by Dean Hoffman
There is a reason that the trophy is awarded after a race instead of before a race.
Otherwise the 1995 Hambletonian trophy might well have been presented to the remarkable filly CR Kay Suzie. She came into The Hambletonian with seven wins in eight starts in the season. And those were not just pushover wins against overmatched fillies. She challenged colt in the Yonkers Trot, the first leg of the Triple Crown for trotters. She won her elimination and final by a combined 17-1/2 lengths. She beat the boys in the Beacon Course at the Meadowlands by a combined total of 6-1/2 lengths.
Is it any wonder why some people had virtually conceded The Hambletonian to her?
One person who didn’t was John Campbell, who was driving the ever-improving Tagliabue, trained by his younger brother Jim. The leggy colt hadn’t raced as a 2-year, but was learning fast and finished with a flourish to grab second money behind CR Kay Suzie in the Beacon Course. John Campbell wasn’t convinced that the filly was invincible.
She wasn’t. At 1-9 odds, CR Kay Suzie made a rare break early in her elimination heat and failed to advance to The Hambletonian final. Tagliabue won that elimination heat despite skipping offstride ever so briefly entering the stretch.
John Campbell took no chances in the final as he got Tagliabue to the lead halfway through the race, opened a big lead, and held on to win to preserve the win for his brother Jim and owners Arlene and Jules Siegel.
Catch this year’s Hambletonian on August 2nd on CBS Sports Network (check here for channel and availability in your area). A live streaming broadcast can also be view here and all the pre-, during, and post-race action can be followed on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.