Front-runner wins the Hambletonian
George Brennan isn’t likely to forget Hambletonian Day 2011.
Not only did Brennan have masterful drive in posting his first victory in the $1.5 million Hambletonian with Broad Bahn on Saturday at the Meadowlands Racetrack, but the 44-year-old posted the win roughly 35 minutes after guiding Bold and Fresh to an upset in the $750,000 Hambletonian Oaks.
"I’m at a loss for words," Brennan said after also giving Noel Daley his first training win in the Hambletonian. "This is great."
It marked only the second time that a driver won both major trotting races for 3-year-olds on the same day. It came two years after Brian Sears won the Oaks with Broadway Schooner and the Hambletonian with Muscle Hill.
"This is a monumental day for me," Brennan said. "I just remember when Sears did it a few years ago and remember what a day it was for him."
Broad Bahn, who won an elimination for the Hambletonian last week, trotted the mile in 1 minute, 53 seconds.
Brennan got the colt to the lead early as planned and then slowed things down, taking the field of 10 through the opening half mile in an easy 56 seconds on a day when speed was not holding up at the Meadowlands.
"When I saw the 56, I said, ‘Thank God,’ " Daley said, knowing his big colt would have plenty in the tank to hold off his main challenger — favored Manofmanymissions and driver Andy Miller.
Manofmanymissions made his move around the far turn and into the stretch, but the race was all but decided when Manofmanymissions went off stride and finished eighth in the 10-horse field.
"When I asked him to go a little, I felt him get unsteady and he got tired," Miller said.
The break allowed Broad Bahn to cross the finish line 3-1/4 lengths ahead of long shot Whiskey Tax.
Opening Night, who was looking to give driver John Campbell a seventh Hambletonian win, was another two lengths back in third.
"We had a great trip, but he got a little unsteady around the turn, so I lost some ground," Campbell said. "Once he hit the stretch, he was able to pick it up a little bit."
Chapter Seven, trained by cancer survivor Linda Toscano, was fourth. Toscano was trying to become the first female trainer to win trotting’s most prestigious race.
Board Bahn paid $14.60 in winning for the fourth time in eight starts this year.
The victory in the Hambletonian capped a remarkable comeback for Broad Bahn, who was looking like the favorite for the Breeders Crown last year when he broke his leg.
The injury allowed Manofmanymissions to get into the Breeders Crown, and that colt won the race and ignited his career. Broad Bahn didn’t get back to racing until late May, and the son of Broadway Hall put an exclamation point on his return on Saturday.
"This is a dream come true, everything worked out perfect for us," said Daley, an Australian now working in the States. "We’ve had a dream run all year with him, and that’s what it takes to win one of these."
The race went just as Brennan and Daley hoped after they selected the No. 1 post position in Tuesday’s draw.
The horses came to the gate, and Brennan, who is nicknamed the "Minister of Speed," gunned Broad Bahn to the lead, taking the field through the opening quarter in 27-1/5 seconds. The second quarter was trotted in a more leisurely 28-4/5, and that was the difference.
In the $750,000 Hambletonian Oaks for 3-year-old trotting fillies, Brennan moved Bold and Fresh to the lead in the stretch, past the highly regarded Crys Dream and Jezzy and scored a half-length victory over fellow long shot Lady Rainbow. Crys Dream finished third.
"I didn’t know how susceptible Crys Dream would have been, but I know how good my filly felt," Brennan said.
Brennan kept the Doug Miller-trained filly going to the wire when it seemed as if she wanted to break stride. The pair covered the mile in 1:53-1/5. The daughter of SJ’s Cavier returned $51.40 in winning for the fifth time in nine starts this year.