGE BRENNAN)

2)      MANOFMANYMISSIONS (ANDY MILLER)

3)      FAWKES (YANNICK GINGRAS)

4)      CHAPTER SEVEN (MIKE LACHANCE)

5)      WHIT (TIM TETRICK)

6)      WHISKEY TAX (RANDY WAPLES)

7)      OPENING NIGHT (JOHN CAMPBELL)

8)      MAGNUM KOSMOS (BRIAN SEARS)

9)      LUCKYCHARM HANOVER (DAVE MILLER)

10)   PASTOR STEPHEN (RON PIERCE)

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