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The Hambletonian Trotting Classic: A Rich Tradition of Harness Racing

Harness racing has a long and storied history in the United States, and one of its most prestigious events is the Hambletonian Stake. Held annually since 1926, the Hambletonian is the oldest harness race in America that requires horses to be 3-years old. Over the decades, it has cemented its place as harness racing's greatest race.

The race itself was named after Hambletonian 10, a foundation sire foaled in 1849 who is considered one of the fathers of the Standardbred breed. Hambletonian 10 sired over 1,300 offspring throughout his stud career, and his bloodlines extend to most modern harness horses today.

The Hambletonian Stake was inaugurated in 1926 at the New York State Fair in Syracuse and was won by the filly Priscilla. The following year, the race was moved to Empire City Race Track in Yonkers, New York where it stayed until 1946. After World War II, the race moved to its current home of The Meadowlands in New Jersey.

Some key moments in Hambletonian history:

  • In the 1920s/'30s, the incredible trotter Greyhound captured 3 Hambletonians, the only horse to ever accomplish that feat.

  • In 1938, Pioneer Hanover defeated rival Jurgy in straight heats in what was called the "Hambletonian of the Century"

  • In 1951, 3-year-old colt Noble Adios drove himself to victory, becoming the only horse to win the Hambletonian while self-driven.

  • In 1955, Hoot Mon became the first horse to win the Hambletonian after being defeated the prior week in the event's qualifying races.

  • In 1960, Johnston won the race while still wearing hopples, the last winner to do so.

  • In 1965, Egyptian Candor smashed the Hambletonian record with a time of 1:57 1/5.

Some of the sport's most revered horses have won this prestigious stake including 4-time winners Billy Direct and Mack Lobell in the 1980s/90s. The filly Continentalvictory and trotting colt Muscle Hill also etched their names in the Hambletonian records with wins in 1996 and 2009 respectively.

For almost a century, the Hambletonian has highlighted the best 3-year-old trotters North American harness racing has to offer. The race continues to attract large excited crowds to The Meadowlands each August. With its rich history and tradition, the Hambletonian remains harness racing's greatest race.

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