BY MIKE FARRELL
EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ – August 5, 2017 -- Perfect Spirit was the winner by disqualification in a chaotic Hambletonian Saturday afternoon at the Meadowlands Racetrack.
It was a first time a horse first under the wire had his number taken down in the 92 editions of the $1 million trotting classic for 3-year-olds.
What The Hill squeezed off the pylons in deep stretch and sprinted past the pacesetting Perfect Spirit as the crowd cheered what appeared to be the first Hambo winner for trainer Ron Burke and driver David Miller.
But then the inquiry sign flashed on the tote board.
The judges studied the replay and detected contact between What The Hill and Guardian Angel AS, who broke stride.
After a lengthy review, the Hambletonian had it first DQ.
“It was a tough break,” Miller said.
What The Hill was placed ninth and Perfect Spirit was stunningly on his way to the winner’s circle.
“Your horse raced great both heats,” said Hall of Famer John Campbell, presiding for the first time as president of the Hambletonian Society as he handed the connections the cherished trophy. “It’s unfortunate circumstances, but you can’t take anything away from his performance today.”
Winning owner Lennart Agren, who races as the SRF Stable, chalked the victory up to the breaks of the game.
“I know you have to be very lucky like we were today,” he said. “It can end very quickly, so you have to live in the moment right now.”
The win gave international trotting master Ake Svanstedt, 58, his first Hambo win as both a trainer and driver in only his fourth year in the U.S.
“It’s very big,” the Swedish horseman said. “I’m very happy.”
Perfect Spirit paid $17, $6.40 and $5.40 for his fifth win in nine starts this season.
In the revised order of finish, Devious Man ($3 and $2.40) moved up to second and Enterprise ($4) was placed third.
It was a tough race for the favorites. Devious Man, the 2-1 choice, had dead aim turning for home but could not sustain his bid.
International Moni, the 5-2 second choice, broke stride in the first turn.