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THE HAMBLETONIAN MEDIA CONFERENCE
July 31, 2007
DAVE JOHNSON: Went to welcome you all here to the Pegasus level of the Meadowlands racetrack, just a few miles from downtown Manhattan. Before we take a look at the eliminations on tape, talk about the incredible stories and take a look at the eliminations and have some questions and answers, just a quick word about this place and time.
A lot of people think this is a very pivotal Hambletonian, a real watershed point, a great opportunity for so many of us. All you have to do is take a look at the stories surrounding this race. It's sort of good news/bad news. It's good news for us.
You look at the human stories. I started to make a list. If I started to say one name of the human story surrounding this year's Hambletonian, I'd have to say 20 different names. You know what they are, how great they are in the world of sports.
Then you take a look at the equine stories. All you have to do is take a look at the three elimination winners, Adrian Chip, Pampered Princess and Donato Hanover. Look what else is only the sports pages of today: Barry Bonds, the NBA ref who is alleged to have fixed games, the joke of the Tour de France, and our friend Michael Vick. Yeah, this is really a great time for us.
As Stan Bergstein, a mentor to so many of us told us on our radio show this past Saturday, this is a really special day because the Hambletonian and the sport itself is the most regulated sport in history, and it is time for us to put our best foot forward, and what a cast of characters and action we have.
With that in mind, let's celebrate the Hambletonian and take a look at what we have planned for this week up on the screen. We have the amateur driver's race on Wednesday, the wine celebration in Pegasus, the racing from the Meadowlands is on FOX Sports Net every night Wednesday through Saturday at midnight, and a great presentation with King Supermarket for the food drive all week long benefitting the food bank of New Jersey.
Thursday, the 2nd, the Peter Haughton Memorial for the two-year-old trotting colts and the Mary Annabell for the two-year-old trotting fillies. $400,000 each for those races. Friday evening, advanced wagering on the entire Hambletonian card, which will be only Saturday afternoon. And the special, and of course very looked-forward-to, daily double between the Hambletonian and the Haskell.
Plus on Friday night, the Woodrow Wilson for two-year-old colt pacers, the $425,000 sweetheart for the two-year-old filly pacers.
Then on Saturday, Hambletonian day. Gates open at 9:30. 11:30 is the first race. The 82nd edition of the $1.5 million Hambletonian is scheduled for 4:15, broadcast live this year on NBC, a one-hour broadcast. They'll be open from 3:30 to 4:30. Live Hambletonian on Sirius Satellite Radio. We will be doing a two-hour program live across North America and Canada on satellite radio channel 126. Live streaming broadcast of the entire Hambletonian day on sportsnetamerica.com. Day-long coverage on TVG, and the FAN in New York, broadcasting from the Paddock Park from noon till 3:15.
The Hambletonian, Haskell daily doubles, rides, clowns, pony rides, Hambletonian hat giveaway for the adults, umbrella giveaway for the kids, signing up members in Paddock Park, plus a special autograph session with John Campbell, Brian Sears and Tim Tetrick from 10 to 11:00 on Saturday morning.
Saturday afternoon, boxing legend George Foreman will present the Hambletonian trophy, and George will participate in some drawings all often for his grills throughout Hambletonian afternoon.
Then Sunday down at Monmouth Park, the million dollar Haskell. What a weekend we have for you.
Right now we have for you the president and CEO of the New Jersey Sports and Exhibition Authority, your host, George Zoffinger.
GEORGE ZOFFINGER: Thanks very much. I don't think anybody could have said it better. This is a real opportunity. I just want to say welcome. Obviously this business faces a lot of challenges. We certainly are aware of that. We do have some very positive things going on. I think certainly this race and the Haskell on Sunday exemplify exactly that.
I encourage everybody to have a great time. Enjoy your lunch today. Hopefully everybody gets the draw they want. We look forward to a great day. Thanks very much.
DAVE JOHNSON: Thank you, George.
I'd like to introduce Nancy Byrne, executive director of New Jersey Travel and Tourism. Nancy, come on up and say hi.
NANCY BYRNE: I guess it's almost afternoon. On behalf of all the citizens of New Jersey, I want to take this time to welcome you all to our great state. We love it here and we hope you will enjoy your time here.
We love hosting the Hambletonian every year. It's really a great, fun weekend. Of all the horse racing we just talked about. We really want, while you're here, to hopefully take a little time and experience all the other things that happen in New Jersey.
I like to call it a "who knew" factor. People, when they come here, they go to our grounds for sculpture near Princeton, they go, Who knew this was in New Jersey? Who knew that our beaches, bays and rivers were so great for fishing, swimming, kayaking and rowing? Who knew our arts and cultural venues attract the world's best.
McCarter Theater in Princeton comes to mind, and the grounds for sculpture come to mind. Who knew that New Jersey is the top producer of cranberries?
Who knew Mountain Creek is a snowboarding mecca? Who knew that right here in the Meadowlands you can take a boat ride down the river and go birding? You see the New York City Skyline when you're out there. Who knew, this is a new one to me, the citizens of Ireland flock over to New Jersey to shop at the Jersey Gardens because we have fabulous shopping and it's tax free.
Who knew Atlantic City has fantastic dining, entertainment, shopping, gambling and who knew it's on the shore? And who knew New Jersey is a peninsula, surrounded by the Hudson River, the Delaware Bay, and the Delaware River. I'd love to call one of those things the New Jersey River, New Jersey Bay. That would help people understand where we are.
Now I believe you do know that New Jersey is home to Bruce Springsteen, Jon Bon Jovi, Thomas Edison. Also I think you know that New Jersey has the best tomatoes in the world. While you're here, you've got to taste them. If you don't have time to get here, we encourage you to go to our website which is visit nj.org and visit more about all the great things New Jersey has to offer.
Since we are here for horse racing, I want to say good luck to all the competitors.
DAVE JOHNSON: Right now let's get to the business of the Hambletonian Oaks and the draw for post positions. Sam McKee, come on up here and take over.
SAM McKEE: Thanks very much, Dave. Appreciate it greatly. Thanks to everybody for joining us today. As you know, we also have the Hambletonian Oaks in addition to the Hambletonian. The Oaks for the fillies, although the most high profile filly is in the Hambletonian itself. It's time now to draw those post positions for the field of 10. They go for $750,000. Let's bring up our director of racing Tad Stockman and Mike McCarthy to conduct the draw.
Nancy, you made such a great speech, come on back up. Encore performance. Trent Miller, the general manager of Paul Miller Porsche. Trent, come on up and give us a hand. Great supporter of the Meadowlands for quite some time.
Let's also call up Dale Welk, general manager of Garden State Horse Company. We have a professional to help us, too, Carl Goldberg from the Sports Authority, chairman of the NJSEA.
We have the big pills. We have a field of 10. The two elimination winners this year get to pick their post. They've already selected their post. Tad Stockman will pass that information on to us. Ron Gurfein, driver Mike Lachance, elimination winner has opted for Post 2. Post 2 for Possess the Magic. The other elimination, Falls For You, Post 3. They finished second for three consecutive years. They're hoping that changes today.
We'll draw the other eight post positions right now. Tad has the pill balls that he'll put in the big bucket.
Possess the Magic with Post 2. Ron Gurfein looking for his first Hambletonian Oaks victory. Falls for you with Post Position 3, Brian Sears driving.
The first other position we will draw will be coming out shortly. $750,000 purse for the Oaks. Post time at 3:38. Nancy pulls out Post 10, the dreaded Post 10. Post 10 goes to Wishful Me. Dave Miller is trained to drive. Post Position 10.
The next number is Post 6. Post 6 goes to Danae. Tim Tetrick driving for George Teague. Teague known more for his success with pacers.
Post 8, splits them in the half, Resortful, driver Jeff Gregory, trainer Jonas Czernyson. They won this race two years ago in '05. Jeff would like to see this one win because he's a co-owner. Resortful, third in her elimination.
Post Position 7 is next. That goes to Granny Gui. Tim Tetrick is also named to drive Granny Gui. Driver choice to make there for Tim. Set the pace in her elim, finished fifth. Daughter of Dream Vacation. Post 7 for Granny Gui.
Post 5 is next. For the Oaks goes to Pippywhitestockings. Pippywhitestockings owned by Carolyn Atherton and her husband, Irv, who is an avid amateur driver, this is the thrill of their life to be in a race this big like the Hambletonian Oaks. Good luck to some people there. Pippywhitestockings with Post 5.
Post 4 goes to Right On Renee, driver Cat Manzi from Post Position 4, trained by Bill Gallagher. He knows something about these upsets in the three-year-old filly trots.
Post position one, Sing Me To Sleep, Hall of Fame driver Jim Doherty. Jim and trainer Tom Gonzalves long-time friends from New England. Jim, this would be a great time to keep that win streak alive. Jim has won a race every year we've been open at the Big M till this year. Hopefully we'll add to that on Saturday.
The final post, Post 9, goes to Vulcanize. Ron Pierce named to drive for trainer Bob McIntosh, a Hall of Famer, looking for his first Oaks win.
That's the field for the 10th race on Saturday, the $750,000 Hambletonian Oaks. Thanks to our sponsors for your help with the draw.
DAVE JOHNSON: Let's bring in Bob Hayden. Bob, where are you? Are you near a microphone? We'll come back with interviews in just a moment. Let's bring up -- let me give you the Morning Line for the Hambletonian Oaks. Here we are.
From the top down, it's Sing Me To Sleep starting at 20-1. Possess the Magic 9-5, the Morning Line favorite. Second choice, the other elimination winner, Falls For You starts at 5-2. Right On Renee is 20-1. Pippywhitestockings, 10-1. Danae is 8 on the Morning Line. Granny Gui is at 12. Resortful is at 12. Vulcanize, 5-1 from the 9 hole. On the outside, Wishful Me starts at 15-1. That's the Morning Line.
We'll go to the next post position draw. Let's bring up Ken Warkentin. Come on up.
KEN WARKENTIN: Good afternoon, everybody. Welcome to Pegasus Restaurant and the drawing for the Hambletonian. Thanks very much, Dave Johnson.
I would like to, at this time, our first order of business, is to introduce our draw participants. We would like to introduce Mr. Tad Stockman, our director of racing. Our presiding judge Mike McCarthy. Susan Shields, eastern regional manager of equine sales for Fort Dodge Animal Health will also be joining us for the drawing of the Hambletonian.
Also Gary Niewenhuis. Gary is the senior vice president marketing director of Valley National Bank. We'd also like to invite Mr. Murray Brown to help us out as well. The public relations director for Hanover Shoe Farms will be joining us for the Hambletonian draw at this time.
Let's take a look at the Hambletonian eliminations, video, history.
DAVE JOHNSON: Before we pull the pills and get the post positions, let me bring up Carl Goldberg, chairman of the New Jersey Sports and Exhibition Authority. Carl, come up to the microphone.
CARL GOLDBERG: I think this is really our most exciting Hambletonian in years. The field is extraordinarily strong. We're very excited to have a filly in the race along with a foreign horse in Donato Hanover challenging, along with the other horses. Certainly we have a varied field that's going to create unprecedented excitement.
I have to say candidly, it was alluded to earlier, for the first time in my tenure as the chairman I have a rooting interest being close friends with the connections of Donato Hanover. That certainly doesn't create any difficulty for the race itself.
But as we alluded to earlier in the afternoon, this a time that's very challenging for the Sports Authority and harness racing in general. But I think what's going to take place here in the next three or four days creates a whole new level of momentum and really elevates the excitement that harness racing brings to the state of New Jersey.
I thank all of you in the room for your commitment to harness racing in New Jersey and for bringing the top-quality horses here to compete in what will clearly be the most exciting harness race of the year. Thank you very much.
DAVE JOHNSON: The Hambletonian has always been in the professional and caring hands of the Hambletonian Society. Let me bring up to the microphone right now the president of the Hambletonian Society, Tom Charters.
TOM CHARTERS: Thank you, Dave. I thank everybody for coming and showing their support to this press conference event.
I'd just like to express our thanks to everybody, all the horsemen that support this event. It's a great honor to be associated with it. I know all the directors of the society feel the same.
We'd also like to express our thanks to the year-round care that the Sports Authority gives the event, including especially its staff, Dennis Dowd, Carl Goldberg and George Zoffinger can be proud of the staff they have here. They're incredible to work with and we look forward to working with them for many more years.
Lastly, I just wish all the participants good luck and hope we see you in the winner's circle.
DAVE JOHNSON: For the post position draw for the 82nd edition of the Hambletonian, Ken Warkentin, over to you.
KEN WARKENTIN: Thanks very much, Dave.
We have the elimination winners standing by here. Our first order of business is to see which of our three elimination winners will pick their posts first, then second, then third. We have the connection standing by here with their reply. Who is going to choose first? Susan Shields is going to draw the name of one of the elimination winners.
This is the horse that will go third. The connections of this horse will go third. Donato Hanover will pick third.
This is the first choice for post position. Adrian Chip, connections of Adrian Chip will choose first.
And, of course, for second it will be Pampered Princess.
Robert Bergh, Bob, let's get their choice.
BOB 'HOLLYWOOD' HAYDEN: Steve Elliott is also here with me from Donato Hanover. Robert, you go first. What post do you pick in the Hambletonian?
ROBERT BERGH: I take No. 3.
BOB 'HOLLYWOOD' HAYDEN: Post 3. Last week you had Post 5; did well. Why No. 3? Want to be close up?
ROBERT BERGH: I like No. 3 (laughter).
BOB 'HOLLYWOOD' HAYDEN: How was your first trip over the track with Adrian Chip? How did he do? He was very impressive.
ROBERT BERGH: Yeah, he did very well. Very fine now, too. Everything good for the final.
BOB 'HOLLYWOOD' HAYDEN: Some of the writers from overseas told us you're a great trainer when it comes to the big-money events. Doesn't get much bigger than this.
ROBERT BERGH: No, I had never tried such big money. This is new and much bigger. It's more difficult to say it will go.
BOB 'HOLLYWOOD' HAYDEN: Let's head over to Sam and pick second, then come back to Mr. Elliott for Donato.
SAM McKEE: Robert Bergh likes No. 3. We'll find out if Jimmy Takter likes three or four. Jimmy, what post position are you picking and why?
JIMMY TAKTER: I pick No. 4. I like the 4 post. I think it's a good spot there. The fillies get a little better control where she want to be in the race.
SAM McKEE: So Post 4, is that more of a lead post or more of a take back and fit in early post for you?
JIMMY TAKTER: I don't know. It's a good spot to decide if you want to be in (indiscernible) there or you want to race from behind. That's the spot we'd like to see.
SAM McKEE: We also have driver Tim Tetrick, the 25-year-old driving sensation. Tim has to leave in a couple minutes because he's driving at Pocono later on this afternoon. Over 700 wins this year, over $9 million in purses. What was your first thought when Jimmy Takter called you about driving Pampered Princess?
TIM TETRICK: Ecstatic. Very excited, honored to drive the great mare.
SAM McKEE: What did you think of her in the elims? Anxious moments leaving the gate, then a little grabby when you got locked in on the far turn?
TIM TETRICK: She was really ready to race. She's better than I thought she really was. Just a great filly. She took care of me out there. So everything worked out great.
SAM McKEE: A filly to beat the boys is always difficult. Can you beat Donato Hanover and Adrian Chip on Saturday?
TIM TETRICK: That's why they have these races. That's why Jimmy felt confident putting her in the colts. If they thought Donato was the winner, they would go ahead and give him the money. But he's not yet, so they got her to beat.
SAM McKEE: One year ago you were getting ready for the races at the Illinois State Fair in Springfield. That was going to be the highlight of your summer. Here you are driving in the Hambletonian, just a sensational season all around. Do you ever have to pinch yourself and wonder if this is really happening?
TIM TETRICK: Every day. A lot bigger stage out here. Every day I wake up, thank God I get to race on this big circuit. It's a great honor to be here.
BOB 'HOLLYWOOD' HAYDEN: Three and four are gone. Donato Hanover, what are we picking, Steve Elliott?
STEVE ELLIOTT: Going to pick the 2.
BOB 'HOLLYWOOD' HAYDEN: If you had first choice, what would you have taken?
STEVE ELLIOTT: 3.
BOB 'HOLLYWOOD' HAYDEN: Donato hasn't been passed by a horse in a race for 13 months. Any reason to believe any of these other nine horses will pass him on Saturday?
STEVE ELLIOTT: There's 10 horses in there. Anyone can win it.
BOB 'HOLLYWOOD' HAYDEN: Coming into the race, Donato, he's been incredibly good, great horse. Any weaknesses, any flaws in his game at all?
STEVE ELLIOTT: No, not really. He's pretty versatile. He just seems ready for this race. Hopefully we'll get lucky.
BOB 'HOLLYWOOD' HAYDEN: You told us earlier in the year you wanted to race here. Eight for nine at the Meadowlands. Home-field advantage, does that work to his advantage?
STEVE ELLIOTT: I don't know about that. Hopefully make it nine for ten.
BOB 'HOLLYWOOD' HAYDEN: This is the biggest race you've been in. You won some big races before. Tell us what the next couple days are going to be like for Steve Elliott?
STEVE ELLIOTT: I think just business as usual.
BOB 'HOLLYWOOD' HAYDEN: Business has been good. Post 2.
KEN WARKENTIN: Going for 13 in a row in the big race on Saturday. We'll take up the three post positions that were chosen, Post 3, 4 and 2, and draw for the remaining seven here.
Post Position 8. Xactly Hanover, Post Position 8. Runner-up in his elimination to Pampered Princess. Three starts this year, 8 for Xactly Hanover.
Post Position 7, the answer is Laddie for Paula Wellwood. Post Position 7 for Laddie.
Post 6 goes to Great Success. Mike Lachance and Ron Gurfein looking for the Hambletonian Grand Slam together. Mike Lachance looking for his fifth Hambletonian.
Post Position 5 goes to Too Salty. Post Position 5, Too Salty. John Campbell did qualify him. Qualified all three of his drives. Doug Miller the trainer of Too Salty. Dave Miller will drive. Dave Miller picks up the drive on No. 5, Too Salty.
Post Position 10, Flirtin Man. John Campbell driver. John looking for his seventh Hambletonian, second straight Hambletonian. Gary Napierala, Brittany Farms, Let It Ride Stables.
Post position 9, Please Poppy, third-place finisher in his elimination, with Brian Sears. Post 9, Brian Sears, Please Poppy. And the rail goes to Don't Blink Twice. Cat Manzi driving 1, Don't Blink Twice. Jimmy Takter, one of two entries in the Hambletonian.
Let's start with Bob Hayden and the Gurfein Man.
BOB 'HOLLYWOOD' HAYDEN: It's been 19 years since anyone has won the Oaks and Hambletonian the same year. Ron Gurfein is the only one eligible this year in both races. Ron, first Possess the Magic. I asked Mike Lachance a while ago, is he good enough to intimidate the field? He said on Hambletonian day, you don't intimidate anybody.
RON GURFEIN: He's a hundred percent right. They come from everywhere. Horses you think won't lead will lead. Horses you think will take back, will lead. It's just a different day, a different story.
BOB 'HOLLYWOOD' HAYDEN: Seems like right now Possess the Magic is on top of her game.
RON GURFEIN: I think she's been on top of the game her whole year. A few bad racing luck, a few judge's decisions that weren't exactly proper, a couple other problems we encountered.
All in all, she's okay.
BOB 'HOLLYWOOD' HAYDEN: Both self-possessed you have in, Great Success, tell us about him. Was there a recent equipment change that helped his cause a little bit?
RON GURFEIN: They were joking about Timmy Tetrick going to Springfield. Great Success was going to Springfield two weeks ago. I was thrilled to think he might have a chance to win the review. A couple of thoughts, a couple of changes, he improved. He didn't improve enough to make me really excited about winning this thing.
You know, he improved enough to be in the game. Once you're in the game, anything can happen.
BOB 'HOLLYWOOD' HAYDEN: You've won three Hambletonians with Mike Lachance driving. Can Great Success make that No. 4?
RON GURFEIN: I doubt it, but would like to see it happen.
BOB 'HOLLYWOOD' HAYDEN: Both your horses have raced only here this year. Does that help you at all?
RON GURFEIN: I never raced a horse that was eligible anywhere else. The only exception is Continental Victory I raced in the Yonkers Trot, only because it was before the Hambletonian. I think it's very smart to stay here.
All young trainers want to listen to an old man. If you stay here, you have a much better chance. Even young Steve Elliott listened this year.
BOB 'HOLLYWOOD' HAYDEN: What about Pampered Princess against this field?
RON GURFEIN: I think she has an excellent chance. I would say, in my mind, they're both even money. I love the connections of both. Jimmy is a dear friend, Steve is a dear friend. I have no desire to root against either one of them. They're both great horses. I hope they whack it out and I beat both of them.
KEN WARKENTIN: 13 fillies in 82 Hambletonians. It's been a while since Jimmy Takter has two in the final. He has a great record of having horses in this Hambletonian final. He's got a great shot with the filly. Sam.
SAM McKEE: Tough act to follow after Ron. Jimmy Takter did not heed the guru's advice and raced in Ontario with Pampered Princess. What went into your decision, Jimmy, to enter the colts in Hambletonian versus a sure payday in the Oaks?
JIMMY TAKTER: I think I have the best horse.
SAM McKEE: She certainly looked like it on Saturday. What were your thought of the elimination? Got a little steppy leaving the gate, but seemed to settle down. You had to be happy with the trip.
JIMMY TAKTER: She got -- she got certainly excited. They had some activities over in the paddock area. She's very safe on her feet. She's very handy. I'm not really too overconcerned about that.
SAM McKEE: Discuss the driver decision. John Campbell had been driving her on a regular basis. Did you talk with John ahead of time about the Hambletonian and made your plans from there?
JIMMY TAKTER: You know, I mean, I'm sure John had some feelings that it would be a possibility I would try the colts. Unfortunately on his behalf, he had his own horse. It's not fun to change driver. John had done such a great job with her.
You know, we're standing here and mostly driver seats already taken. Tim is a young boy. Seems like he's very capable what he doing.
SAM McKEE: A lot of hype. Colt versus the filly. Filly versus nine colts actually. Pampered Princess good enough to beat Donato Hanover?
JIMMY TAKTER: I think the races are structured now, we racing two heats. Week to week, you know, great filly can beat the colts. If it would have been heat races, I would not participate.
SAM McKEE: Jimmy Takter, best of luck with Pampered Princess. Back up to Ken.
KEN WARKENTIN: Bob Hayden, this guy has a resumé.
BOB 'HOLLYWOOD' HAYDEN: Yeah. De'ja vu over here, too. Back in '96 Lindy Lane entered the Hambletonian with the fastest record, and Continental Victory ended up winning.
Xactly Hanover enters this year with the fastest record, and a filly is the one to beat. Osvaldo Formia, you've been around quite a while. I don't think anybody has the Hambletonian resumé you do. Tell us about your colt, Xactly Hanover.
OSVALDO FORMIA: Well, he's improving every week. It could be a surprise for everybody.
BOB 'HOLLYWOOD' HAYDEN: What is the best quality he has? Gate speed?
OSVALDO FORMIA: Well, he got the gate speed. The only thing he don't like to be -- if he take off fast enough, he'll be there.
BOB 'HOLLYWOOD' HAYDEN: Tell him about him stepping up his game in the last few months.
OSVALDO FORMIA: Mr. Gurfein help us a lot that day (laughter). If he can be seeded somewhere close to the lead, he could be danger.
BOB 'HOLLYWOOD' HAYDEN: You've been in the Hambletonian from '69 to 2007. What's the biggest change you've seen, if there is one, in the Hambletonian since you were in the winner's circle in '69?
OSVALDO FORMIA: What a change. To tell you that I have more from there. Now is a lot of pressure, but we'll take it.
BOB 'HOLLYWOOD' HAYDEN: Horses like Speedy Somali back in 1989, the dead heat probe. Tell us about the next four days in the life of Osvaldo Formia with Xactly Hanover.
OSVALDO FORMIA: Going to be a lot of shake. Everything going to be the same. Not changes. The horse come out, everybody's okay. Let's hope for the best. The 8 hole don't have much, but it could have been 9 or 10.
BOB 'HOLLYWOOD' HAYDEN: Good luck, Osvaldo, on Saturday.
OSVALDO FORMIA: I got a lot of people to thank in this country. Thank you.
BOB 'HOLLYWOOD' HAYDEN: Thank you, Osvaldo.
KEN WARKENTIN: Sam McKee has a driver, horseman, who needs no introduction. All nine drives in the90s, among the top three betting choices.
SAM McKEE: As Osvaldo Formia said, could have been worse. John Campbell ended up with the worst, Post 10, for Flirtin Man. John, first of all, the Pampered Princess situation, had you and Jimmy talked ahead of time? Did you know she was going to enter the Hambletonian?
JOHN CAMPBELL: I knew there was a good chance. They were certainly undecided till actually the day before. I knew there was a good chance she was going to go in.
SAM McKEE: Flirtin Man, a horse you co-own in the race, committed to drive him, closed very well against Donato in his elimination.
JOHN CAMPBELL: He's been coming along. Ran into a little problem with his foot after his last race in Mohawk. Trying to get him to qualify. Got two qualifiers in him. Very happy with his race the other day. He raced extremely well. He proved he can race at this level. Certainly was the biggest test he's had so far. Hoping he can build on that.
SAM McKEE: Napierala is not a household name. You worked with him quite a bit when he worked with Chuck. How did you end up with Gary training this colt?
JOHN CAMPBELL: Chuck suggested we put him over in Gary's barn. He was going to be swimming quite a bit. He said he's going to get the best of care over there with Gary's wife, Amy. It's worked out tremendously. They've done a marvelous job with the horse. The horse looks tremendous.
It's really difficult when you don't have much experience going into a race like this. We just couldn't be happier with the job Gary and Amy has done. The horse himself, he's come along well.
SAM McKEE: What do you think of your chances against Donato Hanover, Pampered Princess, and Adrian Chip? Can you win this race, or do you need things to go your way?
JOHN CAMPBELL: We certainly need a break out of the gate, no question about that. As you alluded to, his inexperience. It's a detriment when you draw the 10 and you're not that great at the gate. He's certainly capable of winning. I don't think there's any question about that.
The race is set up well for closers the last couple years. We're hoping that it does again.
SAM McKEE: John Campbell, best of luck. In search of his seventh Hambletonian victory. Back to Holly standing by with Myron Bell.
BOB 'HOLLYWOOD' HAYDEN: Myron, tell us, last year an unbelievable day for Brittany Farms. They all but locked up the owner of the year that day. No owner has won this race in back-to-backs since 1973 and '74. In the Oaks you have a shot to do that. You have a lot of involvement.
MYRON BELL: We're very blessed. It's been a tremendous year so far.
BOB 'HOLLYWOOD' HAYDEN: Tell us about some of the horses you have involvement with.
MYRON BELL: Well, we have John's horse, Flirtin Man, which we're sorry through the bottom, the outside, got lucky and drew the rail with Don't Blink Twice. Not really a major contender, but we're there.
BOB 'HOLLYWOOD' HAYDEN: In the Oaks?
MYRON BELL: In the Oaks, we have Ronnie's horse. We're very happy with her. She's a home bred. She's exceeded her expectations. She's been great.
BOB 'HOLLYWOOD' HAYDEN: This has been a pretty big year for a lot of the groups you have had. Can you pull another one out of your hat?
MYRON BELL: We're just happy to be in it, in a spectacle like this. The best horse will win.
BOB 'HOLLYWOOD' HAYDEN: Good luck to you on Saturday, Hambletonian day, Myron Bell.
KEN WARKENTIN: Sam McKee, you have the all-time leading percentage trainer in the history of the Meadowlands racetrack next to you. 22.9%, good number.
SAM McKEE: That speaks not only to talent but longevity as well for trainer Steve Elliott. A couple of questions about Donato Hanover. There are critics around saying, well, the horse hasn't been tested. Nobody has looked him in the eye. We're not sure what's going to happen when that occurs. Has his road to the Hambletonian been too easy this year?
STEVE ELLIOTT: Yeah, it's been an easy ride. A lot easier than we thought it would be. I'd rather it be that way than overtested.
SAM McKEE: In the elimination after the race, Hollywood Hayden interviewed Ron Pierce, said the colt didn't really like it when he hit the wheel disk and touched his tail with the whip. Any concerns or was that something that hadn't happened to the colt this year?
STEVE ELLIOTT: I think it was new to him, might have surprised him a little bit. Donato Hanover has always been a come-from-behind horse anyway. This year we raced him in the front end because he happened to be the best. Never know how it's going to play out when you're in the race.
SAM McKEE: You have the two elim winners just outside of you. What is the perfect strategy scenario for you? How do you see the race unfolding in your mind?
STEVE ELLIOTT: You never know once that gate springs what's going to happen. You leave that to the race and the drivers. Just hope your horse is fit.
SAM McKEE: Will you have any instructions at all for Ron Pierce or just hand him the lines and say, Good luck?
STEVE ELLIOTT: Hand him the lines and hope he wins.
SAM McKEE: The pressure of a horse like this? I know you've been pointing for this day for so long. It's finally here just a few days away. Tell us how you feel going into the race.
STEVE ELLIOTT: I feel pretty good. The horse is good. He feels good. It's a pretty evenly matched race. There are a lot of good horses in there. I think the trip is going to win it. Hopefully we get that trip.
SAM McKEE: Steve Elliott, best of luck with the Hambletonian favorite Donato Hanover on Saturday. Back upstairs to Dave Johnson.
DAVE JOHNSON: Here is the Morning Line for Saturday's Hambletonian. We start with the rail, Don't Blink Twice, starts at 30-1.
Donato Hanover, 2, Morning Line favorite at even.
Adrian Chip 5-1. Pampered Princess is the second choice from Post 4 at 3-1. Too Salty, 15-1. 15-1 also for Great Success. No. 7 Laddie is 15-1.
No. 8, Xactly Hanover, starts at 12-1. No. 9 Please Poppy 30-1. From the outside, Post 10, Flirtin Man is 8-1 on the Morning Line.
A reminder for our press folks on the phone and here, the media relations department will be on-call all this week, updates on our website, meadowlandsracetrack.com. Of course, you can find out what's happening on a day-to-day basis by checking in on our nightly show, Wednesday through Saturday, FOX Sports Net, racing from the Meadowlands every night.
NBC, of course, will be broadcasting live 3:30 to 4:30 on sat. It will be -- 3:38 will be the Oaks, 4:15 live coverage of the Hambletonian.
Thanks for being with us for this press conference. Enjoy the great lunch which is going to be served, and have a wonderful Hambletonian. Good luck on Saturday.
End of FastScripts