Uncle Peter was made the 5-2 morning line favorite for Saturday’s $1.5 million Hambletonian at the Meadowlands Racetrack after trainer Jimmy Takter selected post No. 1 for the colt’s starting position.
The connections of Hambletonian elimination race winners Uncle Peter, Market Share and Knows Nothing earned the right to pick their horse’s post. Trainer Jeff Gillis selected first and chose post three for Knows Nothing, followed by driver Tim Tetrick taking post two for Market Share.
“I wanted (post) two,” Takter said as he debated his selection. “Let’s go with one.”
Broad Bahn won last year’s Hambletonian from post one, as did Muscle Hill in 2009 and Deweycheatumnhowe in 2008.
CBS Sports Network will air the Hambletonian final from 3:30-5 p.m. Saturday.
Uncle Peter, driven by Ron Pierce, brings a three-race win streak to the Hambletonian final. He won his Hambletonian elimination race last weekend by 1-3/4 lengths over Money On My Mind in 1:53.3 over a track labeled “good” because of earlier rain.
“I’ve been fortunate to be around a lot of great horses in my days and Uncle Peter is most likely the most gifted 3-year-old trotting colt I’ve been around,” said Takter, who also will drive Guccio from post seven in the Hambletonian final. “(Uncle Peter) has some issues, it’s a little bit up and down with him and he’s not the easiest horse, but … he’s the most gifted horse I’ve been around.”
Takter is a two-time Hambletonian winner, with Muscle Massive in 2010 and Malabar Man in 1997, and was inducted into the Harness Racing Hall of Fame on July 1. He is bidding to become the first trainer to win the Hambletonian in the same year as his induction.
Uncle Peter has won eight of 12 career races, including last year’s Breeders Crown at Woodbine Racetrack in Toronto, and earned $533,967. He is a son of Cantab Hall and the first foal out of the mare Victory Treasure. He was purchased for $60,000 at the Lexington Selected Sale, under the name Pick Up The Tab.
The horse was renamed in honor of Peter Fielding, the late brother of co-owners John and Jim Fielding. Also sharing in the ownership are Christina Takter and Goran Falk.
Knows Nothing, who was unraced last year because of a bone chip, won his elimination by 1-1/4 lengths over Guccio and is the 7-2 second choice on the morning line. He has won seven of eight races and earned $217,152 this year for Gillis and Ontario-based owners Al Libfeld, Marvin Katz, Mac Nichol and Stay. Libfeld and Katz were co-owners of 2010 Hambletonian winner Muscle Massive.
In his Hambletonian elimination, Knows Nothing benefited from some patient driving and, according to driver Jody Jamieson, some good fortune. Jamieson and Knows Nothing sat on the rail in the middle of the field before finding room to split Riccolo and Stormin Normand, who were battling side by side for the lead, near the top of the stretch and cruise to victory.
“You have to be lucky in this game, as we all know,” Jamieson said. “When that hole opened up and he took off, I knew within one stride that I was going to win the race. He just explodes. He’s like a pacer; he has that kind of speed when you come off a helmet. It was an amazing experience.
“It’s a humbling experience to be here with the second favorite in the Hambletonian final. It’s the biggest race in the world and you can’t let anybody tell you any different.”
Jamieson and Gillis were in the 2009 Hambletonian with Federal Flex, who finished ninth.
Market Share, who is trained by Linda Toscano and owned by Richard Gutnick, is 4-1 on the morning line. He had the fastest time of the three eliminations, winning by 2-1/4 lengths over Archangel. Last year, Gutnick and Toscano went to the Hambletonian with Chapter Seven, who finished fourth in the final.
Toscano is trying to become the first female trainer to the win the Hambletonian.
“This is unbelievable,” Toscano said. “I never dreamed I would get another chance at it after last year. To have this colt come as far as he has, and he seems to be prepping really well going into this race, it’s a dream come true.”
Market Share, who was 5-for-5 last season competing at Freehold Raceway, has won four of 10 races this year and earned $186,255 and Tetrick hopes the colt can give him his first Hambletonian trophy. Tetrick is the sport’s leading driver in wins and purses this year and has been the top money-winner each of the past five seasons.
“I’ve already had an awesome ride; I can’t believe it’s been this good. You always dream of winning the Hambletonian. Maybe this is my year; I certainly hope so.”
$1.5 million Hambletonian
1-Uncle Peter-Ron Pierce-Jimmy Takter-5/2
2-Market Share-Tim Tetrick-Linda Toscano-4/1
3-Knows Nothing-Jody Jamieson-Jeff Gillis-7/2
4-Archangel-Jim Morrill Jr.-Peter Arrigenna-9/2
5-My MVP-Mike Lachance-Tony Alagna-15/1
6-Prestidigitator-Sylvain Filion-R. Dustin Jones-12/1
8-Stormin Normand-Dave Palone-Jim Campbell-15/1
9-Money On My Mind-Andy Miller-Julie Miller-15/1
10-Gym Tan Laundry-George Brennan-Noel Daley-30/1