2019 Hambletonian Betting Odds and Predictions

The 2019 Hambletonian takes place this Saturday at the Meadowlands Racetrack in East Rutherford, New Jersey. It represents the pinnacle in the sport of harness racing. Although the sport is a worldwide phenomenon, it is regarded as one of the most coveted races. Today, we’ll be sharing our 2019 Hambletonian betting preview.

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For nearly a century now, the Hambletonian has held its place in the sport of harness racing, one of the unique offshoots of horse racing. No race quite captures its mix of tradition and excitement. On top of that, there is a $1 million purse on the line.

The Meadowlands Racetrack in New Jersey has been home to the race since the 1980s.

The 2019 Hambletonian will be a special one because it will be the last time that the race will be held in multiple heats. 16 entrants will be divided into a pair of heats to determine the final held later in the day. The top five finishers in each of the elimination heats will go through to the 10-horse final. At that point, new betting will begin for the final group.

But you don’t have to wait around to bet on the final. You can also bet on the eliminations. In addition, you can make a futures wager before the eliminations, locking in a more beneficial price on a horse than you might be able to get in the final.

This year’s race shapes up as an interesting clash between two horses that come from the same trainer, Marcus Melander. In one elimination is Greenshoe, who has been overwhelming his opponents all year long with record-setting times at the Meadowlands. But Gimpanzee, also trained by Melander, has never lost in 12 career races.

There are 14 other horses who plan to have a say in the outcome. In this 2019 Hambletonian preview, we will take a look at every one of the horses involved in the two eliminations. At the end of it all, we’ll tell you who we think will win the final and what horse you should consider as a possible long shot pick.

2019 Hambletonian at a Glance

When: Saturday, August 3rd, 2019

Where: The Meadowlands Racetrack in East Rutherford, New Jersey

Who: 16 three-year-old trotters in two heats

How Long: Each heat and the final are a mile long. The Meadowlands track is a mile long, meaning that horses have to complete one circuit of the track.

The Contenders

(Morning Line Odds in Parentheses, first for the heat, then for the futures bet to win the final)

Heat 1

#1 – Cantab Fashion (6-1, 15-1)

  • Trainer: Jim Campbell
  • Driver: Scott Zeron

Driver Zeron won this race a year ago with the filly Atlanta, but Cantab Fashion will have to up his game to give Zeron two in a row. On the one hand, Campbell is a top trainer whose horses often sneak up on people when they’re overlooked. There is also the possibility of the colt peaking on Saturday, considering it is his third start off a layoff.

But it’s hard to put too much stock in a horse who is winless in his two races this year, especially when so many others in this field have accomplished so much. And he failed his biggest test last year, when he broke stride as a favorite in an elimination for the Breeders Crown. He likely won’t be much of a factor at the 2019 Hambletonian, even if he manages to sneak into the final.

#2 – Summit In Sight (20-1, 20-1 as mutuel entry with Reign Of Honor)

  • Trainer: Julie Miller
  • Driver: Andy Miller

It’s never a good sign when the oddsmakers for the 2019 Hambletonian lump you as “the field” in a futures wager. That usually means that you aren’t considered enough of an entity on your own to warrant inclusion. Summit In Sight carries that distinction with him into the first heat.

The Millers are as respected a trainer/driver duo as there is in the sport, with a pile of big wins in their rear view. But this colt just doesn’t appear to have the same kind of top speed as the rest in the field. His career-best winning time of 1:53:0 will probably end up with him well up the track if that’s what he manages on Saturday.

#3 – Swandre The Giant (7-2, 12-1)

  • Trainer: Ron Burke
  • Driver: David Miller

When the initial futures pool for the 2019 Hambletonian came out a year ago, this was the favorite. His 2018 freshman season was indeed pretty impressive, with wins in nine of 12 starts and over $255,000 in the bank. The winning percentage this year hasn’t been quite as fine, however, as he is just two for seven.

There have been some mitigating circumstances in some of the losses, however, like bad posts or unfavorable trips. As sleepers go, he might be a nice mid-priced play in this heat, especially if Gimpanzee has his eyes on the final. You can do a lot worse than a combination of David Miller and Ron Burke in any race.

#4 – Soul Strong (8-1, 15-1)

  • Trainer: Ake Svanstedt
  • Driver: Dexter Dunn

With the exception of a break of stride earlier this year in the New Jersey Sire Stakes, Soul Strong has been either first or second in every race this year. His last race, although a loss, might have been his most impressive yet. He took his stablemate Marseille right to the line at Tioga, coming up just a neck short.

Anybody who has been paying attention to harness racing in the past decade knows just how lethal the Svanstedt barn is with trotters. Although Marseille is probably the better bet of his two entries going forward, Soul Strong could have potential at decent odds, especially in the first heat where the two top choices are on the outside. The 2019 Hambletonian final might be a bit too tough for him at this point in his career.

#5 – Mr Vicktor (15-1, 30-1)

  • Trainer: Jennifer Lappe
  • Driver: Tyler Buter

What are the positives for this futures odds long shot? Well, for one, Tyler Buter is one of the most unheralded drivers in the sport. He’s in the midst of a breakout year and eager add a defining win to his record. And this colt was excellent this year in New York, piling up six wins and two places in eight starts in stakes competition.

Yet his first start at the Big M this year, in a Reynolds race last week, saw him break stride. He struggled in that race to match the early speed of others, some of whom will be in this race. Trainer Jennifer Lappe is on the rise, but this colt might be a bit short of what it takes to win at the 2019 Hambletonian.

#6 – Osterc (15-1, 30-1)

  • Trainer: Per Engblom
  • Driver: Yannick Gingras

As a two-year-old for trainer Jimmy Takter, this colt looked like one of the best. He won five of his seven races, including an important win in the Pennsylvania Sire Stakes championships for a huge purse. When Takter retired this offseason, Per Engblom took over and guided him to win in three of his first four races in 2019.

But Osterc seems to have lost his mojo as of late. With finishes out of the money in his last three races, and breaks of stride in two of them, he doesn’t seem to have any momentum going into the 2019 Hambletonian, the biggest of all races. Even if he finds his best stride, it still probably isn’t enough for him to hand with the powerhouses here.

#7 – Gimpanzee (2-1, 8-1)

  • Trainer: Marcus Melander
  • Driver: Brian Sears

This colt has beaten everyone in front of him, and most of those wins were decisive. He is the defending champion in the class, after he rolled through both the eliminations and the finals for the Breeders Crown a year ago without enduring much challenge. On top of that, he has run his career-winning streak to a dozen after winning his first three this year.

Most of the damage that he has done in his career has come in New York. And as a horse who prefers to flash early speed, he might have some issues getting to the lead from the #7 post in the heat. Greenshoe gets most of the attention in the class these days, but Gimpanzee is the one who is completely spotless coming into the 2019 Hambletonian.

#8 – Green Manalishi S (5-2, 10-1)

  • Trainer: Marcus Melander
  • Driver: Tim Tetrick

Yet another stalwart trained by Marcus Melander, Green Manalishi S would love to shake the reputation as the “other guy.” He came up short to Gimpanzee in the Breeders Crown a year ago. And he was upset in the Stanley Dancer by Swandre The Giant.

Even if that signature win has eluded this colt, he is still extremely consistent, with in-the-money finishes in every one of his 14 career races. That makes him a horse that you have to consider for the exotics in both the heat and the finals. Anything better than that might take a little racing luck!

Heat 2

#1 – Forbidden Trade (12-1, 15-1)

  • Trainer: Luc Blais
  • Driver: Bob McClure

In the 2018 Breeders’ Cup, where all of the world’s best harness horses gather, the combination of Bob McClure and Luc Blais did a lot of damage with horses who hadn’t been seen much outside of Canada. They would love to be equally shocking with this youngster. His record in Canada is quite impressive, with wins in his last three, four out of six this year, and 11 out of 17 lifetime.

You might point to the caliber of competition and you could certainly have a point. But Forbidden Trade beat more experienced horses in his last race, something that the rest of this field hasn’t even tried to do in their careers. Watch out for this one as a possible long shot factor in the 2019 Hambletonian.

#2 – Gerry (20-1, 20-1)

  • Trainer: Marcus Melander
  • Driver: Orjan Kihlstrom

The fact that Gerry is 20-1 in both the odds for this heat and in the futures pool tells you that the oddsmakers believe this is the stronger of the two eliminations. And it should also tell you that this colt might be one of the horses on the outside looking in at the final. He hasn’t won in seven races this year.

Melander is putting Orjan Kihlstrom in the bike even though he has no racing experience in the US. Maybe the Swede can pull together some magic in the heat. But it’s more than likely that Gerry is one of the also-rans this year.

#3 – Pilot Discretion (10-1, 15-1)

  • Trainer: Tony Alagna
  • Driver: Andrew McCarthy

This one is interesting almost based on the connections alone. Nobody has more top young horses in his barn than Alagna, as they are always impeccably bred and ready for big races. And Andy McCarthy is an expert at working out a great trip.

Pilot Discretion is coming off somewhat of a disappointment with a loss to Marseille at Tioga Downs. But that was a 5/8-mile oval. His style seems to be much better suited to the long straightaways of the Meadowlands, which means he could provide excellent value at his odds for both the elimination and the final at the 2019 Hambletonian.

#4 – Reign Of Honor (20-1, 20-1 as mutuel entry with Summit In Sight)

  • Trainer: Nifty Norman
  • Driver: David Miller

If there is any driver more feared than Miller in a big race with a long shot, he or she is keeping it a pretty good secret. His presence in the bike for Reign Of Honor alone will probably make a lot of bettors consider taking a stab. The guess is that Miller goes for tactical in the heat and tries to sneak into fourth or fifth, which won’t help your bets any.

As for the chances for Reign Of Honor from there, it’s hard to get too excited about a horse who lost an overnight race at the Meadowlands three races ago. And it wasn’t even an upset loss. The bettors will usually point you in the right direction and, in this case, they’re pointing elsewhere.

#5 – Greenshoe (4-5, 2-1)

  • Trainer: Marcus Melander
  • Driver: Brian Sears

Greenshoe has already posted miles of 1:50:2 and 1:50:1 at the Big M this season, and one wonders what he can do when really pressed. This was a horse who won two of his four starts as a two-year-old, despite breaking stride in all four.

Although Greenshoe was beaten his year by Marseiile, that came on the 5/8-mile oval at Pocono. It will be interesting to see what he does against Gimpanzee in the 2019 Hambletonian. But it is likely that you won’t get any value in either the heat or the final, as he is most likely to go off at odds-on in both.

#6 – Don’t Let’Em (4-1, 5-1)

  • Trainer: Nancy Johansson
  • Driver: Yannick Gingras

Sometimes, all it takes is one start for a horse to break into the public consciousness. Such is the case with this Muscle Hill Colt. With a stunning 1:50:2 mile in a Reynolds race in his last start, he immediately stamped himself as one who just might have the speed to hang with Greenshoe.

It’s been a meteoric rise, considering that he was in relatively inconspicuous overnight races earlier in the meet. Add the fact that he has one of the sport’s top big-race drivers in the seat and you can see why he is rising in everyone’s estimation for the 2019 Hambletonian. But can he prove that one big race wasn’t a fluke?

#7 – Super Schissel (10-1, 15-1)

  • Trainer: Per Engblom
  • Driver: Scott Zeron

The second of two entries from the Per Engblom barn, Super Schissel does not seem to be peaking at the right time. He has won just one of his six races this year. That comes on the heels of a freshman season where he was much more effective, with four wins and big earnings in tow.

Still, his last start bears mentioning. He was saddled with a second-tier start in a huge field, and he managed to work his way through for a respectable third behind Don’t Let’Em. Look for him to possibly be a factor late in the pace at the 2019 Hambletonian.

#8 – Marseille (5-1,15-1)

  • Trainer: Ake Svanstedt
  • Driver: Ake Svanstedt

Meet the one horse to have beaten Greenshoe this year. In the Earl Beal Jr. Memorial at Pocono, Ake Svanstedt did a masterful rating job to sneak out a victory by a nose at 57-1. Greenshoe started slowly and couldn’t make up the ground in time despite a furious rally.

Marseille then proved he was no flash-in-the-pan with a win at Tioga against stiff competition. This horse came into this season a maiden, meaning that he had never won. Is it possible that he leaves it with the biggest win in the sport?

2019 Hambletonian Picks

  • Heat 1: Swandre The Giant
  • Heat 2: Greenshoe
  • Final: Greenshoe
  • Long Shot Play: Pilot Discretion
Jim Beviglia: Jim Beviglia joined Gamblingsites.org as a staff writer in August of 2018, parlaying his years of freelance writing into contributions on a number of different topics. He handles the sport of horse racing for Gamblingsites.org, and the intersection between the worlds of cryptocurrency and online gambling in a weekly blog. For his full-time job, Jim handles the television and track announcing duties at a harness racing establishment near his home. He spends as much time as possible with his wife Marie and daughter Daniele, both of whom are used to hearing his long-winded monologues about either the struggles of his Fantasy baseball team or which Beatles song is definitively the best.