|Browse by Sport
|Find us on
THE HAMBLETONIAN MEDIA CONFERENCE
July 29, 2008
DAVE JOHNSON: I'm Dave Johnson, and it's a pleasure for me to welcome you to Meadowlands. Our first bit of business is for me to introduce the president and the chief executive officer of the New Jersey Sports Authority. Won't you welcome Dennis Robinson up to the podium. Dennis?
DENNIS ROBINSON: Thank you, David, and good afternoon. On behalf of the governor, of course, Cal Goldberg and our chairman of the board, it's my pleasure to welcome you to the Meadowlands and the 83rd running of the Hambletonian. We are so proud to host the world's greatest harness race, in fact, for the 28th time. And as far as we're concerned, we'd like to have it for at least 28 more years.
As you know, the interest in the Hambletonian is tremendous, as last year proved. We bet some $8.2 million in total handle, third highest in harness racing history, and $1.6 million was bet on the race itself and was the most ever bet on a single harness race. Let's keep our fingers crossed and maybe we have a shot at breaking the records this weekend.
We feel really good about Saturday if the eliminations are any indication, as we are up some 71/2 percent over 2007. And as we know, an undefeated horse creates great buzz as the pace night proved, and we are looking forward to watching Dewey and the talented field that is ready to challenge him on Saturday afternoon.
I also want to take this time to thank Tom Charters and the Hambletonian Society for all their great work, and most especially for the partnership we have forged with the organization over the years.
I also want to thank our sponsors, specifically New Jersey Department of Travel and Tourism and to King Supermarkets. In fact, King's just happens to be my supermarket of choice, so if you ever want to meet me on a Sunday morning most likely you'll find me at King's in Ridgewood on Saturday morning.
Of course the Hambletonian is just the start of a great weekend of racing in New Jersey. With Dewey as the favorite in Hambletonian and Big Brown making his return in the Haskell, these events really do prove that racing in New Jersey is alive and well.
We wish you all the best of luck in the $1.5 million Hambletonian and the $750,000 Oaks. We thank you, and we hope you all have a wonderful time. Thank you very much.
DAVE JOHNSON: Thank you, Dennis. As Dennis said, the Hambletonian and the Hambletonian Oaks premier point of our press conference, we're going to be joining the post position shortly, but before we do it's a big weekend in New Jersey and let me bring up to the podium Nancy Byrne, who's the executive director of New Jersey Travel and Tourism. Come on up. Welcome, Nancy.
NANCY BYRNE: Well, I guess everyone has picked up on the fact that it is a great weekend coming up here in New Jersey, and that was kind of my theme, as well, because although I must say, every weekend is a great weekend in New Jersey, especially in the summer when you can go to the shore. I always get up and promote my favorite New Jersey shore and invite all of you to be there. But honestly, I just want to say for the Meadowlands this week, having Bruce Springsteen here this week, I hope you got a ticket to enjoy one of those three shows. If not, maybe Dennis can help you out, I don't know. I think he's got some connections.
I just want to say welcome, good luck to everyone, have a great time, and if you have a little spare time, explore New Jersey. Our web sit is visitnj.org. We have travel guides outside, but most of all have a great racing weekend in New Jersey. Thank you.
DAVE JOHNSON: It's time for the first order of business. And let's turn our attention to the Hambletonian Oaks and Sam McKee. Take it from here.
SAM McKEE: Thank you very much, Dave, appreciate it greatly, and thank you to all of you for joining us today for the post draws for the Oaks and the Hambletonian. At this time we'd like to call up our director of racing, Mr. Tad Stockman, our presiding judge Mike McCarthy, and we have a special guest to help us with the Oaks draw, Trent Miller, who's the general manager of Paul Miller Porsche. Trent has been one of our sponsors, the Paul Miller family, for quite some time. I keep trying to get the keys to a Porsche from him. It hasn't happened yet, but we are working on that.
Also before we get started I'd like to acknowledge the downtown Rutherford partnership that has so much to do with the annual Hambletonian parade. We had our sixth annual Hambletonian parade this past Saturday. It was a huge success. I think the mayor of Rutherford John Hipp is here, as well.
John, are you here? Thank you, John, and thank you for all of the work you do with the Hambletonian festival and with the parade that gets bigger and better every year, and we certainly do appreciate that.
The Hambletonian Oaks goes for $750,000. There are three eliminations this past Saturday. Of course the big key is by winning your elimination you get to pick your post in the final, so the connections of the three elimination winners are standing by with Hollywood Heyden. We have Trond Smedshammer, who is the trainer of Creamy Mimi; Jimmy Takter, the trainer of Lantern Kronos; and Jules Siegel, the owner of Stage Show, and these guys all have something in common. Brian Sears drove all three elimination winners so I'm sure Sears' phone has been ringing off the hook for the last couple days.
The first item of business, we will select who gets to pick the post positions in what order. Tad Stockman has the envelopes in here. We'll bring up Trent to pull out an envelope, and Mike has the balls, 1, 2, 3. We'll see the order of draw here for the Hambletonian Oaks.
The Oaks, of course, will be the seventh race on Saturday. We start with Creamy Mimi and we'll shake out -- Creamy Mimi will go first. Andy Miller is named to drive for Trond Smedshammer, so we know Brian is off this one. Andy Miller will drive for Trond Smedshammer, and they get to pick first.
The second pick will go to -- Trent, you're getting pretty good at this over the years. We might have to get Tad a letter opener before the Hambo draw. Lantern Kronos will pick second for trainer Jimmy Takter, and Mr. Sears is listed on Lantern Kronos. So we know who gets the third pick. That will be Mr. Siegel with Stage Show, and John Campbell is named to drive Stage Show. Of course his brother Jim Campbell is the trainer. We start with Trond Smedshammer with Creamy Mimi. Holly, what post for Trond?
TROND SMEDSHAMMER: She had the rail last week and she got out of there okay so I think we're going to go with the rail again.
DAVE JOHNSON: You're in both the Hambo and the Oaks. Somehow the Oaks has eluded the Trond Smedshammer stable over the years. Could this be the year?
TROND SMEDSHAMMER: I think we've been second three out of at least four years or something, so it would be all right for me to win it for once, yeah.
DAVE JOHNSON: Okay, Trond Smedshammer. And now we're going to go to Jimmy Takter, three-time winner of the Hambletonian Oaks. What post are we looking at?
JIMMY TAKTER: 3.
DAVE JOHNSON: What's the reason behind that?
JIMMY TAKTER: I asked Brian and that's what he wanted to have, so I let him decide.
DAVE JOHNSON: Are you saying Brian Sears is driving your horse?
JIMMY TAKTER: Yeah.
DAVE JOHNSON: Brian Sears will drive Lantern Kronos. And my good friend Arlene and Jules Siegel have the nice Stage Show, the Broadway Hall filly. Jules, what are we looking at for you?
JULES SIEGEL: We'll pick the 2.
DAVE JOHNSON: Pick post 2. Did you know that post 1, 2 and 3 have not won the Oaks in the last ten years, and you guys just took those three posts, okay.
How do you feel going into the race? She's been a terror the last month.
JULES SIEGEL: We've been very fortunate with this filly. She's really built herself up right from the get go and she's been better every year, every start.
DAVE JOHNSON: It's kind of fun when Broadway Hall is the sire, isn't it?
JULES SIEGEL: Fantastic.
DAVE JOHNSON: We know that Takter won the Brian Sears Derby and you just ruined Jules' dinner with that stat on post 1, 2, 3. Good job there. Now we'll draw the rest of the field, we have posts 4 through 10.
Trond will reach in and pull out an envelope, and Mike will pick out a pill. This is post 10 that's coming up next. Tad opens the envelope with the entry slip. And the outside post, post 10, goes to Diana Hall. Ron Pierce will drive for Francisco Del Cid. Big recovery by Diana Hall in her elimination. She made a break but still came back to make the final. And Francisco was actually the second trainer for Trond Smedshammer for a couple years, too, so he certainly is well connected.
Post 7 is up next. Post 7 goes to Celebrity Tribute, Staffan Lind the trainer. Mike Lachance named to drive Celebrity Tribute for Sam Stathis, Celebrity Farm, and trainer Staffan Lind. Of course they have the Hambo starter, as well. Celebrity Tribute was the highest career earners among the three fourth-place finishers.
Post 4 is up next. Post 4 goes to Saorse with Louis Baudron driving for trainer Marie Ortolan. Now, Saorse means Gaelic for freedom developed by the famed French trotting master J.P. Dubois. Lou Baudron is 22 years old, a native of France, only three drives for him in North America.
Post 8 is next. It goes to No Pain No Gain for Dave Miller, and trainer Jonas Czernyson, of course she was the New Jersey Sire Stakes champ, and Jonas' biggest career win to date was in the Oaks in '06 with Jalopy. He has a couple colts in the Hambo as well. His mentor Per Eriksson is here, as well. Welcome, Per, it's nice to see you again.
One Tough Lass will get post 9, Tim Tetrick driving for Ross Croghan. So One Tough Lass, who actually beat Snow White in the Miller elimination. She was second in her Oaks elim, and Ross Croghan well on his way to another training title here at the Big M.
Post position 5 is next, and that goes to Two Nts With Her, and Jodi Jameson will drive. Two Nts With Her, the trainer is Torgeir Hagmann, and the unlikeliest of finalists, really, actually raced in Iowa and Missouri last year at county fairs. So Two Nts With Her will have the services of Jodi Jameson.
Prada Hall with Trevor Ritchie for Harold Lunde from post 6. So Prada Hall has post position 6. So that's the field for the Oaks. We'll reset it for you right now.
Creamy Mimi with the rail for Andy Miller, Stage Show; post 2, John Campbell driving for his brother Jim; Lantern Kronos from post 3 for Takter and Sears; Saorse with Louis Baudron diving; post position 4; Two Nts With Her, Jodi Jameson, post 5; Trevor Ritchie will be on Prada Hall, post 6; Celebrity Tribute with Mike Lachance, post 7; Dave Miller driving No Pain No Gain, post position 8; Tim Tetrick aboard One Tough Lass, Post 9; and Diana Hall draws the outside, post 10 with Ron Pierce in the sulky. So that's the field for the Hambletonian Oaks. We are looking forward to that and we're looking forward to Dave Brower's Morning Line on a very competitive race.
DAVE BROWER: Here it is. Here is the Morning Line from the Hambletonian Oaks. Creamy Mimi from the rail, 4-1; Stage Show, 5-1; Lantern Kronos is the 8-5 Morning Line favorite from post 3. Saorse the 4 horse starts at 10-1. No. 5, Two Nts With Her starts at 20. Prada Hall, the 6 horse, 8-1. Celebrity Tribute will start at 20-1 from post 7. No Pain No Gain, the 8 horse, is 8-1. One Tough Lass, No. 9, starts at 10-1. And Diana Hall, she starts on the outside, post 10, and is 15-1. So once again, just from the top down, Creamy Mimi 4, Stage Show 5, Lantern Kronos 8-5, Saorse is 10, Two Nts With Her 20, Prada Hall 8, Celebrity Tribute 20, No Pain No Gain 8, One Tough Lass 10, and Diana Hall at the bottom is 15-1 from post No. 10, 15-1.
That takes care of the Morning Line, and the Oaks part of our program right now, let me bring up to the podium the man who runs the Hambletonian Society, and in this case the Hambletonian is in the capable and professional hands of the Hambletonian Society, and Tom Charters, its president, is on his way to the podium now. Come on up and say a few words. Ladies and gentlemen, Tom charters.
TOM CHARTERS: Thank you very much. On behalf of the directors of the Hambletonian Society and our staff, we'd like to express our thanks to the Meadowlands, who are just the greatest of partners. The Hambletonian, which has met at a lot of venues now, has been at the Meadowlands longer than any other, and they can proudly call it the home of the Hambletonian, and we hope for many more years.
I'll be very brief, but I did want to cite some events this week I think are important milestones. What we've tried to do is create a festival from Saturday starting with the parade clear through the Hambletonian, and last night we had our golf tournament. Somebody will have to tell me. I think it's probably about the 18th year that we've had a charity event connected with the race. And I was told this morning that we've gone and raised over $1 million for charity, which I think is a remarkable standard.
TOM CHARTERS: I certainly appreciate the hard work of the charity committee this year and other years. The recipients this year were the Standard Bred Retirement Foundation and the Harness Museum, both very worthy charities.
We also on Thursday, the Hambletonian Society is sponsoring a special meeting where we're going to look at -- try to get some insight into who's going to be our customer the next 20 years, and we've brought in some customers and people that -- track operators. But the slant is on a youth perspective, which I find a little ironic considering the Hambletonian Society's image. But we're all willing to learn something. And if anybody is interested in attending, I urge them to give us an RSVP so we've got enough lunch meat to go around for everybody at lunchtime.
I'll just close by wishing everybody -- I appreciate the participation of all the owners, trainers and drivers and wish you all good luck and hope we see you in the winner's circle.
DAVE JOHNSON: Thank you, Tom Charters. For the journalists who are here in person and on the satellite, just a reminder that the media relations department here at the Meadowlands is on call for any of your needs, and our updates on the website, you can always get them at Meadowlandsracetrack.com and there will be a transcript of this afternoon's press conference available soon on the website Meadowlandsracetrack.com.
Racing from the Meadowlands all this week, Wednesday through Saturday at midnight on Sports New York. And as we look forward to what's going to come up on Saturday afternoon in the big race, the Hambletonian, maybe the best way to look forward is to look back on the superstar Deweycheatumnhowe and the elimination. So may I direct your attention to the video monitors, and in the control room would you roll the video, please.
DAVE JOHNSON: Thank you very much, guys. We are also blessed here at the Meadowlands to have two of the greatest race callers in harness racing history. You met Sam McKee who handled the post position draw for the Oaks. Right now won't you say hi to Ken Warkentin who will handle the Hambletonian draw. Ken?
KEN WARKENTIN: Good afternoon, everybody. As Dave mentioned, author Charlie Leerhsen is here actually today. He'll be happy to talk to the media, as well, the author of that great book, The Story of Dan Patch, Crazy Good, and he'll be here signing books on Hambletonian day.
The first order of business, the three elimination winners will pick their posts. We'd like to call up once again our director of racing, Tad Stockman, presiding judge, Mike McCarthy, and a special guest to help us along today, Susan Shields, eastern regional manager of equine sales for Fort Dodge Animal Health will also be assisting us. And of course the three elimination winners Atomic Hall upsetting with Eric Goodell, Deweycheatumnhowe and Crazed, so we need to choose the order of their selections. Who will pick first, second and third, so go ahead and do that.
We have the connections standing by and they will pick their posts.
So Crazed will go first. The connections of Crazed and the Antonacci family. Of course Tim Tetrick driving, they'll go first.
The overwhelming choice, the undefeated Deweycheatumnhowe, Ray Schnittker, they will pick second.
And of course the connections of Atomic Hall will pick third, Trond Smedshammer and Eric Goodell.
Sam McKee, you've got the connections of Crazed, first of all, post position selection there for the Hambletonian final.
SAM McKEE: And the pressure is on here, Frankie Antonacci has to pick first. And I told Frankie, "We'll just get a quick word from you; we'll talk to Tim Tetrick later." He said, "No, I want him here to pick the post." Where are you going to go, pal? You've got a degree in finance, so you know about statistics and probability. What are you going to do with Crazed as far as post position?
FRANK ANTONACCI: We're going to take 2.
DAVE JOHNSON: Post 2. What is the reason for that?
FRANK ANTONACCI: Because that's what Tim wants.
DAVE JOHNSON: There you go. Keep your driver happy. That's a good philosophy. We'll talk to you in a just a little bit. Good luck. Post 2 for Crazed.
Let's bring in Ray Schnittker with Deweycheatumnhowe. You get to pick the next post. Post 2 is gone. I'm guessing 1 or 3.
RAY SCHNITTKER: Post 1.
DAVE JOHNSON: And what is the reason for that?
RAY SCHNITTKER: I've won a lot of races off the rail.
DAVE JOHNSON: Shortest way around the racetrack?
RAY SCHNITTKER: I agree.
DAVE JOHNSON: Ray, I have to ask you a touch question. I don't mean to put you on the spot, but this is why we get paid the big money here at the Meadowlands as announcers. You've got two horses in the final, Deweycheatumnhowe and Make It Happen. Which one are you going to drive?
RAY SCHNITTKER: I don't know. According to some reporters I shouldn't be driving either one.
DAVE JOHNSON: Well, you can answer that in the winner's circle on Saturday.
SAM McKEE: Bob Heyden has the connections of Atomic Hall. That's Trond Smedshammer, trainer.
DAVE JOHNSON: Two trainers are both in the Oaks and the Hambo, but it's been 20 years since anybody won the Hambletonian and the Oaks in the same year. Trond, you're live for that. What about your post position first.
TROND SMEDSHAMMER: Well, Ray took my post. I don't know, what do you think I should take?
DAVE JOHNSON: Well, 1 or 3 hasn't won in the last decade at the Meadowlands.
TROND SMEDSHAMMER: I don't want the 10, so I think I'll take the 3.
DAVE JOHNSON: Post position 3. You won this race a couple of years ago, Wind Song's Legacy. What's your level of confidence coming into this race?
TROND SMEDSHAMMER: Well, the horse is getting better and better and he raced good last week, he got a good trip. But obviously there's a couple of real good horses that on paper are a little better than us. He's still kind of a long shot in here, but in the Hambletonian anything can happen.
DAVE JOHNSON: Trond has got the record with Nine Trotting Millionaires, Arch Madness.
SAM McKEE: We have the remaining seven balls here in the drum, and Susan Shields, you'll pull out the name. Tad Stockman has the name there, and Mike McCarthy has post position 10. 10 goes to Make It Happen. The other Ray Schnittker trainee, post position 10.
Post 5, Pine After Pine, Ron Pierce driving him to a second-place finish in his elimination. Post 5, Pine After Pine.
That's 4, No. 4, Kajan Kooker, post 4, way to go Ron Gurfein.
That's Post 9, Celebrity Secret. Post 9 for Celebrity Secret, a beaten 3 to 5 favorite in his elimination, nailed by Atomic Hall right there on the line.
Post 7, Velocity Hall, post position 7. 7 for Velocity Hall, one of the three sons of Conway Hall in the race.
Post 6, Big Apple Deli. And I believe that will be John Campbell, right? Yes.
And finally, post 8 for Clerk Magistrate. Clerk Magistrate, the Good Times winner, there you go. So let's reset the field there. That will be Trevor Ritchie driving for Per Henriksen; so we have Deweycheatumnhowe, Ray Schnittker; Crazed with Tim Tetrick; 3, Atomic Hall, Eric Goodell; 4, Kajan Kooker, Mike Lachance, a four-time winner; 5, Pine After Pine, Ron Pierce who won it last year with Donato Hanover; 6, Big Apple Deli, six-time winner John Campbell; 7, Velocity Hall with Dave Miller; 8, Clerk Magistrate, Trevor Ritchie; and gonna need a driver for both 9 and 10, Celebrity Secret and Make It Happen. There's your Hambletonian field. As we set the stage here today and get some reaction from the connections and the connections of Crazed first with Bob Heyden. Go ahead.
BOB HEYDEN: 1981 the Hambletonian came to the Meadowlands. Both these gentlemen were born since then, 26-year-old Tim Tetrick and 24-year-old Frank Antonacci, are here. Crazed was a very authoritative winner last week. First Tim Tetrick.
Tim, last year your first Hambo, what did we learn from that?
TIM TETRICK: To be a little more patient, take the whole thing in and have a good time with it. Main thing, just have fun. We don't get to do this too many times, hopefully. It's a great atmosphere and it's just a lot of fun to do.
BOB HEYDEN: In terms of the horses peaking, you can't really argue with the way Crazed is coming into the race. He's been great the last three or four starts.
TIM TETRICK: His papers say what he can do and how much better he's gotten over the last three, four weeks. That's why we race these big races. And the Hambletonian, like Trond said, anything can happen.
BOB HEYDEN: When you came out of the holds going back up for the lead past the half there last week, were you surprised how quick he was there.
TIM TETRICK: He can get in high gear fast, so that's a good sign if he gets room late in his mile he's got somewhere to go with it. He's proved a lot to me the last three, four weeks so I like my chances. Definitely got to try to beat Dewey, he's the champion, but we're in the big dance. That's the main thing.
BOB HEYDEN: You kept after him the last eighth, too, when you posted a 52-2 record.
TIM TETRICK: Just keeping his mind on his business. He'll let up. He's got a tender mouth, he'll just drop the line if you let him, so he's really smart and he'll do what you want him to do. I just want to keep him on his game and see what he can do.
BOB HEYDEN: You came into the pace with $10 million. You're going to have $11 million on the card by Saturday. Good Luck. Tim Tetrick, leading record one season driver of all time.
Frank Antonacci, a lot of family tradition in this race for you. You probably watched a lot of these races. When did you first start thinking maybe I can drain one of those, too.
FRANK ANTONACCI: Probably started pretty early, which was unrealistic, but I'm having a great time here and just, like you said, with my family and everything here with me, I just couldn't be more happy.
BOB HEYDEN: Lindy Farms and your family, what kind of advice and telephone calls have you gotten the past week as you head into the Hambletonian.
FRANK ANTONACCI: Just a lot of support and congratulations and everybody saying you did a hell of a job already and just enjoy this week. That's kind of the attitude we're taking with it.
BOB HEYDEN: Somebody once told me the Hambletonian is as much about timing as it is about talent. Your horse is coming in in fantastic shape the last three or four starts.
FRANK ANTONACCI: I think he has some talent, too. If you don't have talent you can't get here, either. So you've got to have timing and talent.
BOB HEYDEN: Is Deweycheatumnhowe an intimidating force for this field and for your horse?
FRANK ANTONACCI: I think that's an under statement. He's one of the most impressive two and three-year-olds I've seen in a long time. For a horse to go campaign like he did last year and just go right back at it this year and just be overpowering like he has been, I'm just happy I haven't had to race against him yet.
BOB HEYDEN: How much work is required to take care of Crazed?
FRANK ANTONACCI: Just keeping him in the stall is about the hardest thing.
BOB HEYDEN: Are you at the point with him now like, hey, don't do anything wrong, let's just get to the race?
FRANK ANTONACCI: Like Ronnie said when I walked in here, he said, "Don't change anything."
BOB HEYDEN: Don't change a thing, but we'd like to see you somewhere near the winner's circle. You enjoyed it last week. Is there a chance we'll see you back there this week?
FRANK ANTONACCI: We wouldn't put him in if we didn't think we had a shot.
BOB HEYDEN: Okay. Frank Antonacci. Per Eriksson was 23 when he won it. You're 24. Back 23 years later here with Crazed. Good luck in the final.
DAVE JOHNSON: The Antonacci family connected to six previous Hambletonian champions. We have a driver for Celebrity Secret, post 9, Brian Sears, Celebrity Secret. Still need a driver for that other Ray Schnittker trainee, Make It Happen, for post 10. Perhaps we've got some insight there from Sam McKee.
SAM McKEE: Indeed we do. Ray drawing the rail with Deweycheatumnhowe has opted to stick with Dewey, so Make It Happen for post 10, who are you putting up?
RAY SCHNITTKER: Danny Dube.
SAM McKEE: Daniel Dube. Possibly we'll see some speed from him from the outside?
RAY SCHNITTKER: Probably not. It's one run and that's his best shot.
SAM McKEE: Ray, the relationship with the Antonacci family is really a cool thing. They have got Crazed against you in the big dance. But you've trained horses for the Antonaccis. And Frankie was telling me earlier, you actually helped him with Crazed last fall and trained him a trip or two at the Red Mile for him.
RAY SCHNITTKER: I don't know how much help I did. But he's a nice horse and he turned the corner then and he's turned into a really nice horse.
SAM McKEE: Speaking of nice horses, 14-0 with the big guy. That has been some kind of ride. Can you put into words what it has been like having Dewey in your barn?
RAY SCHNITTKER: It actually has been pretty easy. He does everything right. When you pull him, he has a high turn of speed and he's got a nice ride.
SAM McKEE: A nice ride for sure. We can see on the monitors there that you were riding him under saddle, just throw a western saddle on him. That's one of the keys to keeping him fit, isn't it?
RAY SCHNITTKER: It seems like he's real happy not being on the race track that much and I think when he gets to the track he's ready to go.
SAM McKEE: I know you have a big fancy pool up at your place, but you make Dewey swim out in the pond. And that's another key to his training regimen, too.
RAY SCHNITTKER: Yeah, we swim quite a few out there. A lot of them like that, a little easier on their joints and plus it keeps their attitude good.
SAM McKEE: You mentioned you haven't trained the horse much, you really don't think he's tight yet. Obviously a big mile in the elimination, he's a little tighter, but is there more power in the tank?
RAY SCHNITTKER: I hope so, I think there is. But it doesn't seem like he really needs a lot of work, so he's been racing -- well, he hasn't lost, so I'm kind of keeping that routine.
SAM McKEE: Have you had any problems at all with him sickness-wise, soreness-wise, shoeing-wise, anything like that?
RAY SCHNITTKER: Not really. He's been very easy, and hopefully he has another three, four days in him.
SAM McKEE: So you have the rail, tell us a little bit about strategy. When the wings fold on Saturday can you release what you're going to do as far as you can, as fast as you can or see how things develop?
RAY SCHNITTKER: I just see how things develop. You can't tell until the race gate opens up.
SAM McKEE: Ray, you have been fantastic with the media leading up to the Hambletonian, very gracious, having photographers and video people at your farm and facility. I know a lot of people are pulling for you in the industry. Good luck with the big horse on Saturday in what will be one the biggest races of your life.
RAY SCHNITTKER: Thank you.
SAM McKEE: Ray Schnittker, ladies and gentlemen. Best of luck with Deweycheatumnhowe. Back to Ken.
KEN WARKENTIN: Ray Schnittker, a champion wrestler in high school and he said discipline helps him from getting nervous before a big race. So certainly one of the biggest races of his life coming up on Saturday.
Bob Heyden has a Hall-of-Famer. This is his only horse. He apparently tried to retire and his owner Lon Frocione wouldn't let him retire. He drove a 1970 Hambletonian winner, first drive in the Hambletonian, Timothy T. He had the 1980 Trotter of the Year Classical Way, and he's just a great story here.
BOB HEYDEN: You know I like trivia, right? Back when you won the Hambletonian last, you know gas was 33 cents a gallon, Watergate was just a hotel, Elvis was 35, the Beatles were still together, and the Meadowlands was only a sketch. So a lot of things have changed since then.
JOHN SIMPSON JR.: But I'm still here.
BOB HEYDEN: Tell us a little bit about Big Apple Deli. Did Lon Frocione hand you some money and say find me something? I how did that work?
JOHN SIMPSON JR.: Two years ago Lon came to me and said here's $50,000, buy me a New York bred horse, I don't care if it's a colt or filly or whatever, so I looked around trying to buy a horse and I couldn't even make a bid. So finally I liked this horse, and Bob Bonney was selling him, and I waited.
The bid got to be $47,000, and I hadn't even made a bid, so I said what the heck, so I bid $50,000, and I got the colt. He's just been a perfect horse every time I started with him. I didn't do anything different with him, he's just been that way. The only thing is I think -- hopefully that was the first start at Meadowlands, and I think he'll be better than he was last week. I hope he is. He'd better be.
BOB HEYDEN: You told me that John recommended aluminum shoes for him?
JOHN SIMPSON JR.: Yes, he wanted me to put aluminum shoes on him because it'll be very hot Saturday afternoon and the track will be dry so he wanted to make sure the horse got a good hold of the track.
BOB HEYDEN: You were back in the 1995 in the Hambletonian. You also ran against a tough horse, CR Kay Suzie. She ended up not making the final. What is your level right now with Big Apple Deli? You know you're in a tough field. What are we realistically expecting from him?
JOHN SIMPSON JR.: 1958 was the first Hambletonian I actually saw. I was there in 1943 at Yonkers but I was only two months so I don't remember much at that time.
I think, and I'm not saying this because my horse is in the race, but I think this is as good a field as ever been in the Hambletonian. It's got a lot of great horses and anything can happen. Ray's horse, I like both his horses, but then Antonaccis came along with the one that looks just as good as the rest of them. So it's just the way the race goes.
BOB HEYDEN: You carried the Simpson family name very well, and you're carrying right through to 2008, and good luck to you in the final.
JOHN SIMPSON JR.: Thank you very much.
KEN WARKENTIN: Three-time winner of the Hambletonian, and what would a Hambletonian be without the guru of trotting?
SAM McKEE: Ken, I think we'd actually have to cancel it if Ron Gurfein wasn't in the Hambo. By the way, I'm not into trivia like Hollywood Heyden, but when Ronny last won the Hambo in 1999 gas was a $1.97.9 for unleaded, if anyone is keeping track there.
Ronny, Kajan Kooker, you told me before we went on air if you could have picked your post this is right where you would have ended up, post 4.
RON GURFEIN: When I came here I didn't really realize that I had won the elimination, but I had won the elimination because I got the post I wanted.
SAM McKEE: Your horse looks like a one-run closer. It looks like maybe his biggest problem is he tends to gap during the middle of the mile. Can you work on that for Saturday and stay a little closer to the big boys?
RON GURFEIN: If you look at his program he probably is just as good on the front end, but he's self-possessed and Mike Lachance has it in his head that he's a one-run horse. If I drove him I'd put him on the lead but I'm not driving him.
SAM McKEE: Frankie Antonacci wanted to keep Tetrick happy. You for sure want to keep Mike Lachance happy with all the races you've won. Tell us about your impressions of Deweycheatumnhowe.
RON GURFEIN: I think he's awesome. He's big, he's strong, and looks like you can do anything with him. When Ray pulls on the right line, that thing just goes -- he's like a hobbled pacer passing horses. But he still wears trotting hobbles and that bothers me. Frankie's horse wears trotting hobbles and that bothers me. If we could eliminate trotting hobbles for this Sunday, I might win the Hambletonian.
SAM McKEE: Talk to Tom Charters and see if you can get a bylaw amendment passed there.
One more question going into the Hambletonian. Not that you're in the twilight of your career because you're still doing great, but you're in your upper 60s right now.
RON GURFEIN: I'll give you twilight of my career (laughter).
SAM McKEE: Do you enjoy it more now and take time to smell the roses and appreciate it a little more to be in races like this?
RON GURFEIN: I'm the same way I was 40 years ago. There's no change whatsoever. I have just as much desire to win as I did when Frankie gave me MB Felty in 1991.
SAM McKEE: And he's always been opinionated for those 40 years. Best of luck with Kajan Kooker. Back to Ken.
KEN WARKENTIN: Sam, I heard that he was going to the other side, he was going to train thoroughbreds, right?
RON GURFEIN: I absolutely will train thoroughbreds, but my time was not available this year. If you want to buy me a thoroughbred, I will train it.
KEN WARKENTIN: Post 5 for Pine After Pine. We've got another Hall-of-Famer with Bob Heyden. We were still talking about the Meadowlands pace this morning, Bob, and right after the pace I spoke to an owner and I said how did Ron Pierce do that? He said, Ken, he's the miracle man.
BOB HEYDEN: At the press conference for the Meadowlands Pace, Ron Pierce told me before the interview, "Keep it short." He just told me a minute ago, "Go easy on me." Now, he won that race, and in world record time with artificial, and now you're back trying to become the first driver in 20 years to win three straight Meadowlands Million Dollar Races. Mr. Campbell sitting over there, he did it last. Is there any reason to believe that Ron Pierce can pull another one out of the hat here with Pine After Pine?
RON PIERCE: I'd like to think so.
BOB HEYDEN: Tell us a little bit about his elimination. Are you happy with the way he finished?
RON PIERCE: I am very happy with the way colt is coming along. He seems to be getting better and better every week. I came in here today and I see Per Eriksson sitting over here at Jonas' table, so I figure we have an ace in the hole there. That should help us a lot.
So the race my set up to where it goes our way, and hopefully maybe we can get lucky, you never know.
BOB HEYDEN: Post 5, afternoon racing, how about his gate speed? Can he get out of there in a hurry.
RON PIERCE: He'll do most anything I want him to. I'll just have to wait until the gate picks up speed and look over and see what everybody is doing and then make up my mind what I am going to do.
BOB HEYDEN: Do you have any advice to Mr. Schnittker since you had the favorite last year with Donato Hanover to Ray this year with Deweycheatumnhowe?
RON PIERCE: No, I have no advice for Ray. He'll figure it out.
BOB HEYDEN: Ron Pierce, so possibly looking at your third straight Million Dollar race, you're having another banner season and look forward to another great race from you and congratulations.
KEN WARKENTIN: Sam Stathis is a New York city businessman who started with a farm in Goshen for pleasure horses, somebody advised him to get into harness racing and he bought some brood mares, started breeding, and now he's more focused on the racing and now he's in the Hambletonian and he is the tracks No. 1 driver.
SAM McKEE: That's a pretty good combination. By the way, Sam Stathis' Celebrity Farms is right across the road from Ray Schnittker's farm where they were shooting video of Dewey the other way. I saw Sam with binoculars looking over the fence to see what was going on there.
Congratulations, you're in the Hambletonian, you're in the Hambletonian Oaks. But Sam, it's kind of bittersweet this week because of some personal tragedy that's befallen a friend of yours.
SAM STATHIS: It is bittersweet, and we have a lot more at stake on this race than we do about winning. For many years I have done this for pleasure, and the adrenaline can't get any higher than this. But at the same time, I would like to send out a message, and I heard a couple people say before how we have to get the youth into this, and perhaps it is destiny, getting Brian Sears back on our horse could be a little destiny here.
We do have a good horse. I wanted everything for this particular animal, Staffan and Marie have picked him out, trained him and done everything else, and Brian was the guy that got us there in the beginning, Ken helped us along the way. I'm happy to have Brian back. And I would like to say we had a tremendous loss these last couple weeks, and we're putting out a press release. I won't be able to get out what I want to say. I just lost my best friend's 14-year-old son to a very terrible disease that probably most of you have never heard of, called vasculitis, Wegener's granulomatosis, a very rare disease, usually attacks older people. My best friend's 14-year-old son, a great friend of my son, battled with this disease for five weeks, died on the 24th of July.
All of Celebrity Farms' horse races this week, we're going to donate a substantial amount of our purse money and beyond that to start a foundation. I would like to get some help from this group. We have a tremendous group. What the Hambletonian Society does, what the Meadowlands does, and what the people in this room have the capabilities to do, I would appreciate any help we can get. It'll be good for our sport, it'll be good for our future, and I thank you for listening.
BOB HEYDEN: Sam, thank you, and our heart-felt condolences to you and this tragedy and we'll have some more information on our website.
SAM STATHIS: Brian Sears will be driving this horse, but he's going to be a co-pilot. Chris Vasiliou is the man in charge. Chris, got bless you, buddy.
BOB HEYDEN: Brian Sears will be driving Celebrity Secret, and you're kind of reunited with him, and you came as close to Deweycheatumnhowe as anybody last fall with him.
BRIAN SEARS: Yes, I was fortunate to be second to him in the Breeders Crown last year. I know the horse very well and we'll have to see what happens.
BOB HEYDEN: Earlier this year you guys tried to race him without the trotting hobbles and it didn't work. He he didn't stay flat. You put the hobbles back on and he was a lot better, but it looks like maybe he's not the quickest starting horse, that he's more of a grinder speed type?
BRIAN SEARS: Not necessarily. I think I won with him on the front end when I broke his maiden here this year, but he is versatile.
BOB HEYDEN: Now, what do you do from the outside post? Obviously post 9, not an ideal spot to start. Hope for a Meadowlands pace-like battle up front?
BRIAN SEARS: I don't know. They were battling pretty good in the Meadowlands pace, and I couldn't even keep up. We'll just have to see what happens. That's our job. When the gate unfolds we'll make decisions from there.
BOB HEYDEN: Brian, I have to ask you one question about the Oaks. You won all three eliminations for guys that you've driven for on a regular basis. How tough a decision was it to go Lantern Kronos for Takter?
BRIAN SEARS: When you win three divisions you're happy with every one of them. You like something about every one of them, but it's just one of those decisions that I had to make. But Jimmy's filly does seem like to be the class of the bunch at the moment, so it wasn't that difficult.
BOB HEYDEN: This guy is well over 100 wins ahead in the driver standings, he's got his eighth straight title wrapped up here at the Big M, the leading driver at the Meadowlands and in our sport right now, Brian Sears. Good luck with Celebrity Secret. Ken, back to you.
KEN WARKENTIN: What a season for the White Knight, Bob Heyden, trainer Jonas Czernyson pulled off that shocking upset with Jalopy in 2005, and he has two shots in here. Per Eriksson alongside, and he's been there.
SAM McKEE: He's been there, that's for sure, and they kind of know each other, too. He got two in the Hambletonian making a debut, you won your second start with Jalopy and your second Oaks, and you're also in the Oaks here this year with No Pain No Gain. Tell us first about the Hambletonian with your two chances.
JONAS CZERNYSON: We've got as big a chance as everybody. We have to try to catch Dewey, but both my horses came out good, so we're looking forward for it.
SAM McKEE: Any strategy in the race, the elimination winners have taken 1, 2 and 3. What about you?
JONAS CZERNYSON: No, I'll leave that up to Pierce and Miller to decide what they want to do out there.
SAM McKEE: What about the filly No Pain No Gain in the Oaks. What about her?
JONAS CZERNYSON: She gives all she got, and usually in the elimination she don't want to show off too much and hopefully we can get her tuned up for the final.
SAM McKEE: When you went out on your own how important was the Per Eriksson influence in your career?
JONAS CZERNYSON: A lot, like everything.
SAM McKEE: Is he now visiting, rooting her on? We'll ask him that in a moment, but we'll see what you say first.
JONAS CZERNYSON: He's back as one of my owners now.
SAM McKEE: So owners can tell you what to do too?
JONAS CZERNYSON: Yeah.
SAM McKEE: Three-time Hambletonian winning trainer Per Eriksson, you're back. First things first, Frank Antonacci is 24. You were 23 when you won with Practice. What's he supposed to be doing this week and what were you thinking as a 23-year-old going into the Hambo and then winning it?
PER ERIKSSON: It was a big thing for me, a big week. Of course I was very nervous, but of course when I was facing elimination you don't need to do too much, stay calm and enjoy it.
SAM McKEE: And Jonas Czernyson, tell us what kind of pupil he was learning, growing up, and taking some of your advice.
PER ERIKSSON: Yeah, I think Jonas done a great job. I came back after five years to his stable, and I was very proud to see how the stable runs, and this week he has got six horses in the big races so he's done a great job.
SAM McKEE: You've had Hambos where you were the overwhelming favorite with Practice, Giant Victory, One Horse to Beat, but then you also had the wide open one with Alf Palema and King Conch, so sometimes it's got to be kind of a scramble to the wire. Is this a race that Deweycheatumnhowe is the horse to beat clearly and going for second and third and fourth money or is it wide open?
PER ERIKSSON: It's an open race. I thought it looks like a couple of good horses in elimination, so I think it's really open.
SAM McKEE: Owner, owning what percentage of what horses are we looking at here?
PER ERIKSSON: We have one in Symphonic Hanover, I own 25 percent of that, and we're very excited.
SAM McKEE: You said when your kids get old enough you might be coming back. By my calculation, they're old enough. Are you coming back?
PER ERIKSSON: No, not net. They're not old enough yet.
SAM McKEE: Okay, three-time Hambletonian winner Per Eriksson is back in town, everybody.
KEN WARKENTIN: Good to see him back at the Big M, scene of some of his biggest triumphs. Clerk Magistrate won the Good Times final at Mohawk last week, finished second to Crazed. And Per Henriksen purchased him privately last November, and the man who facilitated that purchase is with Sam McKee. That's Ole Bock.
SAM McKEE: That's right, Ole Bock is the agent for Clerk Magistrate. The Norwegian owners don't speak a lot of English so we're going to call on Ole to tell us a little bit about the horse. It's a small world. You said you used to groom for Per Eriksson. You were a trainer for Per Henriksen. And now as a bloodstock agent you've had two in the Hambletonian the last two years.
OLE BOCK: That's correct. Last year we had Adrian Chip, he finished second, won his elimination, and Please Poppy was 4th in the final.
SAM McKEE: Now, Clerk Magistrate was in the Steve Elliott barn as a two-year-old and you ended up spotting him and decided to purchase him for the current connections. Tell us a little bit how that came about.
OLE BOCK: It was at the end of the year right before Harrisburg, and Steve came to me and he had two or three horses that he would like to sell and was able to sell all of them, and one of them was Clerk Magistrate, studied the tapes from Lexington, saw that he had an enormous kick at the end of the mile, and we were able to put it together.
SAM McKEE: And we've seen that tremendous kick at the end of the mile, even though he's been parked out in Canada he's put in some very good races there. What were your thoughts after the elimination? He finished pretty good and a lot of wise guys say this is the horse to watch if you're hunting for a long shot.
OLE BOCK: I think we could be the underdog, could be a surprise. But the race horse is awful tough. But the last three races before the elimination he comes first over from the half and home, very tough on the horse, last week he was locked in. We need a little racing luck.
SAM McKEE: And from post 8, any idea the strategy? What are you going to tell Trevor Ritchie?
OLE BOCK: I'm going to tell him nothing.
SAM McKEE: Ole Bock, good luck with Clerk Magistrate, and continued success with your bloodstock agency. Ken, back to you.
KEN WARKENTIN: We know that Trot and Trevor Ritchie won with his very first drive in the Hambletonian back in 2000 with Yankee Paco and finished third in 2001 with Banker Hall.
No need really for an introduction here, Bob Heyden. Let's see, I've got 23 Hambletonian finals, I've also got, I believe, six wins, and a slew of seconds and thirds.
BOB HEYDEN: Mr. John Campbell is with me, Big Apple Deli finished third in his elimination. Any reason to believe we can get a little close this week.
JOHN CAMPBELL: That's why we are in it. We are hoping he can. He's had a trip over the track. He's been stretched out now, so I hope that helps him. Like a number of these colts, we need a break during the race. We need fast fractions up front and a couple of the favorites to tackle one another going to the half.
BOB HEYDEN: You were third in the Meadowlands pace with a prohibitive favorite going at it, too. Same type of action possible in a race like this?
JOHN CAMPBELL: Yes, but when they're at the half, 51 and 4, and you're laying on the rail you think you can catch the horses in front, and the way our breed has changed, the horses on the front just keep on going and going. You would think horses get to the half in 51 and 4 is setting up for closers, but the ones that are there one and two finished first and second.
BOB HEYDEN: This might take on added significance for you. You introduced John Simpson Jr. at the Hall of Fame, so this is probably a little more special than another one?
JOHN CAMPBELL: It certainly is. Both Lon Frocione and Johnny Simpson I've known for well over 25 years. They're very good friends of mine. Lois and John are good friends of Paula and I, we spend a lot of time together socially. It does make it extra special to get in the Hambletonian with people that you've been friends with for so long and such good friends.
BOB HEYDEN: The Hambletonian never gets old, does it?
JOHN CAMPBELL: Never. This is what we strive for. This is why I put the work in in the winter is to try to be in a position where people want me to drive their stake races, and this is our biggest stake race.
BOB HEYDEN: John Campbell is in mid-season form, the all-time Million Dollar Race winner and Hambletonian winner, good luck, John.
SAM McKEE: Big Apple Deli named after owner Lon Frocione's Rochester-based business, Big Apple Deli products. And it's a great story. Hundreds of employees there are fans, now new fans of the sport, and they're a little surprised. They think this is an easy game, but from Frocione assures them it's not easy, but he is in the Hambletonian and best of luck there.
Dave Brower will have the Morning Line for you and we'll bring back Dave Johnson here to wrap things up. Thanks very much.
DAVE BROWER: I do have the Morning Line if you're ready to write this down. Deweycheatumnhowe from the rail in the Hambletonian, 2-5, starting at 2-5; Crazed from post 2 starts at 5-1; Atomic Hall, 10-1 on Dave's Morning Line; Kajan Kooker, the 4 horse, 20-1; Pine After Pine, 12-1; No. 6, Big Apple Deli, starts at 15-1; Velocity Hall at 20; the 8 horse Clerk Magistrate 10-1; Celebrity Secret from the 9 hole will be 15-1 in the Morning Line; and the longest price in the Morning Line, 30-1 for the No. 10 horse Make It Happen.
Once again, from the top down, post positions, we've got Deweycheatumnhowe at 2-5; Crazed at 5; Atomic Hall 10-1 up there on the screens right now with the driver assignments; Kajan Kooker at 20; Pine After Pine, 12; Big Apple Deli, 15; 20 for Velocity Hall; Clerk Magistrate, 10; Celebrity Secret at 15; and Make It Happen on the bottom, post 10 at 30-1.
End of FastScripts