by Dean Hoffman
Time over the mile distance is always the means by which harness horses have been measured. In the early years of the breed, a trotter or pacer had to meet a time standard to be registered as a Standard bred. When Sep Palin first worked with horses in the late 1800s, the idea of trotter covering a mile in two minutes was a far-fetched as a man walking on the moon. The best mature horses were capable of miles around two minutes and 10 seconds, but few went faster.
By 1947, however, Palin had a black streak in his stable named Hoot Mon and he was co-favored with Rodney in the Hambletonian that summer. Hoot Mon had problems in the first heat and Rodney won. It was a different story in the second heat. Rodney went to the front early and set a fast pace, but Hoot Mon was hot on his heels after the first half-mile. In the stretch, Rodney tired while Hoot Mon hit the wire in a time of 2:00.
The large crowd was stunned by the clocking. In the previous Hambletonians, the winning times had been anywhere from two to five seconds slower. Hoot Mon truly had made history, and set a speed standard in the Hambletonian that wouldn’t be beaten for more than a decade.
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.