By Ken Weingartner, USTA — It took several days for Marcus Melander to fully appreciate Heaven Hanover’s win in the Hambletonian Oaks two weeks ago, but her last-to-first triumph from post 10 at The Meadowlands certainly put an immediate smile on his face.
“It’s a great feeling,” Melander said. “To win a race like that is very exciting. But on the other hand, we had two more horses (Venerate and Oh Well) to race with the Cashman and Hambletonian coming up.
“So, you’re so excited to be in the winner’s circle, but then you have to recharge because you still had two horses to go. It took a couple of days before it really settled in that we won the Oaks.”
On Saturday, Heaven Hanover will have another opportunity to put a smile on Melander’s face. She is among a field of eight 3-year-old female trotters that will meet in the $250,000 Delmonica Hanover Stakes at Pocono Downs at Mohegan Pennsylvania. She will start from post four with driver Tim Tetrick and is the 3-1 second choice on the morning line behind Hambletonian Oaks runner-up Bond, who is 5-2.
Heaven Hanover has been no worse than third in her past five races, winning three, including a Pennsylvania Sire Stakes division in June at Pocono Downs and a division of the Delvin Miller Memorial in July at The Meadowlands.
For the season, the daughter of Father Patrick-Hillarmbro has missed the board only once in eight starts and earned $382,746.
“She’s been racing good all year, and everything seems fine with her after the last race,” Melander said. “She’s done everything right. She drew well for Saturday. There are some good horses in there, but she is one that can win the race, that’s for sure.”
Melander, who won last year’s Delmonica Hanover with Joviality S, also will send out Secret Volo in Saturday’s race. She will start from post seven with driver Brian Sears and is 4-1.
Secret Volo finished fourth from post nine in the Hambletonian Oaks, where she was beaten by a length and was a quarter-length from third. She counts the NY NY Mile in June at MGM Yonkers Raceway among her victories this season.
“She raced very good in the Oaks,” Melander said about the daughter of Walner-Secret Serenity. “She left hard and just got beat for third. She’s right there every week, but, unfortunately, she draws bad almost every start. She has a lot of gate speed, so she could still get good position.
“She’s already won on a half-mile track, so I think a five-eighths track won’t bother her at all. I think she will probably be a little better on a five-eighths track. She is a nice horse, and she always tries her best.”
In addition to having two chances to repeat in the Delmonica Hanover, Melander will get the same opportunity in Saturday’s Earl Beal Jr. Memorial. Hambletonian runner-up Oh Well will be joined by stablemate Kilmister in the $300,000 race for 3-year-old trotters.
Oh Well, who has earned $1.14 million in his career, has one win and six seconds in seven races this season. His victory came in a division of the Stanley Dancer Memorial on July 15 at The Meadowlands.
The son of Muscle Hill-Fine Tuned Lady will start Saturday from post eight with Tetrick in the sulky and is the 4-1 third choice on the morning line.
“He finished second in the Hambo, but he raced great,” said Melander, who won last year’s Beal with Temporal Hanover. “He drew on the outside this week, but I think he can overcome it.”
Kilmister, the 2022 Peter Haughton Memorial winner, enters the Beal off a victory in the Muscle Hill Trot on Hambletonian Day, Aug. 5, at The Meadowlands. He also has won a division of the Empire Breeders Classic and was second in a division of the Dancer.
The son of Chapter Seven-Treviso will start the Beal from post two with Sears in the bike and is 9-2.
“He looked really good on Hambo Day,” Melander said. “I think it was good for his confidence, as well, to get a win there. He showed that he was in form, and he drew well here. It’s a tough field but he’s one of them that can win.”
Celebrity Bambino, who was fourth in the Hambletonian is the 5-2 favorite in the Beal, leaving from post one with Yannick Gingras driving for trainer Ron Burke. MGM Yonkers Trot winner Up Your Deo, who was third in the Hambo, is 3-1 and starts from post four for trainer-driver Ake Svanstedt.
Pocono’s loaded Sun Stakes Saturday card also includes the $300,000 Max C. Hempt Memorial for 3-year-old pacers and the $250,000 James M. Lynch Memorial for 3-year-old female pacers. Racing begins at 1 p.m. (EDT).