EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) Atlanta became the 14th filly winner in Hambletonian history Saturday at the Meadowlands, taking the famed $1 million trotting race for 3-year-olds in an emotional victory for the Canadian father-son team of Rick and Scott Zeron.
Atlanta was the first Hambletonian starter for Rick Zeron after 43 years of training horses in Oakville, Ontario.
To have the elusive win come with son Scott in the sulky heightened the moment.
The filly won the 93rd Hambletonian the hard way, setting the pace and holding on gamely in the lane.
Scott Zeron employed those tactics earlier in the day in the eliminations, and got Atlanta beat after setting a wicked pace.
In the final, Atlanta was again on the lead. This time, Zeron did a better job of rationing her speed.
Atlanta responded by kicking away from challenger Tactical Landing at the top of the stretch to open a three-length advantage.
She trotted strongly to wire, winning by one length over 29-1 shot Mets Hall. The time was 1:50 4/5 for the mile.
""This is a dream come true,"" said Rick Zeron. ""That"s my specialty, trotters. I live and breathe to train a trotter, especially a filly. It"s more satisfying for me to train a filly to get where I am today, to win what I did today, than with a colt. It"s a bigger challenge.""
Atlanta was the first Hambletonian distaff winner since Continentalvictory in 1996.
It was the second Hambletonian victory for Scott Zeron, He was at the lines when Marion Marauder won in 2016.
Atlanta, the 2-1 second choice, paid $6.40, $4.20 and $3.60.
Mets Hall returned $19.40 and $7.60. Tactical Landing paid $3.40 to show.
Crystal Fashion was fourth as the 9-5 favorite followed by Evaluate, Alarm Detector, Classichap, Patent Leather, Hat Trick Habit and Fashionwoodchopper.
The win was worth $500,000 for the ownership team of Rick Zeron, Crawford Farms, Holland Racing, Howard Taylor and Bradley Grant.
The Hambletonian kicks off the Triple Crown for trotters. The series continues with the Yonkers Trot on Sept. 1 and Kentucky Futurity on Oct. 7.
There were two $100,000 elimination heats earlier on the card with the first five finishers in each advancing to the Hambletonian final.
Crystal Fashion nipped Atlanta in first elimination, trotting the mile in 1:50 1/5 and paying $10 to win.
Wolfgang, the 6-5 favorite, was sixth and missed the cut.
Tactical Landing took the second elimination in 1:52 1/5 in a 6-1 upset, beating 74-1 shot Patent Leather by 1 1/4 lengths.
Six Pack, the 2-5 choice, finished fifth, but was disqualified for stretch interference and placed sixth.