Trainer Jimmy Takter focuses on driving as Hambletonian nears
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) -- His horses have won more than $60 million in purses over his now-Hall of Fame harness racing career. He's trained two colts, Malabar Man in 1997 and Muscle Massive in 2010, which have won the world's most famous harness race, the Hambletonian, for 3-year-old trotting colts.
And now, Jimmy Takter is the trainer for Hambletonian favorite, Uncle Peter.
But it's not the horse he's pulling for.
If the Swedish-born trainer/driver, now residing in East Windsor, N.J., has his druthers, he would much rather have the other horse he trains in the race, Guccio, take home the top prize in the $1.5 million Hambletonian on Saturday.
"I'm in a lot of races and most of the time, I don't drive," Takter said. "Most people know I'm not really into driving. I kind of forget who's driving my horse. But this time, I'm driving my own horse and I want to win it for me. I'm 52 years old now and I've never won this race. Ron Pierce (the driver of Uncle Peter) has won this race before several times (four times). I've never won. I came in second once (with Mr. Lavec in 1994) but I never won.
"It's my turn now. I want to win."
Takter will take Guccio, an 8-1 choice on the morning line, out from the No. 7 post. Guccio closed well in the Hambletonian eliminations last week to finish second to Knows Nothing, earning his spot in the finals Saturday. Guccio has won only twice in 14 starts lifetime, but Takter feels the colt has a shot.
"It's a wide open shot and this is my shot to win it," Takter said. "Anything can happen. We might be a longshot, but it would be my goal to win it."
Uncle Peter, the 5-2 favorite in the morning line, drew the No. 1 post. Winner in eight of his 12 lifetime starts, Uncle Peter romped home in 1:53.3 to win by one and 3/4 lengths in the elimination last Saturday.
"I would be just as happy if Uncle Peter won," said Takter, who was inducted into the Harness Racing Hall of Fame on July 1. "But I'm going to really do my best to win. It's been my dream to win the Hambletonian. I think Guccio is a big factor. It's good for me to have both."
Takter knows that Uncle Peter is the favorite for a reason.
"He's the most gifted 3-year-old I've ever been around," said Takter, who came to the United States from Sweden in 1982 to begin his career. "He has natural raw ability. I've been very fortunate to be around this great horse. Is he the easiest to train? No. But he's nothing like anything else I've ever seen at this age. I know he's ready for the Hambletonian. Obviously, with two horses, I'm in a very fortunate situation."
Knows Nothing, with Jody Jamieson in the bike, is the second choice in the morning line at 7-2. Knows Nothing drew the No. 3 post. Knows Nothing, a Canadian-bred colt, has won seven of eight starts in his career.
Market Share, with top driver Tim Tetrick in the sulky and trained by Linda Toscano, is the third choice at 4-1. Market Share also won an elimination race last Saturday and trotted the fastest mile of the three eliminations in 1:52.2. Market Share has reached the winner's circle more than any other in the 10-horse field, earning nine wins in 15 starts.
Archangel, the winners of the Yonkers Trot on July 7, was the fourth choice at 9-2 with Jim Morrill in the bike.
The Hambletonian field and morning line odds are as follows: 1, Uncle Peter, Ron Pierce, 5-2; 2, Market Share, Tim Tetrick, 4-1; 3,Knows Nothing, Jody Jamieson, 7-2; 4, Archangel, Jim Morrill, 9-2; 5, My MVP, Mike Lachance, 15-1; 6, Prestidigitator, Sylvain Filion, 12-1; 7, Guccio, Jimmy Takter, 8-1; 8, Stormin Normand, Dave Palone, 15-1; 9, Money On My Mind, Andy Miller, 15-1; 10, Gym Tan Laundry, George Brennan, 30-1.