Hambletonian & Hambletonian Oaks Picks – Grand Circuit $1 Million Challenge

The $1.2 million Hambletonian and the Hambletonian Oaks this Saturday gives you your next shot to go for the prizes in the Grand Circuit $1 Million Challenge and we’ve assembled a crackerjack group of experts to help you as you make your pick in the contest.

Reminder: If you haven’t picked a horse that doesn’t win in the first three races, you’re still eligible for the 2nd Prize of $10,000 so keep making your picks!

Burke-MAH_9763Ron Burke    Hambletonian Oaks – 1-8-11

Hambletonian Oaks

Designed to Be (1) -My pick for the win. She has Brian Sears and this filly has been racing super. So that’s Brian Sears and a great post position from the rail.

Heaven’s Door (8) – For Second I like a possible upset from Heaven’s Door. Ake (Svanstedt) seems to do well driving in these large fields

Shake It Cerry (11) – Really nice filly but I don’t like her having to start from post 11. It’s really hard when you have to start from the trailing position.

Salvi,Nick-MAH_8987Nick Salvi – Hambletonian: 10-7-5-1   Hambletonian Oaks: 8-1-11
The Hambletonian

This season, Swedish expatriate Jimmy Takter has the three top contenders for the race in his stable. No trainer in the modern era has swept the placings for this classic race, though Takter does appear poised to make history on Saturday.

Father Patrick (10) -Of the three, Father Patrick is the most accomplished and will be the race favorite on Saturday. Father Patrick was the champion two-year-old last season and is unbeaten thus far at three. He has annexed the season’s biggest race thus far, the $500,000 Earl Beal Memorial in a World Record 1:50.2 then beat his chief competition in the $317,000 Stanley Dancer. Both Takter and his driver Yannick Gingras have declared him the finest horse with which they have been associated, high praise indeed! Despite starting from the far outside ten post, he is clearly the horse to beat.

Trixton (7) -Takter drives the imposing Trixton himself and that colt has been nothing short of phenomenal in his sophomore season. He’s won the final of the New Jersey Sires Stakes and the Goodtimes in Canada, both by wide margins. His only defeat came at the hand of the above-mentioned Father Patrick in the Dancer. If the favorite falters, Trixton is the heir apparent.

Nuncio (5) -Nuncio completes the Takter trifecta and in many years, he would be the Hambletonian favorite. Nuncio has never finished worse than second in his career and is the only horse to have beaten Father Patrick, done last season at age two. John Campbell has driven more Hambletonian winners than anyone with six and would love to steer Nuncio to the upset for number seven on Saturday.

Resolve (1) – An interesting outsider is Resolve. This colt recently changed hands and was a willing second to Nuncio in the Reynolds stake at first asking for his new trainer, who interestingly enough, is Jimmy Takter’s daughter Nancy Johansson. He has drawn a favorable inside post and should offer a decent price.

The Hambletonian Oaks is a very contentious race and an excellent betting opportunity. Heaven’s Door is a very talented filly, perhaps the fastest in the field. She was a bit wild at two but was sold during the off-season and has come to hand for Swedish import Ake Svanstedt. He has had a remarkable season at The Meadowlands and brings them ready to race. Heaven’s Door has the speed to get the lead from her outside position and be the last one to the front. Wire to window at a price.
Designed To Be (1) – has the inside post and Brian Sears, another great big race driver. I suspect the pair will be intent on protecting position from the rail and will wind up in a pocket to Heaven’s Door. In the end she’ll either be good enough to go by or not, but likely a much smaller price than Heaven’s Door. I’ll be on not. Second best today.
Shake It Cerry (11) – the most accomplished of the group and is handicapped by her post position. She will start out behind the others from post eleven and that will remove any chance of Ron Pierce moving to the front and dictating the rate of speed. That said she’s agile, he’s a great money driver and it wouldn’t be a surprise if she won. Round out the ticket.
Darin ZoccaliDarin Zoccali – Hambletonian: 10-5-7  Hambletonian Oaks: 1-4-5
Father Patrick (10) -Has now won 15 consecutive races and has only lost once. He has done nothing to suggest he has any intention of slowing down. Regardless of the post, he is strictly the horse to beat. Gingras is hungry for his first Hambo. The only way he loses this race is if he is a victim of bad luck, which can happen from post 10. But I suspect he takes his well-deserved place in history today.

Nuncio (5) -He is a very good and professional race horse. Also, he is the only horse to every beat Father Patrick. Granted, that was over one year ago. Interestingly, he has never missed the exacta in his career and the way the race sets up, I think he is second best again.

Trixton (7) -Very little not to like about this horse. At times, he looks like a machine on the racetrack. While Father Patrick is fast, this colt is powerful. Curious to see what Takter’s tactics will be. Most likely to hit the board, but has a chance to win if things shake right.


Hambletonian Oaks

Designed To Be (1) -Will get the jump on Shake It Cerry today which could make all the difference. She has been really good in her last pair, but was compromised by her trip in both races. At the same time you are taking a short price here. But, she is the most likely winner.

Harley Momma (4) – Out of all the fillies that raced in the prep, she impressed me the most. Rallied boldly from fourth over and narrowly missed 3rd. I thought she showed a serious turn of foot This filly is incredibly sneaky and will be a price. My pick to pull off the upset!

Take The Money (5) -Her speed will put her in play from the word go. Respect any filly that wins 7 of 12 races and finishes in the exacts in 11 of those efforts. She is fast both at the start and at the finish and given her nose loss to ‘Harley earlier, I like this filly as well.


These statements do not reflect the views of the Harness Racing Fan Zone or the United States Trotting Association

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