Perfect Spirit wins Hambletonian on disqualification

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) Perfect Spirit was awarded the $1 million Hambletonian when first-place finisher What The Hill caused another horse to go off stride in the stretch and was disqualified Saturday in trotting's biggest race.

It marked the first time in the 92-year history of the Hambletonian that a winner had disqualified after capturing the final.

There seemed to be little doubt about the decision that left harness racing's all-time leading trainer Ron Burke wondering what he has to do to win the Hambletonian. He finished a close second the past two years and seemingly had ended his heartache after David Miller got What The Hill to the front in the stretch and cruised to a clear-cut victory.

The elation didn't last long. The judges posted an inquiry sign shortly after the finish and there was a dot next to What The Hill, signifying that his race was in question.

The judges deliberated about five minutes before disqualifying the first-place and giving Swedish driver-trainer Ake Svanstedt his first Hambletonian win.

It was decided that What The Hill caused Guardian Angel AS to go off stride as he squeezed into a space between the pacesetting Perfect Spirit and Devious Man. Guardian Angel AS was coming up behind the leaders and his front hoof touched the wheel of What The Hill's sulky and went off stride.

Devious Man and Enterprise were moved up to second and third, respectively.

Perfect Spirit, who finished third in his elimination earlier on the card, returned $17, $6.40 and $5.40 in winning for the fifth time in nine starts for the SRF Stable.

Devious Man, who was trying to make trainer Julie Miller the third women in six years to win this race, paid $3 and $2.40 as the favorite in the field of 10 in the final. Enterprise, who won second elimination with driver Tim Tetrick, returned $4.

What The Hill was placed ninth, a place behind Guardian Angel AS. International Money, who won the first of the eliminations, broke stride early and was last.

After starting from the No. 10 post in the elimination, Perfect Spirit drew the No. 6 post for the final and led the field at every call until What The Hill passed him in late in the stretch and got to the wire a half-length in front.

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