Race SummaryThe 75th anniversary of the Hambletonian was a celebration of the rich history and tradition of trotting's greatest race, but there was nothing conventional about the colt and trainer who brought home the 2000 trophy.
While many trainers believe the only way to prep for the Hambletonian is to race at the Meadowlands, Doug McIntosh opted for the road less traveled with his striking chestnut colt Yankee Paco. The Wheatley, Ontario native prepped Yankee Paco for the Hambletonian in rather unusual fashion staying in Ontario for Sire Stakes competition. Yankee Paco did not see the Meadowlands surface until he arrived for the eliminations on July 29.
The son of Canadian sire Balanced Image entered the Hambletonian eliminations with a four-race win streak, and made it five straight under the patient hands of driver Trevor Ritchie in the second of the three eliminations. The victory was particularly speical for McIntosh and his wife, Carrie, as it came on their son Dylan's second birthday.
"The birth of our son was the greatest thing in my life," said McIntosh just before the eliminations. "Winning the Hambletonian is the only thing I can think of that would come close."
A week later, McIntosh could compare the two feelings as Yankee Paco became the first Canadian sired horse to win the Hambletonian, bringing him the highlight of his career at age 57.
"It's a great thing for my career and a great thing for Canada," he said.
The 1:53.2 mile was a season record for a three-year-old colt and Yankee Paco's mile was all the more impressive by the fact that, leaving from post position seven, he was parked out the entire race, first-over after the half in 55.2. It was probably the first time a horse had won the Hambletonian without seeing the rail at any point in the mile.
When Legendary Lover K cleared the lead along the backstretch, Yankee Paco was suddenly left uncovered. In a display of gritty determination, Ritchie and Yankee Paco pulled away midstretch.
Mike Farrell of The Record wrote, "For any standardbred, that represents the moment of truth, leading to two options: press on for the glory, or fold and try again another day. On a glorious sun-splashed afternoon, Yankee Paco opted to fight."
In many ways, Doug McIntosh has been a man ahead of his time in the harness racing industry. The older brother of more heralded conditioner Bob McIntosh, Doug was a pioneer in communicating with owners and prospective owners. He advertised his services when that was considered "taboo" by the old guard. He was one of the first to publish a monthly newsletter, detailing the accomplishments and progress of his equine pupils. He hopped aboard the Internet explosion in the early stages, developing a comprehensive website and using e-mail to communicate with his clients.
Yankee Paco was a modest $30,000 yearling purchase by McIntosh from the Yankeeland Farm consignment at the 1998 Kentucky Standardbred Sale at Fasig-Tipton in Lexington on behalf of longtime clients Harry Ivey, a retired pharmacist, and his son, Dr. Tom Ivey, a heart surgeon.