by Dean Hoffman
When Hambletonian Day dawned in 1965, the Du Quoin State Fair track was a sea of mud. One writer compared the racing surface to chewing gum. But when the sun came out, so did the track crew with graders and scrapers. Post time for the opening round of Hambo action was postponed until 4:30pm on a track without lights.
It didn’t seem to matter when the race started because trotting fans assumed that Noble Victory would dispatch his rivals in two heats. He’d won 20 straight races over two seasons and seemed invincible.
But Noble Victory’s bar shoes mired him in the Du Quoin quagmire and he finished a shocking ninth in the field of 11 as outsider Short Stop won the first heat. In the second heat, Noble Victory’s stablemate Egyptian Candor, who had momentarily began pacing in the first heat, won as Noble Victory struggled home seventh. When the trotters returned for a third heat, the filly Armbro Flight won as shadows lengthened over the fairgrounds.
At 7:43 p.m., Armbro Flight, Egyptian Candor, and Short Stop returned for a race-off, only the second time since 1934 that four heats were needed to determine a Hambletonian winner. Dusk had settled over the fairgrounds and the only illumination came from a half-moon and the photo finish light. Egyptian Candor squeezed out a narrow victory over Armbro Flight in the marathon struggle. As the victor walked into the winner’s circle, a movie director might well have said, “Fade to black.”
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.