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The 80th Edition of the $1.5 Million Hambletonian from The Meadowlands Racetrack

Vivid Photo wins the $1.5 million Hambletonian
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Vivid Photo wins the $1.5 million Hambletonian
Saturday, August 6, 2005 - by John Pawlak, publicity/public relations director, the U.S. Trotting Association
East Rutherford, NJ --- Roger Hammer and Todd Schadel’s Vivid Photo ($16.40, $4.00, $3.40), driven by Hammer, came -- uncharacteristically -- from far off the pace and won the $1.5 Hambletonian Final on Saturday at the Meadowlands, in what could only be considered a big win for a “little guy.”
Hammer, a noted front-end lover, who dominates racing on the Pennsylvania fair circuit, raced his son of S J’s Photo in seventh position in the early going, swept wide in the stretch, and won in 1:523, a lifetime mark, and Hammer brandished his whip in victory.
Classic Photo (Ron Pierce) the odds-on favorite, also raced from off the pace, and actually gave Vivid Photo live cover on the final turn.
Hammer was confident before the start.
“This horse never showed racing off the pace,” Hammer said. “But I figured I could out-brush all of them.
“I didn’t know what the fractions were, I was only worried where Ron (Pierce, the driver of Classic Photo) was. I’ve never used the whip on this horse, but the second time I tapped him I knew it was over. I knew he was a strong finisher.”

Hammer, the son of the late Clay Hammer, earned -- in one afternoon --- more purse than he has in all but two entire years in his long career.

Muscle Memory, Self Professed, and Strong Yankee all left alertly, and the quarter pole was passed in :27. The latter made a quick move to the lead as the half-mile and three-quarter mile pole were passed in :55 and 1:24, respectively. As the field turned for home a cover flow began to form, and Classic Photo was moving as a favorite should, but Hammer was right behind him -- and full of trot. He tipped out and appeared so strong that there was little doubt Vivid Photo would win the 80th edition of the Hambletonian, and the largest part of the record purse.

The margin of victory was two and three-quarter lengths, Classic Photo ($2.40, $2.20) finished second, Muscle Memory ($4.60) finished third, and Strong Yankee was fourth to the wire.
The winner was bred by Winbak Farm of Chesapeake City, Md.
Vivid Photo, who is out of the Garland Lobell mare Miss Garland, has now won 10 of 12 starts this year, and has banked $866,393 in his career. He is also in the midst of a nine-race win streak.


6 Vivid Photo 16.40 4.40 3.40
5 Classic Photo   2.40 3.40
1 Muscle Memory     4.60
VIVID PHOTO changed his usual tactics, opting to race from off the pace and follow the favorite. He worked out a perfect third-over trip, angled widest into the stretch, and trotted right on by as easily the best in here, setting a new World Record for three-year-old geldings. CLASSIC PHOTO was away sixth, worked out a perfect second-over trip as the heavy favorite, and gave a great effort, but was collared by a better horse. MUSCLE MEMORY pushed off from the rail, and grabbed command early, yielded to a strong brush on the backstretch, and worked his way out of the two hole to get up for third. STRONG YANKEE brushed hard down the backstretch to reach the front, cut honest fractions through the final turn, and could not stall the winner. SELF PROFESSED left hard to get into the two-hole, was locked in the three-hole through the final turn, got clear early in the stretch, but had no pop. MR DREAM OM broke stride leaving the gate, caught the field on the backstretch, improved position along the rail, but could not overcome the early miscue. MUSCLE BOUND followed the eventual winner's cover fourth-over, and offered nothing in the lane while dead-heating for seventh. GETTINDOWNANDDIRTY sucked along fifth-in and made no moves while dead-heating for seventh. NORTHERN ENSIGN got away fifth, was forced to come first-over past the half, and could not sustain his bid and finished last, placed ninth. RACINO took an inside trip, and was clear in the lane when he broke stride finishing ninth and placed tenth..
VIVID PHOTO is owned by Roger Hammer & Todd Schadel of PA, trained and driven by Roger Hammer.
Fractions: 27 55 1.24 1.52-3/5 (World Record for 3YO Trotting Gelding)

Roger Hammer surprised everyone with a patient come-from-behind drive and guided Vivid Photo to a two and three-quarter-length victory in the $1.5 million Hambletonian, the eighth race on Saturday afternoon at the Meadowlands.
In all his previous starts, Vivid Photo ($16.40, $4.00, $3.40) had raced on the front end but Hammer opted to follow the 1-2 favorite, Classic Photo, with Ron Pierce driving. 

“I figured everybody thought I’d drive him crazy, so I did the opposite today,” said Hammer, 59, who was making his Hambletonian debut.  “I know the horse.  He’s a strong finisher, and he wouldn’t give it up.  It’s great.  I can keep the bill collector away for a while.”

A crowd of 31,245, the best since 1990, turned out for the closing day program that included 15 races with purses of nearly $4 million.  Wagering on the Hambletonian Final was a record $1,269,523.

"This horse never showed racing off the pace," Hammer admitted. "But I figured I could out-brush all of them.  "I didn't know what the fractions were; I was only worried where Ron (Pierce, the driver of favorite Classic Photo) was.  I've never used the whip on this horse, but the second time I tapped him I knew it was over.  I knew he was a strong finisher."

Hammer, of Bedford, Pennsylvania, and his partner, Todd Schadel of Gratz, Pennsylvania, bought four horses together, each taking two to train and race.  Hammer ended up with the son of SJ’s Photo, a $30,000 yearling purchase, was racing at the Pennsylvania fairs at two and remained away from the Meadowlands until the eliminations last week when he won his elimination in 1:53.2.

“I’ve made two-year-old payments for the Hambletonian many times over the last 30 years but this is the first one we paid up at three,” said Hammer.  “I knew he was a fast horse.  The decision to geld him was the best we made.  Otherwise he would have been a $3,000 claimer.  He would try to climb the walls of the stall.  That’s how he

The victory was Vivid Photo’s tenth in 12 starts this year, 14 of 18 lifetime.  His earnings have now reached $866,393. 

Classic Photo [$2.40, $2.20], who had won his previous five straight starts, including both the Goodtimes and Stanley Dancer Trot, finished second. Muscle Memory ($4.60) was third by five and a quarter lengths back.

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