by Frank Carulli
March 26, 2019
Trainer Marcus Melander was named harness racing’s “Rising Star” last year. He has plenty of star power lined up to make a run at this year’s Hambletonian.
Melander, 27, handles undefeated champion Gimpanzee and four other accomplished 3-year-olds as the race toward the August 3 trotting classic at the Meadowlands begins.
Gimpanzee proved more than a dominant New York Sire Stakes winner when he won the $600,000 Breeders Crown 2-Year-Old Trot to cap a 9-for-9 season and push his earnings to $591,358 for owners Courant Inc. and SRF Stable. “Gimpanzee has been training good all winter, never missed a day of training and he has grown and filled out nicely,” said Melander.
Melander needs only to look down his shed row to find some of Gimpanzee’s main competition from the 199 trotters entered in the first leg of the Triple Crown. Green Manalishi S, a half-million dollar earner, finished second in the Breeders Crown and “has probably grown and filled out even more than the rest of the group,” according to Melander. Demon Onthe Hill earned most of his $144,542 with a steady performance in the Pennsylvania Sire Stakes. New Jersey Sire Stakes champion Greenshoe “is an incredibly fast horse but … needs to behave himself better at the track.” Gerry showed promise early in his 2-year-old campaign and trained well this winter.
A wider view of the Hambletonian picture includes these standouts: Forbidden Trade, the O’Brien Award-winner as Canada’s top freshman trotter; Swandre The Giant, who dominated in Indiana Sire Stakes action and is now trained by North America leader Ron Burke; Don’t Let’Em, winner of the Peter Haughton Memorial at the Meadowlands; and Southwind Avenger, winner of the Valley Victory stakes.
The progress of all the Hambletonian hopefuls will be reflected in the Hambletonian Future Wagering Pool that spans the next four months.
The 94th running of the Hambletonian is scheduled to be shown on the CBS Sports Network, continuing its run as the sport’s longest-running live broadcast.
The Hambletonian is the first leg of the Trotting Triple Crown, followed by the Yonkers Trot at Yonkers Raceway on Saturday, Aug. 31, and the Kentucky Futurity at the Red Mile on Sunday, Oct. 6.