An interesting Hambo Day is in the books. The more I think about it, the more I scratch my head. It was a pretty wild day.
The 16 race smorgasbord wasn't quite as well-received by bettors with preliminary handle down about 8% or so, after factoring in last year's Super High Five carryover. This was a little bit strange, because it looked like a fairly good card, to my eyes.
The track was a bit quizzical, too, and maybe this played into the handle.
I don't think there was a strong bias, but I think it played odd - almost "fair", which we don't see in harness racing much as a speed game. If you went 54 and came home in 56, closers did well, like you'd think they're supposed to, while if you went 56 and came home in 55, the front end was fine, like it's supposed to be. The only wire to wire effort that bucked the trend was probably Darlinonthebeach, who was stung in 53.2 and came home in 56 to hold on. It was 1985 again.
Adding to the quizzical nature of the track, some horses performed oddly, making the whole day (and the track), increasingly hard to decipher.
Leaders like Polak A in the first stunk off stiff fractions, and was chalk (the two hole horse was second at 17-1), Snowstorm Hanover was awful (the two hole horse won) and Wings of Royalty was horrid, off a 56 half (the three hole horse won). Those were horses who raced bad, having nothing to do with the track. I'm really glad I bet those last two hard, by the way.
Southwind Frank was two fingers and sound last week, yet this week, in his elim, he was rammy and went way too fast, caught late by the eventual winner. Then he was steppy in the final; an odd two races for him. Two races we have not seen from him this season. By the way, Yannick is quite the driver. I am not sure how he kept that horse trotting his last quarter, to almost win the whole thing.
Bar Hopping looked incredible in his heat, taking things gate to wire. He gets the same trip as the heavy chalk in the final, and stops. I bet Tim and Jimmy are scratching their heads just like we are.
In an interview driver Scott Zeron was asked what he was thinking at the head of the lane with Marion Marauder and he said "I was confident, and I thought 'I hope he isn't sick'".I think that was prophetic for a lot of horses yesterday.
Always B Miki didn't train last week according to his trainer, and I think it showed just how hard it is to go 1:47 off time off. He was stung, challenged hard by a quality animal, and came a decent fourth. It spawned a set of nice show prices, (like in race two, in a continuation of the odd day). The other horse off a stale date - Freaky Feet Pete - didn't really seem like himself either.
Several horses seemed to break, for no apparent reason. Windowshopper, sitting in a gapped fifth, ran as the now horse in the Oaks. Honor and Serve, and several others all broke. A bunch of horses did not look comfortable at all on that track.
A horse we've been trying to hit for awhile - Katie Said - broke in the Lady Liberty, got off last and somehow came third. The Ron Adams horse won again, from the 12, a post some think is poison.
The set of results, I think, were the oddest I've seen in some time. Whether it was the surface, sickness, allergies, or some horses just not right after racing tough miles all summer, I don't know, but it was pretty darn strange. I don't even know who to bet back.
As for the big winner - Marion Marauder - it was well-deserved. Those connections have let that horse tell them what he wanted to do, not made to do what they wanted him to do, and they were rewarded for it. I don't think you'd see a more polished, sounder looking trotter on the racetrack. That was a great training and driving job.
No matter the result, no matter the track, or racing luck, or horses stopped by allergies, or sickness, or whatever it may be, Hambo Day is still a remarkable day for harness fans. I'm glad it happens each year, and I hope it lasts forever.
Have a great rest of the weekend everyone.
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