Zeron look­ing for two straight Ham­ble­to­nian race wins

He’s hop­ing do it tonight with In­ter­na­tional Moni

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - SPORTS -

Phil Bridges has stepped down from the Summerside D. Alex MacDon­ald Ford West­ern Cap­i­tals.

Bridges served as ex­ec­u­tive direc­tor and gover­nor of the MHL (Mar­itime Ju­nior Hockey League) team for the past two sea­sons.

“It was a dif­fi­cult de­ci­sion,” said Bridges, who has served the fran­chise in a num­ber of ca­pac­i­ties over the years, in a me­dia re­lease is­sued by the Caps on Thurs­day morn­ing. “I ini­tially com­mit­ted for two years, and re­ally en­joyed be­ing in­volved with the Cap­i­tals.

“How­ever, it just came down to what was best for me per­son­ally at this stage of my ca­reer, so I de­cided to re­turn to my po­si­tion at the P.E.I. Youth Cen­tre, where I have worked for 27 years, be­fore tak­ing this po­si­tion with the Cap­i­tals.

“I know how im­por­tant the Cap­i­tals are to this com­mu­nity. I re­ally en­joyed work­ing with the spon­sors and get­ting to know the sup­port­ers, like the sea­son-ticket hold­ers, again.

“I want to thank the staff, the vol­un­teers, the own­ers, spon­sors and ev­ery­one in­volved in op­er­at­ing the West­ern Cap­i­tals for their sup­port over the past years.”

Cap­i­tals vice-pres­i­dent Mike James ex­plained Bridges’s role as ex­ec­u­tive direc­tor: “Phil was in charge op­er­a­tionally from the busi­ness side of our team. He ob­vi­ously worked very closely with (gen­eral man­ager) Pat (McIver) and his team. The day-to-day op­er­a­tions of the team, that was Phil’s job.

“We to­tally un­der­stand that Phil wanted to go back to the youth cen­tre. It was his per­sonal de­ci­sion, and we fully sup­port him.”

James said the Caps will “look in­ter­nally and see if we can share the du­ties amongst some of the own­ers and some of the hockey op­er­a­tions staff” in ad­dress­ing how Bridges’s role will be filled.

James did con­firm that Jor­dan El­lis has as­sumed the role of gover­nor.

The Caps, based out of Credit Union Place, will be en­ter­ing the fran­chise’s 37th year of op­er­a­tion.

In other team news, the Caps, who ear­lier this week signed 17-year-old for­ward Thomas Harper, have inked de­fence­man Matt Tem­ple­man for the 201718 sea­son.

“I’ve been wait­ing for this for a long while,” said Tem­ple­man in a me­dia re­lease is­sued by the Caps. “I am ex­cited to get things go­ing, and be a troop for #Cap­sArmy.”

Tem­ple­man, who is from Goulds, N.L., was the Cap­i­tals’ first ter­ri­to­rial se­lec­tion in the 2017 draft.

Last sea­son, the 17-yearold Tem­ple­man recorded six goals and 24 as­sists in 28 games with the South­ern Shore Break­ers of the St. John’s Ju­nior Hockey League.

“We’re very ex­cited to sign and draft Matt,” said Cap­i­tals gen­eral man­ager Pat McIver. “He is an of­fen­sive de­fence­man, who hope­fully will help our power play this sea­son.

The Caps are head­ing into their 37th sea­son of op­er­a­tion. The Caps open reg­u­lar-sea­son play on the road Sept. 16, and host the Wood­stock Slam­mers in their home opener on Satur­day, Sept. 30, at 7 p.m.

Sea­son-ticket and game-day ticket in­for­ma­tion will be re­leased in the com­ing weeks.

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 favourite in the first elim­i­na­tion. De­vi­ous Man is the 5-2 favourite 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-yearold 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 the trainer, An­tonacci, 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-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-yearold 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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