Donato Hanover

Race Summary

The Donato's Victory Leads to Horse of the Year

The dynasty that Hanover Shoe Farms visionary Lawrence Baker Sheppard seeded in 1922 remains the pinnacle of standardbred breeding and racing record books, perhaps no stat is as impressive as the legendary "Shoe" Farms' record as the breeder of 10 Hambletonian winners.

Never was there more at stake for the world-renowned farm and its syndication partners than when Donato Hanover went to the gate in the 82nd edition of the Hambletonian at the Meadowlands. The decision to syndicate the precocious two-year-old in 2006 was the first time in the history of Hanover Shoe Farm that the farm management was directly involved with a Hambletonian champion prior to the horse actually contesting the race. The 120 shares in the $6 million syndication agreement, sold out quickly to 22 of the sports most prominent individuals and breeding farms as Donato Hanover ended his two-year-old campaign with a Breeders Crown victory and two-year-old honors. "Syndicating a two-year-old is a very dangerous business decision," Hanover Shoe Farm President Jim Simpson said. "He had to have been a very special horse for us an dthe other to invest. Time will only tell if this was a solid investment. But he held up his end of the bargain as a ture champion." The syndicate leased Donato Hanover back to the original owners, David Scharf, Paul Bordogna and Steve Arnold, with the agreement that Donato Hanover would return to the Pennsylvania nursery for stallion duties at a fee of $20,000 at the conclusion of his sophomore campaign.

The dominant Donato was trained by Steve Elliot, and drew unavoidable comparisons to another Elliott trainee, Valley Victory. The great Valley Victory recorded a career remarkably parallel to that of Donato Hanover - until the week of the 1989 Hambletonian when the hearalded trotter nearly died from an illness that prevented him from racing in the Hambletonian or ever again. Nineteen years later Elliott ws back on the Hambletonian trail. He kept Donato Hanover on familar groud in the lead-up to the $1.7 million Hambletonian, easily annexing the Historic Dickerson Cup and the Stanley Dancer Memorial elimination and final.

Another eerie coincidence to the 1989 Hambletonian emerged. That year's event was billed as a battle of the sexes - Valley Victory vs . the great Peace Corps. When Valley Victory wasn't entered and Peace Corps (who carried a 17-race win streak into the race) failed to fire and finished fifth and second in the preliminary heats, the result was an epic stretch battle between Park Avenue Joe and Probe that ended in the one and only dead-heat in Hambletonian victory.The dynasty that Hanover Shoe Farms visionary Lawrence Baker Sheppard seeded in 1922 remains the pinnacle of standardbred breeding and racing record books, perhaps no stat is as impressive as the legendary "Shoe" Farms' record as the breeder of 10 Hambletonian winners.

A battle of the sexes circa 2007 evolved after Bob and David Anderson entered their brilliant filly Pampered Princess against the boys instead of in the $850,000 Hambletonian Oaks. Both Donato and she played their parts to perfection, each winning their respective Hambletonian eliminations. The stage was set for a classic confrontation between the two defending divisional champions, with the element of foreign intrigue added from teh thrid elimination winner, Swedish import Adrian Chip.

Connections of the three contenders chose their post positions by lot, a privilege awarded elimiantion winners. They lined up with Donato Hanover as post two, Adrian post three and Pampered Princess post four, prompting the morning line odds-maker to deem Donato Hanover an even money favorite. Under sunny skies on a breezy afternoon that kept the crowd comfortable despite the 88-degree temperature, Donato Hanover got a drive worthy of a champion from Hall of Fame pilot Ron Pierce.

Pierce let others bid fo the early lead and kept the eventual winner along the rail in third on the way to a 28.2 first quarter. He moved Donator Hanover off the rail just before the quarter pole and quickly stepped to the lead, but slowed the tempo and sealed the outcome of the race as Donator Hanover led to the half-mile in a soft 58.2. The second choice, Pampered Princess and driver Tim Tetrick, joined the chase on the backstretch, and trotting fans around the globe got the contest they wanted as the pair raced side-by-side for an eighth of a mile. At the start of the turn the filly actually had a brief lead, but Donato Hanover surged up on the inside, was able to reclaim the advantage and trotted off to win by an unthreatened 1-1/4 lengths. Andrian Chip, who raced in the pocket, trailing the deuling favorites by about three lengths on the final turn, gave his best effort to catch Donato Hanover in the stretch but finished second.

The 82nd Hambletonian, trotted in 1:53.2, was now a career defining victory and furthered Donato Hanover's status among the greatest trotters of this era. Pampered Princess faded to seventh, before being placed up to sixth, when fifth place finisher Too Salty was disqualified and placed back to seventh for violation of the breaking rule. "I honestly believed Pampered Princess had the ability to win the Hambletonian," trainer Jimmy Tatker said. "If Donato had been forced to take the trip my filly had to go in that race, I honestly believe the roles might very well have been reversed."

Donato Hanover's convincing victory, the lucky 13th in a row in his career gave the sophomore son of Andover Hall - D Train an insurmountable lead on Horse of the Year honors. Following the win, trainer Steve Elliott, who would be named the winner of the Glen Garnsey Award as Trainer of the Year for the second time in his career, echoed the thoughts of his rival and friend Tatker.

"It makes you feel good to see them walk to the half and it's your race to win or lose," Elliott said. "If we would have been on the outside and had to come after the filly we might have been standing here and watching her in the winner's circle."

Thought Donato Hanover faltered in teh Breeders Crown, finishing third to Arch Madness, he clean up in the year-end honors, garnering 189 votes from the members of the United States Harness Writers Association while no other horse received more than four ballots At the end of the season, Donato went back home to his birthplace, Hanover Shoe Farm, with the single season's earnings record of $2,336,190, completing a career that included 19 wins, a second and two third place finishes in 22 starts and life earnings just short of $3 million.

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