Hambletonian

Hambletonian contender International Moni receives some attention from his caretaker, Carlos Aguilar, after a morning jog at Lindy Farm in Enfield, Connecticut, last month. The horse will be driven by defending Hambletonian winner Scott Zeron on Saturday.

EAST RUTHERFORD — Scott Zeron has a shot at becoming the first person in almost three decades to drive consecutive winners in the Hambletonian.

Hall of Famer John Campbell was the last driver to win trotting’s biggest race in consecutive years when he when guided Mack Lobell and Armbro Goal to the victory in 1987-88.

Zeron got Marion Marauder to the winner’s circle last year and is looking to get International Moni there on Saturday in the $1 million race at the Meadowlands.

International Moni, who is undefeated in three starts this year, is the 5-2 morning line favorite in the first elimination.

Devious Man is the 5-2 favorite in the second elimination.

The top five horses in the eliminations, which drew 19 entries, qualify for the final.

While many of the top drivers in harness racing compete at the Meadowlands, Zeron said much goes into winning a Hambletonian.

“I like to think the best 3-year-old trotting colts win the Hambletonian and to have that in consecutive years, let alone more than once, is very difficult,” said the 28-year-old Montreal native. “I don’t take what I have this year for granted. To have a competitive horse is a big deal regardless of it being in consecutive years.”

International Moni has made major strides for trainer Frank Antonacci, whose family or Lindy Racing have been involved in the ownership of five Hambletonian winners: Lindy’s Pride (1969), Speedy Crown (1971), Probe (1989), Harmonious (1990) and Victory Dream (1994).

The colt won 1 of 12 starts last year and finished second or third in seven other races.

“If you speak to the trainer, he would tell you he was just a little under-developed physically we would say,” said Zeron, who won the Meadowlands driving title last year. “He took his time with him. He was developing him more mentally and (the colt) got stronger as the year went on. You can see that in his race lines. He just got better and better.

“We were very happy with the way he finished off that year, and we’re definitely not shocked with the form he has come back this year.”

This year’s Hambletonian is a wide-open race following the withdrawal of Walner. Last year’s best 2-year-old trotter, the colt is sidelined with a minor injury.

The goal for the 19 horses will be to get to the final. The winners of the eliminations can pick their starting post for the final, choosing from spots 1-5. The rest of the field is determined by a draw.

“You really do want to win the race but you would like to win it and not use every ounce of your horse,” said Zeron, who last year become the youngest driver to win a harness racing Triple Crown. “As a driver it is a fine line between one or the other.”

The Hambletonian final is 5:11 p.m. and will air on CBS Sports Network. The $500,000 Hambletonian Oaks for 3-year-old female trotters will be part of the 90-minute broadcast.

The field for the first elimination in post position order with odds:

Southwind Woody, 12-1; Bill’s Man, 5-1; Guardian Angel, 10-1; Giveitgasandgo, 8-1; International Moni, 5-2; Stealth Hanover, 30-1; Victor Gio, 6-1; Long Tom, 3-1 and Jake, 8-1.

The field for the second elim:

What The Hill, 3-1; Seven And Seven, 8-1; Sortie, 10-1; Shake It Off Lindy, 20-1; Dover Dan, 8-1; Enterprise, 9-2; Southwind Cobra, 15-1; Achille Duharas, 20-1; Devious Man, 5-2 and Perfect Spirit, 12-1.

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