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2005 Hambletonian Eliminations

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Vivid Photo

Vivid Photo winning the first 2005 Hambletonian Elimination.

Walter Pitcher
Updated August 01, 2005
The $1.5 million Hambletonian as the Meadowlands in New Jersey is the biggest race of the year for 3-year-old trotters. Today were the elminations to decide which ten of the seventeen trotters entered would make the cut to the final next Saturday.

Ken Warkentin was expected to be a favorite in the final, and was sent off at 2-5 in his elimination. He contested the pace but shocked the crowd when he broke stride at the top of the stretch, dropping him out of contention and eliminating him from the final. Vivid Photo, who had set the pace early, went on to win by a neck over late-running Southfork. Winning owner, trainer, and driver Roger Hammer said, "Getting down toward the end, near the wire, I just looked over, I just wanted to get home. I didn't worry about where we finished, as long as we got home. At least it don't cost me nothing to enter now. He's paid his way." Ken Warkentin's driver David Miller said of the favorite's performance: "He's never, ever done anything wrong and today for some reason he takes a bad step. I really believe he was going to go right by that horse. I didn't do anything different than I've ever done with him, and he just took a bad step. I want to puke. I'm very, very disappointed."

The second elimination saw another odds-on favorite, Classic Photo. Unlike Ken Warkentin, Classic Photo ran to expectations, settling in midpack early then cruising to an easy 3-length win over Northern Ensign. Winning driver Ron Pierce said, "This little fellow has shown to everybody he can race any way he wants. He can take all the air. He kind of likes to have a target, but it doesn't matter if he does or not. I feel I have just as good a horse as anybody else if not better. I think I'm the one to beat."

The track was lightning fast that night, as two world records were set over the odd distance of 1 1/16 miles. In the $250,000 Trotting Classic, 2-5 favorite Mr Muscleman, who stalked the pace down the backstretch, took over the lead at the 3/16 pole and drew off to a 2 3/4-length victory, in a time of 1:58 4/5. The time was 1 1/5 second faster than the old record of 2:00 set by Plesac in 2002. Winning driver Ron Pierce said, "It doesn't seem to matter to him too much how you race him. He just seems to get across that wire first. If he's as good as he was tonight, I don't see how anybody can get close to him in the Nat Ray. Noel (Daley) is just an unbelievable trainer. He does a great job with all his horses and this just happens to be a special horse. He rises to the occasion. "

In the $250,000 Pacing Classic, 5-2 second choice Boulder Creek stalked the pace then broke free in mid-stretch for a 2 3/4 length victory in world record time of 1:56 2/5. This was 4/5 second faster than the old record shared by Big Tom (2000) and Life Source (2002). Driver Brian Sears said, "The horse has been really sharp the last few weeks but just hasn't been able to get in the perfect spot. Tonight he was. In the deep stretch, I was just looking for a way out. I know I'm loaded and looking for a little daylight. He's been super the last few weeks."

Two other Classic events were run over the 1 1/16 mile distance. Burning Point took the Classic Distaff by 2 1/4 lengths in a world-record-equaling 1:58, while Peaceful Way won the Classic Oaks in 2:01 2/5. Eliminations for the Hambletonian Oaks were run as well, with Jersey Gal, Jalopy, and Flawless Bluestone winning the three divisions.

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