Per­fect Spirit wins Ham­ble­to­nian on dis­qual­i­fi­ca­tion

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - SPORTS - BY TOM CANAVAN

There was some­thing new in the 92-year his­tory of the Ham­ble­to­nian. The win­ner of trot­ting’s big­gest race was dis­qual­i­fied.

The dis­ap­point­ment for Ron Burke, har­ness rac­ing’s all-time lead­ing trainer, was old news. His third straight year of heart­break in this race.

The Ake Svansted-trained and driven Per­fect Spirit was awarded the $1 mil­lion Ham­ble­to­nian when Burke’s first-place fin­isher What The Hill caused an­other horse to go off stride in the stretch and was dis­qual­i­fied and placed ninth.

“I’m very happy, just liv­ing in the mo­ment, just now I want to go home and en­joy ev­ery­thing,” said Svanst­edt, a 58-year-old Swe­den who came to North Amer­ica four years ago after win­ning many of the big­gest rac­ing in his own coun­try.

This one was a gift. There seemed to be lit­tle doubt about the de­ci­sion that left Burke won­der­ing what he has to do to win the Ham­ble­to­nian.

He fin­ished a close sec­ond the past two years and seem­ingly had his first Ham­ble­to­nian in hand after David Miller got What The Hill to the front in the stretch and cruised to a clear-cut vic­tory.

The ela­tion didn’t last long. The judges posted an in­quiry sign shortly after the fin­ish and there was a dot next to What The Hill, sig­ni­fy­ing that his race was in ques­tion.

The judges de­lib­er­ated about five min­utes be­fore dis­qual­i­fy­ing the first-place fin­isher and giv­ing Svanst­edt his first Ham­ble­to­nian win.

It was de­cided that What The Hill caused Guardian An­gel AS to go off stride as he squeezed into a space be­tween the pace­set­ting Per­fect Spirit and De­vi­ous Man. Guardian An­gel AS was com­ing up be­hind the lead­ers and his front hoof touched the wheel of What The Hill’s sulky and went off stride.

“It was a tough break,” Miller said.

Burke was not avail­able for com­ment. He was clearly frus­trated after the de­ci­sion was an­nounced.

De­vi­ous Man and En­ter­prise were moved up to sec­ond and third, re­spec­tively.

Per­fect Spirit, who fin­ished third in his elim­i­na­tion ear­lier on the card, re­turned $17, $6.40 and $5.40 in win­ning for the fifth time in nine starts for the SRF Sta­ble.

“I’m re­ally happy,” owner Len­nart Agren said.

“This is ab­so­lutely un­be­liev­able. I’ve liked this horse since Harrisburg and he’s been de­vel­op­ing very good. And al­ways been hard­headed, but he’s re­ally de­vel­oped, so, well, I think it’s just hap­pi­ness for me.”

De­vi­ous Man, who was try­ing to make trainer Julie Miller the third women in six years to win this race, paid $3 and $2.40 as the favourite in the field of 10 in the fi­nal.

En­ter­prise, who won sec­ond elim­i­na­tion with driver Tim Tet­rick, re­turned $4.

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