Horse bred by area farm and driven by Millstone resident wins $1.5M race


A s the epicenter of top standardbred breeding farms and training centers in the Northeast, western Monmouth County is usually well represented at the $1.5 million Hambletonian, and this year was no exception.

Harness racing’s most prestigious race has been held at the Meadowlands in East Rutherford since 1981. Broad Bahn won the 86th running of the Hambletonian on Aug. 6. Bred by Upper Freehold Township’s Fair Winds Farm, the horse was driven to victory by Millstone Township resident George Brennan.

Brennan not only won his first Hambletonian, after four previous starts in the race, but he also won the $750,000 Hambletonian Oaks for 3-year-old fillies with Bold and Fresh. In harness racing history, only one other driver has accomplished that feat, Brian Sears in 2009.

Trained by Noel Daley in Bordentown and owned by Leif Alber of Copenhagen, Denmark, Broad Bahn was purchased at the 2009 Standardbred Horse Sale in Harrisburg, Pa., for $20,000. With the Hambletonian purse, the colt’s career earnings are now $1,154,528.

“Mr. Alber loves to look at the videos of the yearlings,” Ole Bach, Alber’s agent, said. “He goes through the book and then sends me his information before I go to the sales.”

Once Bach is at the sale, he must approve the horse’s conformation before any bidding takes place.

“With Broad Bahn, he was a very big yearling, and on the video he showed an enormous stride,” Bach said.

Mark Mullen, manager of Fair Winds Farm, said this is his family farm’s first Hambletonian winner.

“Many years ago we were co-owners on Mack Lobel who also won the race, but Broad Bahn is the first that we bred,” Mullen said. “Last year we bred Bar Slide, the winner of the filly division known as the Hambletonian Oaks.” Mullen said it takes a year of planning and preparation to get a healthy foal “on the ground,” followed by another year of caring for the horse as it grows into an athlete ready for sale.

“It’s very satisfying for everyone at Fair Winds to have horses we have bred and raised go on to win big races for their new owners,” Mullen said. “So far this year, horses bred by Fair Winds have earned more than $2.5 million.”

Mullen sold the dam of Broad Bahn in 2009.

“Maybe it’s superstition, but it seems there’s no better way to change your luck than to sell an underperforming horse to someone else,” he said. “The dam had been somewhat of a disappointment at the yearling sales with several of her offspring bringing less than I liked at auction. I got impatient with those results and decided to sell her. She now is living in Sweden and I’m sure her new owners are thrilled with their purchase.”

Pastor Stephen, named for the Allentown Presbyterian Church’s Rev. Stephen Heinzel-Nelson and trained by East Windsor’s Jimmy Takter, had a large fan base at the Meadowlands, as evidenced by the number of patrons wearing brown “Villages in Partnership (VIP)” T-shirts.

Pastor Stephen’s owners decided to donate a portion of the racehorse’s winnings to the mission work the Allentown Presbyterian Church does in Malawi, Africa, under the VIP organization founded by Heinzel- Nelson. Pastor Stephen, who Takter said suffered from a virus last month, finished fifth, driven by Millstone Township resident Ron Pierce.

This year, 25,354 people attended the Hambletonian. Attendance went down slightly from 2010, when 26,712 attended the race. The race had a total handle of $8,290,672, not including wagering from Italy. The final handle figure was not available at press time. Last year’s total handle was $8,391,601.