EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — When Linda Toscano got involved in harness racing, she never dreamed she would get a chance to make history.
One year after her colt Chapter Seven ran fourth in the $1.5 million Hambletonian, Toscano got her shot at redemption – and Market Share came through, holding off two late closers and winning the trotting’s premier race at the New Meadowlands Racetrack on Saturday.
The win made the 57-year-old Brooklyn-born Toscano the first female trainer to walk off with the Hambletonian trophy for the race that’s been run since 1926.
“I never thought I’d ever get another chance,” Toscano said. “It’s really a dream come true winning this race. I had a lot of time to get this horse ready. Everything just kind of worked. It’s kind of like winning an Oscar or pitching a perfect game. It’s really surreal.”
It was also the first Hambletonian victory for driver Tim Tetrick, one of harness racing’s most successful drivers.
“Sooner or later, I thought I would get one,” said Tetrick, who has won more than 7,000 races. “But when I was younger and just a catch driver, I would never dream I’d get a chance to win this race.”
Market Share, a New Jersey bred who was a $16,000 purchase as a yearling, went off as the second choice at 4-1 and returned $10.80, $6 and $5. The winning time was 1:52.1, a 10th of a second faster than he trotted in winning last week’s elimination heat.
Uncle Peter, the 8-5 favorite, took the lead at a half mile and was ahead with a quarter-mile to go, but Market Share took the charge as the field came to the stretch and held off late bids from Guccio, was finished second, and My MVP, who was third. Archangel, winner of the Yonkers Trot last month, was fourth.
“He made it his own race,” Tetrick said. “He gave me more than 110 percent. He ran a great race.”
Guccio, with Jimmy Takter – the trainer of Uncle Peter – in the bike, paid $9.80 and $6.80.
My MVP, with four-time Hambletonian champ Mike Lachance in the sulky, paid $9 to show.
Tetrick said that he was happy that Toscano was finally able to earn her place in harness racing history.
“She’s not only a great trainer, but she’s a great friend,” Tetrick said. “I’m so happy for her.”
Toscano said that she was holding her breath as she watched Market Share try to hold off Guccio and My MVP.
“I kept saying, ‘Please, wire, hurry up,’” Toscano said. “I really can’t believe this happened. ... I just wish my dad was here. He was the one who brought me into the sport. He had been dragging me to tracks since 1975. I tried thoroughbreds, but I found it a little impersonal. I found my home with harness racing. It’s almost like I grew up with the sport. This is a real good feeling. It’s absolutely the ultimate goal.”
Uncle Peter, who won eight of 12 races coming into the Hambo with driver Ron Pierce in the bike, faded and was placed eighth after a late break.
Earlier on the 15-race card, Toscano’s Chapter Seven won the $250,000 Nat Ray Invitational in a world record time of 1:50.1.
In the $714,050 Hambletonian Oaks for 3-year-old fillies, 55-1 long shot Personal Stride pulled off the upset after 3-5 favorite Check Me Out broke stride with a quarter-mile to go and drifted out, then interfered with 9-5 second choice Maven, who also went off stride.
Personal Stride, with David Miller in the bike, paid $116.40 to win — the second highest payout Hambletonian Oaks history. Working Gal in 1990 paid $122.80.