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Friday, July 17, 2015

Hambletonian Maturity Has A Different Look in Second Edition

The second edition of the modern day Hambletonian Maturity is the richest restricted race for four-year-olds, with a purse of $443,300. The inaugural Maturity drew a field of 14 including the defending Hambletonian champion Royalty For Life and the Oaks winner Bee A Magician. 

The Maturity is raced over 1-1/8 miles. The six-horse field, in post order, is Father Patrick, Shake It Cerry, Resolve, Gural Hanover, Il Sogno Dream and JL Cruze.

Of the six, four who competed in last year’s Hambletonian or Oaks and two were ineligible to the richest race for three-year-old trotters but have blossomed since that all-important stake payment deadline.

Two-time Dan Patch divisional champion Father Patrick drew the rail in the Maturity, race 11 on a star-studded card anchored by the Crawford Farm Meadowlands Pace. The four-year-old son of Cantab Hall pulled double duty this spring, racing and breeding a select group of mares. Father Patrick now has another chance to wear a Hambletonian blanket after an ill-timed gallop at the start of last year’s Hambletonian took him out of the race entirely.
The 2014 Hambletonian was won by Trixton, since retired to stud, but the fourth and fifth place finishers in the race have returned for another go. Il Sogno Dream, driven by Aaron Merriman from post five, makes his sixth start of the year and his first return engagement at The Meadowlands since last year’s Breeders Crown.

Il Sogno Dream & Aaron Merriman courtesy of Deuce Photo

“He was really good right off the bat when I started back with him this year,” said trainer Chris Beaver. “I don’t know that he’s gotten a whole lot better since last year but he just missed one check so I am happy with that.

“I was surprised to see just six in the race, but the owners [Bill & Dan Manes, Leonard LC and Randy Christopher] wanted to go and I knew we would get back at least half the starting fee. They are game owners and hey – we were 90-1 in the Hambletonian and they were gung ho about it. Part of it is the experience of being in these races. We have the Charlie Hill, Maple Leaf, Allerage Trot and the Dayton Derby so he has a full schedule.” 

Last year’s final check-getter in the Hambletonian was Resolve, owned by Hans Enggren, who won the Hambletonian 30 years ago with Prakas. Resolve moved into the barn of Ake Svanstadt for his four-year-old campaign and it was Svanstadt who steered last year’s Maturity winner Your So Vain to victory. Resolve has been a solid third in his last four starts and is looking for his first in the win column this year. 

Dan Patch Trotter of the Year Shake It Cerry was fourth in the Oaks last year but has found her best stride of late, nearly running down JL Cruze in his record-setting 1:49.4 mile last week.

The gelding Gural Hanover was a problem child in his early stages and therefore not staked extensively other than NY Sire Stake races. He racked up more than $400,000 under trainer Ron Burke in that lucrative program and supplemented back into the Maturity this year.
Perhaps the light entry box is a reflection on JL Cruze (post six for trainer Eric Ell and driver John Campbell.) Owners Ken Wood, Bill Dittmar Jr., and Stephen Iaquinta paid $50,000 to supplement JL Cruze to the Hambletonian Maturity and he was assigned a morning line of 3/5. The $35,000 purchase has been an absolute buzzsaw, with 15 wins in 17 starts this season, including the Super Bowl, Singer Memorial, Shiaway St Pat and swept the Graduate Series, scripting the fastest trotting mile at The Meadowlands of 1:49.4 in the process.

The Hambletonian Maturity is race 11 on Saturday’s 14-race card at The Meadowlands. Post time is 7:15 p.m.

(Deuce photo of Il Sogno Dream & Aaron Merriman)