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By Ken Weingartner/Harness Racing Communications/USTA

FREEHOLD, NJ -- August 7, 2015 -- Two horses enter Saturday’s $1.2 million Hambletonian Stakes at Meadowlands Racetrack having already posted victories at the Big M on Hambletonian Day – colt Centurion ATM and filly Mission Brief.

Centurion ATM won last year’s Peter Haughton Memorial while Mission Brief captured the Merrie Annabelle, both in world-record-equaling times.

On Saturday the two will compete in the Hambletonian, marking only the second time that the winners of the Meadowlands’ top races for 2-year-old trotters have returned in the same year for the premier event for 3-year-olds. The first occurrence was in 1986 when filly Britelite Lobell and colt Express Ride finished third and fifth, respectively, in the Hambletonian.

Mission Brief, who won the 2014 Merrie Annabelle (renamed this year the Jim Doherty Memorial) in 1:52.2, is bypassing Saturday’s $500,000 Hambletonian Oaks, which is restricted to 3-year-old filly trotters, to attempt to become the first female to beat the boys and win the Hambletonian since Continentalvictory in 1996. Mission Brief was the 2014 Dan Patch Award winner for best 2-year-old female trotter and has won 12 of 17 career races and earned $791,417.

She also holds the world record for the fastest time for any 2-year-old trotter in history, 1:50.3. This year, she has won three of four races while dealing with back woes, which have improved in recent weeks thanks to chiropractic work.

Mission Brief is the 6-5 morning line favorite in the second of two $100,000 Hambletonian eliminations. Yannick Gingras will drive the filly.

“Maybe financially it would have been better to go to the Hambletonian Oaks, but pride-wise and for the sport, it would be better to go to the Hambletonian,” said Ron Burke, who trains and co-owns the filly with Our Horse Cents Stables, J&T Silva Stables, and the partnership of Mark Weaver and Mike Bruscemi.

“If we won the Hambletonian Oaks, we’d have been happy, but it’s not going to change anybody’s life. We’ve all done things like that before. We thought this for some of us would be a lifetime experience, so we said let’s go.

“If you don’t believe in your horse, you might as well not even show up. I’ve always believed in her. She’s given me every reason to believe in her. When she’s sound she’s as good as anyone.”

Centurion ATM, who won the 2014 Peter Haughton by 3-3/4 lengths over Uncle Lasse in a world-record-equaling and stakes-record 1:53.2, will try to join Donato Hanover (2007) and Muscle Hill (2009) as the only Peter Haughton winners to also win the Hambletonian.

Last year, Centurion ATM won three of eight starts, missed the top three only once, and earned $241,640. This season he is winless in four races. In his most recent start in the Stanley Dancer Memorial on July 18 at the Meadowlands, Centurion ATM went off stride on the backstretch but rallied to finish second to The Bank. It was the first time in his career that Centurion ATM made a break.

“I don’t think that’s going to happen again,” trainer/driver Ake Svanstedt said. “He’s been good. Everything is normal. He is coming into good form.”

Centurion ATM competes in the first of the two Hambletonian eliminations. He will start from post No. 8 and is 9-2 on the morning line. Jimmy Takter-trained Pinkman, the 2014 Dan Patch Award winner for best 2-year-old male trotter, is the 8-5 favorite despite drawing post No. 10. Pinkman’s stablemate, Canepa Hanover, is 3-1 and starts from post nine.

The top five finishers from each elimination return later in the day for the $1 million Hambletonian final.

“When you train (Centurion ATM) he feels like just a normal horse, but if you train more, the other horses get tired and he never gets tired,” Svanstedt said. “He gets better and better. I think he can handle (two races in a day). But he must go to the final first.”

A bay colt by SJ’s Caviar out of the mare ENS Tag Session, Centurion ATM is a full brother to world champion stakes-winner Triumphant Caviar, who finished eighth in the 2009 Hambletonian. Centurion ATM was purchased for $100,000 as a yearling, under the name Triumphant Session, and is owned by Knutsson Trotting Inc. and Courant A B.

Svanstedt is in his second year of competing in North America. He was Sweden’s Trainer of the Year five times and Driver of the Year on three occasions prior to moving his stable to the U.S. in the winter of 2013. His father, who was in the timber business, used horses for work and raced cold-blooded trotters. Svanstedt began his professional harness racing career at the age of 24 and within several years was the champion at his home track in Bergsaker.

During his career overseas, Svanstedt won many of the top races in Europe. He captured the Elitlopp twice, with Torvald Palema in 2009 and Gidde Palema in 2004; the Copenhagen Cup three times and both the Oslo Grand Prix and Olympic Trot four times.

Svanstedt’s hopes for Hambletonian glory do not ride solely with Centurion ATM. He also is sending Workout Wonder and Southwind Mozart to the race. Workout Wonder is 12-1 in the first elimination, with Dan Dube driving from post three, and Southwind Mozart is 20-1 in the second division, with Svanstedt driving from post eight.

Workout Wonder is by Conway Hall out of the mare Dear Abs. He was purchased as a yearling for $70,000. His family includes 1987 Hambletonian winner Mack Lobell and 1930 Hambletonian winner Hanover’s Bertha, as well as Marla Bar, who is the dam of 2010 Hambletonian Oaks winner Bar Slide.

In his most recent start, Workout Wonder finished third behind Pinkman and Canepa Hanover in the Zweig Memorial. His two wins this year have come on the New York Sire Stakes circuit.

“He was very strong, but not so fast (to start the year),” said Svanstedt, who trains Workout Wonder for Juha Paavola’s All Laid Out Stable. “His last race, though, he finished in (1):52.1 and came home very fast. So he has learned to go very fast. He always was a strong horse, but now he’s learned to go fast. He is improving. He was good the last race, so we will take a chance and try.”

Southwind Mozart is by Muscle Hill out of the mare Missymae Bluestone. He was purchased for $40,000 as a yearling and is owned by Tore Borgersen’s Wolfgang A Stable. His sire, Muscle Hill, won the 2009 Hambletonian. His family includes stakes-winner Have You Ever, who finished fourth in the 2004 Hambletonian Oaks.

In his most recent start, Southwind Mozart won a conditioned race in 1:54.3. Two weeks earlier, he finished fifth in the Beal Memorial.

“He didn’t do so much last year because he was sore,” Svanstedt said. “But now he’s better and he raced good in his last race.”

Post time for Hambletonian Day’s first race is noon. Cable channel CBS Sports Network will air coverage of the Cane Pace, Hambletonian Oaks and Hambletonian from 4 to 5:30 p.m. (EDT).

Hall of Fame driver John Campbell will be on the sidelines for the Hambletonian for the first time since 1982, ending his record streak of 32 consecutive years of participation in harness racing’s top race for 3-year-old trotters, but he remains intrigued by this year’s event.

Saturday’s $1.2 million Hambletonian features numerous plotlines, starting with filly Mission Brief attempting to become the first female trotter since Continentalvictory in 1996 to win the race. Mission Brief is the 6-5 morning line favorite in the second of two $100,000 eliminations. Pinkman is the 8-5 choice in the first division despite starting from post No. 10.

The top five finishers from each elimination advance to the $1 million final, scheduled for approximately 5:15 p.m., at Meadowlands Racetrack. First race post time for Hambletonian Day is 12 noon and coverage of the Cane Pace, Hambletonian Oaks and Hambletonian will air from 4-5:30 p.m. on cable’s CBS Sports Network.

“Pinkman has been the most consistent and best colt so far and he’s drawn (post) 10. That’s an unknown,” said Campbell, who suffered a broken wrist in an accident during qualifiers on July 31 at the Meadowlands. “Mission Brief going against the boys is an unknown. She drew well. I think she’s going to be a factor.

“But just those two things right there are going to make it intriguing. There are a lot of variables going into it.”

Mission Brief was the 2014 Dan Patch Award winner for best 2-year-old female trotter and has won 12 of 17 career races and earned $791,417. She also holds the world record for the fastest time for any 2-year-old trotter in history, 1:50.3.

This year, she has won three of four races while dealing with back woes, which have improved in recent weeks thanks to chiropractic work. She enters the Hambletonian off a 1:51.4 win in the filly division of the Zweig Memorial on July 26 at Vernon Downs.

“She’s got a good chance,” said Campbell, who has won the Hambletonian a record six times. “She’s going to race well, I think. Her last race at Vernon was very strong.

“But it’s a tougher competition. There’s no question the colts are tougher than the fillies this year. It kind of depends on how much she improves for this next race, that’s another unknown. It’s going to be tougher for her to get to the front than it was at Vernon. But ability-wise she’s right there with the colts.”

Campbell, who did not require surgery for his injury, is uncertain when he will return to action but expects to be sidelined for at least three weeks. He has earned $2.97 million in purses this year, which ranks 16th among all drivers in North America, despite having the fewest starts of any driver in the top 50. His top horses have included Doo Wop Hanover, JL Cruze, Melady’s Monet, Muscle Diamond, The Show Returns, and Wild Honey.

“The year had been going extremely well up to this point,” Campbell said. “I had some really good horses to race in the stakes coming up this weekend and going forward through the rest of the year. I was really looking forward to that. We’ll have to re-evaluate, reassess, and hopefully I get some of those mounts back or pick up new ones when I get back to work.”
* * * *

Jimmy Takter sends out five horses in the Hambletonian -- Pinkman, The Bank and Canepa Hanover in the first elimination and French Laundry and Uncle Lasse in the second elimination -- as he tries for his fourth win in the race as a trainer. Billy Haughton, Stanley Dancer, and Ben White share the record of five training wins. Chuck Sylvester is next on the list with four.
Takter also is bidding to become the first trainer since Per Eriksson in 1991-92 to win the Hambletonian in consecutive years. The only other trainers to accomplish the feat are Haughton (1976-77), Frank Ervin (1966-67), White (1942-43) and Henry Thomas (1937-38).
In addition, Takter, who drove Trixton to victory in last year’s Hambletonian, could become the first trainer-driver to repeat in the race since Haughton. Campbell is the most recent driver to win in consecutive years, in 1987-88.
* * * *

Mission Brief is the 161st filly to start in the Hambletonian, but only the fourth since Continentalvictory’s win in 1996. Pampered Princess, who finished seventh-placed-sixth in the 2007 final won by Donato Hanover, was the most recent.

Thirteen fillies have won the Hambletonian, but only Continentalvictory and Duenna (1983) have accomplished the feat since Kerry Way in 1966.

The Hambletonian Oaks, solely for 3-year-old filly trotters, began in 1971.
* * * *

Broadway Donna is the 3-5 morning line favorite in Saturday’s $389,450 Jim Doherty Memorial (formerly the Merrie Annabelle) for 2-year-old female trotters. The Jim Campbell-trained filly has won all five of her races this season, with a combined margin of victory of 23-1/4 lengths. She won her Doherty elimination in 1:53.3, which is the fastest time of the season by a 2-year-old trotter.

“I’m not going to talk her up,” said David Miller, who has been her driver in every start. “I’ll just let her do the talking.”

Miller also has the morning line favorite in the $215,400 U.S. Pacing Championship for older male pacers. State Treasurer, who is the 2-1 pick, starts from post five. The field also includes JK Endofanera, Doo Wop Hanover, and harness racing’s all-time richest horse Foiled Again.

“He’s in good shape,” Miller said. “He’s been here all week and that’s definitely a plus instead of shipping in a couple days out (from the race). He usually gives a good account of himself. He’s easy to get along with. He’s a good horse and he shows up to work every time. You can’t knock him.”

Among Miller’s other Hambletonian Day drives, Wind Of The North drew a tough assignment in the $301,500 John Cashman Jr. Memorial for older male trotters. Wind Of The North will start from post No. 10 in a 12-horse field going 1-1/8 miles. Market Share is the 3-1 morning line favorite followed by Elitloppet winner Magic Tonight at 4-1.

“That’s about as bad as you can draw,” Miller said about Wind Of The North, who is 6-1. “Either way you do it, if you take back or you leave, it’s going to be a tough trip.
There’s some speed inside of me. He can leave too, but you’ve got 11 horses inside of you that you’ve got to get around. And they’re going to keep coming and removing. Unless you get absolutely lucky, it’s a tough spot.”

Miller will drive Fashion Creditor in the first of the day’s two Hambletonian eliminations and Uncle Lasse, the 5-2 second choice to Mission Brief, in the second elimination.
He also has Bright Baby Blues in the $500,000 Hambletonian Oaks. She is 8-1 from post three. Wild Honey is the 5-2 favorite.

“She raced really well in her elimination,” Miller said. “I was happy to see her draw inside. It gives me a few options depending how the race unfolds. She’s coming into the race in good shape. She’s a bit of an outsider, but I think that race is pretty wide open. I think it could work out good.”
* * * *

Southwind Frank is the 8-5 morning line favorite in the $349,850 Peter Haughton Memorial for 2-year-old male trotters. The Ron Burke-trained colt has won three of four races this season, including the New Jersey Sire Stakes championship in 1:53.4.
* * * *

Anndrovette, who won the Golden Girls at the added distance of 1-1/8 miles on July 18 at the Meadowlands, is back for another extended distance try, this time in Saturday’s $251,250 Lady Liberty for older female pacers. Anndrovette is the 5-2 morning line favorite in the 11-mare race, which also includes defending champion Rocklamation.

The victory in the Golden Girls was only Anndrovette’s second win in 17 races at the Meadowlands. Her previous triumph came in the 2012 Overbid final.
* * * *

Bee A Magician, who has won eight of nine races this season, is the 4-5 favorite in the $181,450 Fresh Yankee for older female trotters. The race attracted 11 horses and will be contested at 1-1/8 miles. Bee A Magician was the 2013 Horse of the Year and is joined in the field by Dan Patch Award winners Classic Martine and Shake It Cerry.

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