By Ken Weingartner
After watching his two Hambletonian Oaks finalists on Tuesday draw posts eight and nine in the $500,000 event’s 10-horse field, trainer Lucas Wallin, a 26-year-old in only his third season of racing his own stable, handled the outcome with the philosophical aplomb of a veteran.
“We could be happier after the draw, but someone has to race from eight and nine, I suppose,” said Wallin, who sends Queen Of Trixs (post eight) and Princess Deo (post nine) into the sport’s top race for 3-year-old female trotters Saturday (Aug. 3) at The Meadowlands. “There’s nothing you can do. We just have to deal with it.
“Both horses came out of their eliminations very good. I couldn’t be happier with them. We need a little more luck and hopefully (the field) races to the half so we can get into it. There are a couple of horses in there that can mix it up a little bit. It’s hard from out there, that’s for sure. But anything can happen.”
Wallin grew up in Sweden, where he was driving ponies at the age of 8. Several years later, he began helping at his uncle Joakim Wallin’s stable. In mid-2014, he was alerted to an opportunity to work for Ake Svanstedt’s stable in the U.S. by childhood friend Oskar Florhed. Wallin spent two years with Svanstedt before deciding to go on his own.
Since then, Wallin’s stable has won 59 of 362 races and earned $789,548 in purses. Saturday’s trip to the Oaks will put him on harness racing’s big stage, not only within the sport but beyond. The Oaks and $1 million Hambletonian final will be broadcast live on CBS Sports Network as part of a 90-minute show beginning at 4 p.m. (EDT).
“It’s very, very big for me,” said Wallin, who is the only trainer with multiple horses in this year’s Oaks. “You know you’re doing something right. We’re very lucky to get nice horses to work with.
“It’s tough to describe how big it is. A lot of trainers have done this longer than me and have never been to the Oaks, so I’m very fortunate and happy to be there. The whole team has worked so hard, so it feels very good for everyone to get in the final like this. It gives you a real boost, that’s for sure.”
Queen Of Trixs finished third in her Oaks elimination, behind undefeated Millies Possesion and Evident Beauty. For the year, she has won two of six races and earned $57,125 for Mario Mazza’s Mazza Racing Stables. One of her victories came in a preliminary round of the New Jersey Sire Stakes. She finished sixth in the final.
“She got a little tough trip in the final,” Wallin said. “These two last races, she’s really improved. She is a really honest horse and very nice to be around. She is very small, but she’s really, really fast. So, coming into this season we had big hopes for her. She always gives a hundred percent. When you look at her, she doesn’t look like a top filly, nothing you would keep your eyes on. But she knows what to do.”
Queen Of Trixs raced barefoot in her Oaks elimination and Wallin plans to keep the shoes off Saturday.
“That has been the plan for a couple of months, so we have prepared for that,” Wallin said. “It should not be a problem. But now they say it is going to rain Saturday, so we’ll see about the track. The track sometimes gets a little hard after the rain. But that’s the plan at least now.”
Princess Deo is a newcomer to Wallin’s barn, having spent the beginning of the season with trainer Richard “Nifty” Norman. The filly has raced twice for Wallin, finishing fifth in a division of the Tompkins-Geers Stakes and third in her Oaks elimination, which was won by When Dovescry. Princess Deo started from post 10 in the elim.
“I have to thank the owners for giving me the chance to train this nice filly, they could send her to anyone,” said Wallin, who trains the filly for owners Deo Volente Farms, Tom Pontone, and John Fodera. “Nifty did a really good job with her all winter. He’s the one that trained her, we haven’t done too much.”
Princess Deo is winless in six races this year, but she was second in last year’s Goldsmith Maid and Kindergarten Classic Series final.
“You feel right away it’s a special filly,” Wallin said. “She has a very big personality. She wants things in her own way, you just have to listen to her. That’s what the groom has done and when we drive her, we let her be. She’s the boss. But you feel when you train that she is something special. She showed it last year.
“We probably got her at the right time. We haven’t done too much work. We do our routines, and she likes it. It feels like she is going to be better and better for each race. She hasn’t raced too much this year. I wasn’t sure if this race came a little too early, but she really showed that she belongs here.”
Racing begins at noon Saturday at The Meadowlands. For the day’s complete entries, click here.
Following is the field for the $500,000 Hambletonian Oaks.
1-Southwind Casha-Scott Zeron-John Bax-15/1
2-Millies Possesion-Dexter Dunn-Jim Campbell-9/5
3-Sonnet Grace-Yannick Gingras-Ron Burke-15/1
4-Evident Beauty-David Miller-R. Nifty Norman-7/2
5-When Dovescry-Simon Allard-Rene Allard-5/2
6-Sweet Chapter-Matt Kakaley-Blake MacIntosh-20/1
7-Asiago-Tim Tetrick-Per Engblom-15/1
8-Queen Of Trixs-Andrew McCarthy-Lucas Wallin-15/1
9-Princess Deo-Andrew McCarthy-Lucas Wallin-12/1
10-Miss Trixton-Brian Sears-Marcus Melander-30/1