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Sunday, August 07, 2005

And We're Off!

- Even if gaited horses pulling guys in sulkies doesn’t float your boat, you just had to get a thrill from watching a 59 year-old driver who plies his trade at county fairs and minor-league tracks flashing his whip triumphantly as he cruised under the wire before over 30,000 at the Meadowlands to win the biggest race in harness racing. Not only did Roger Hammer confound those who felt that he should have turned the job over to a big-name driver, he faked everyone out by taking Vivid Photo off the pace instead of flashing his usual early speed. "I was like a politician," Hammer joked. "I fooled everybody and then I won." [NY Times]

"This horse never showed racing off the pace," Hammer admitted. "But I figured I could out-brush all of them. "I didn't know what the fractions were; I was only worried where Ron (Pierce, the driver of favorite Classic Photo) was. I've never used the whip on this horse, but the second time I tapped him I knew it was over. I knew he was a strong finisher."

Hammer, of Bedford, Pennsylvania, and his partner, Todd Schadel of Gratz, Pennsylvania, bought four horses together, each taking two to train and race. Hammer ended up with the son of SJ’s Photo, a $30,000 yearling purchase, was racing at the Pennsylvania fairs at two and remained away from the Meadowlands until the eliminations last week when he won his elimination in 1:53.2.

“I’ve made two-year-old payments for the Hambletonian many times over the last 30 years but this is the first one we paid up at three,” said Hammer. “I knew he was a fast horse. The decision to geld him was the best we made. Otherwise he would have been a $3,000 claimer. He would try to climb the walls of the stall.” [Meadowlands Press Release]
Actually, a peek at the bottom line of Vivid Photo’s pp lines shows that he has come off the pace before, but no one could expect the change of tactics at this time. Great job by CBS, with Gary Siebel, Caton Bredar, and Jay Privman; and they were first to interview Hammer with Siebel noting that many were waiting beside their broadcast booth to get their shot.

- I guess Nick Zito will think twice before he questions Jerry Bailey’s judgment in the future. It was reported he was “angry” at first when Bailey recommended that Noble Causeway be scratched last weekend during the Jim Dandy post parade, but the horse didn’t make it past the first turn in the allowance race yesterday.
"(Dominguez) said he warmed up good and broke sharp," Zito said. "Then, after a quarter of a mile, the horse started to act funny and stopped. Usually, after a horse breaks sharp, the horse will continue to run well. Once he was pulled up, he was fine. That's how he has been in the last two races.

"I have to send him to the clinic to see what is wrong with the horse. It has to be something internal." [Bloodhorse]
Ice Wynnd Fire took the money, and the race for Bobby Frankel as the 2-1 second choice. I liked the second and third place finishers Quadrant and Skakway, but the exacta will-pays were disappointing so I just watched instead. Quadrant ran a good second; he’s a half brother to Offlee Wild.

I couldn’t help but be reminded of Angel Cordero virtually willing Bold Forbes to the wire in the Belmont as I watched Gary Stevens do the same to get Commentator to hold off the late charge of Saint Liam in the Whitney. The rest of this Grade 1 field was far, far back; and the Grade 1 Test, won by Leave Me Alone was similarly non-competitive. Two winners and a second yesterday for Mott and Bailey.

I was unfortunately a late scratch from the Hambletonian yesterday due to a sour stomach and some common sense. It’s early Sunday morning, and we’re off shortly for a week at Saratoga. Speak to you later.