August 07, 2016

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) Recent failures in the Hambletonian aren't haunting driver Yannick Gingras.

The 37-year-old is back knocking on the door of harness racing's most prestigious race, having the reins with favored Southwind Frank in Saturday's $1 million race for 3-year-old trotters at the Meadowlands.

The role is nothing new for Gingras. He had the favorites in the last two Hambletonians, and was disappointed.

In 2014, Father Patrick broke stride from post No. 10 and finished last.

Last year was even more frustrating. Gingras drove both Pinkman and Mission Brief in their respective Hambletonian heats. He chose to drive the filly Mission Brief in the final and finished second to Pinkman, who was driven by Brian Sears.

''The last two years have no bearing on it,'' Gingras said. ''I've wanted to win the Hambletonian just as badly years ago as I do today. The last two years are in the past. I don't look back at the past.''

Gingras said he was more disappointed for Father Patrick than himself, saying it was the colt's only chance to win the Hambletonian. He knew he would have other shots.

As far as last year, he has no regrets about his pick.

''Mission Brief won in hand and I thought was my best chance to win,'' Gingras said. ''If I had to do it again, I'd pick Mission Brief again. I don't live with regrets. I got beat.''

The Hambletonian will have two heats of nine trotters to determine the final. The top five in each elimination make the final.

The Ron Burke-trained Southwind Frank is the 4-5 favorite in the second heat. The colt has won 5 of 6 starts this year and 16 of 18 in his career, including a win here in the slop last weekend in the Reynolds Memorial Stakes.

''He was really powerful and I had plenty left,'' Gingras said of the son of Muscle Hill, who drew the No. 5 post position for the elimination. ''Ronnie called me and he trained (Wednesday) morning with Crazy Wow and Hannelore Hanover and they couldn't get to him. These are going to be his races to lose. I'm not going to be looking to come third over or something like that. I'm looking to have him in play and I'm looking to have him aggressive.''

Bar Hopping is the 9-5 favorite in the other elimination from the rail. The colt is looking to give trainer Jimmy Takter an unprecedented third consecutive Hambletonian. He is one shy of the training record of five held by Bill Haughton, Stanley Dancer and Ben White.

Takter has five entrants in the two eliminations, including Bar Hopping with Tim Tetrick set to drive. Takter also sends out Lagerfeld (Gingras), Love Matters, Jimmy William, and Reigning Moni.

''Of course, Bar Hopping is my best chance,'' Takter said. ''I think this year is very open. Southwind Frank stands out a little bit more. I think I have Bar Hopping on the right plan, and I'm really happy with how he's progressing.''

Bar Hopping was the winner of the only two races that Southwind Frank lost.

Other trainers with multiple entries in the Hambletonian are Julie Miller (Milligan's School and Sutton) and Ake Svanstedt (Mavens Way and The Royal Harry).

All The Time, also trained by Takter, is the 9-5 favorite in the $500,000 Hambletonian Oaks for fillies.

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