MET'S HALL EYES UPSET IN THE HAMBLETONIAN
By Mike Bozich
As racing fans across the globe peruse the headlines of the 2018 Hambletonian, they are not likely to come across the name Met's Hall very often. That's quite all right with part owner and driver Andy Miller, who is more than comfortable with the underdog role. The 3-year-old colt by Cantab Hall-Met's Inn made headlines at age two, but has since been lightly raced. "We brought him back slowly after his 2-year-old season," Miller said. "He still had issues with soundness so we kind of had to take our time with him." He is in the first of two Hambletonian eliminations at The Meadowlands on Saturday afternoon.
Bred by Winbak Farm, Met's Hall caught the eye of yearling manager Jim Ladwig early on. "I thought he was a nice colt with lots of potential," Ladwig said. He went on to the Harrisburg Sale, where he was purchased for $132,000 by Stroy Inc, along with Andy and Julie Miller.
Despite some soundness issues that have hampered the colt thus far in his racing career, Miller says Met's Hall has a real big gait and a whole lot of speed. That speed was on display in his second career start, as he set the track record for 2-year-old colt trotters (1:55.1) at Harrah's Philadelphia in a Pennsylvania Sire Stakes event. He suffered his first defeat in a Peter Haughton Memorial elimination race, and had to settle for fifth in the finals after a less than desirable trip. He was also battling respiratory problems, which sidelined him for close to a month after the race. He bounced back well to wrap up his freshman campaign with wins in the PASS Consolation, Kindergarten Classic, and The International Stallion at The Red Mile before finishing second in The Breeders Crown at Hoosier Park. "He didn't really get around the track at Hoosier all that well," Andy Miller said. "He got an inside trip and shook loose late and was really charging at the wire. We were very happy with his performance."
As a 3-year old, the jury is still out. "He's got a lot bigger and stronger from his 2-year-old season, but we had to take our time with him because of the soundness issues," Miller said. "We pointed him to the Hambo, so hopefully that pays off." After a trio of qualifiers at The Meadowlands, he has improved in each of his three pari-mutuel starts in his sophomore season, with the latest being a win in 1:53 in the Reynolds Memorial at The Big M. When asked what sealed the deal in terms of entering the Hambo, Miller said the victory in the Reynolds was the dealmaker. Met's Hall drew post 3 in his Hambo elimination, and is 10-1 in the morning line.
The Miller team have been close to the Hambo Trophy in recent years, with Devious Man in 2017 (3rd placed 2nd) and Sutton in 2016 (2nd), but have yet to win the elusive crown. When asked what it would mean to win The Hambletonian, Andy Miller admitted it's the race every horsemen strives for.
As for Winbak Farm, it would be their third Hambletonian trophy. They won it in 2005 with Vivid Photo, and 2009 with Muscle Hill.