EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Atlanta bounced back from a second place finish in her elimination to win one of harness racing’s most coveted prizes on Aug. 4 at the Meadowlands Racetrack.
Earlier in the day in the first elimination, Atlanta and driver Scott Zeron shot to the front and stayed there until Crystal Fashion charged down the homestretch and caught her just before the wire in the first of two $100,000 Hambletonian elimination heats.
Crystal Fashion, driven by Tim Tetrick and trained by Jim Campbell, crossed the wire in 1:50 1/5, for a neck victory over Atlanta, her first defeat of the year. The time equaled the stakes and track record for a 3-year-old trotting gelding.
About an hour later it looked like it would be a case of déjà vu as Altanta surged to the front out of post seven to again take the early lead. As the field came out of the final turn Zeron asked his filly for more and she pulled away from the field. Met's Hall, first elimination winner, Tactical Landing, and Crystal Fashion gave chase, closing the gap in the stretch. This time though, Atlanta had enough to hold on, winning by a length. Met's Hall was second, Tactical Landing third and Crystal Fashion was fourth.
Atlanta became the 14th filly to win the 93-year-old race. The last female winner was Continental Victory in 1996. Another filly, Mission Brief came close, finishing second in 2015.
It was the first Hambletonian victory for trainer Rick Zeron who has been training trotters for 43 years but never had a Hambletonian contender. In 2011, he finished second in the Hambletonian Oaks driving his trainee Lady Rainbow.
He explained why he chose to race Atlanta against the boys instead of in the filly division. “I’m taking my shot because I think she’s good enough,” Zeron said after entering the filly in the Hambletonian. “I wouldn't put a filly in with the colts if I didn't think she could trot with them or beat them. I would never put my filly in that position to make her do something that I know she couldn’t do.”
She could, and she did. The victory was especially sweet since Rick Zeron’s is the father of the filly's driver, Scott Zeron.
The trainer also owns the filly with Crawford Farms, Holland Racing Stable, Howard Taylor and Brad Grant.
Atlanta is the daughter of Chapter Seven, a stallion that stands at Blue Chip farms in New York. She was purchased at the Standardbred Sale in Harrisburg, Pa. for $60,000. Her Hambletonian paycheck is 10 times that amount.
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