Coming into the Breeders Crown, Robust Hanover had the fewest starts and had earned the least amount of money of any of the 15 colts in the race. His owner paid only $8,500 for the tiny colt.
But none of that mattered last night after Robust Hanover had hit the big numbers, impressively winning the Breeders Crown for 2-year pacing colts at Rosecroft Raceway.
In a head-to-head duel in the stretch with race favorite Barberry Spur, Robust Hanover crossed the line a head in front in 1:56 4/5. The time was a Rosecroft record for 2-year old pacing colts.
Barberry Spur had broken the record earlier in the first elimination heat with a victory in 1:57 1/5. Robust Hanover, driven by John Campbell, won the second heat in 1:57 4/5.
His combined winning times of 3:54 gave Robust Hanover a world record for a two-heat effort by a 2-year-old pacer on a half-mile track.
For winning two heats of the Breeders Crown, Robust Hanover collected $294,680. He had earned only $23,907 in four career victories (five starts) before last night.
After the race, driver Campbell simply said, "He's just a very good colt."
The final developed as a match race between the two heat winners, and between two of the best drivers in the country, Campbell and Bill O'Donnell.
At the start of the final, O'Donnell moved Barberry Spur out quickly and took the lead by the quarter mile pole. Campbell, who won four races on the night's card, turned Robust Hanover in early but, just past the quarter pole, brought his colt to the outside to take the lead from Barberry Spur.
The colts continued that way for the rest of the mile. O'Donnell tried at the five-eighths point to pass Robust Hanover, but the leader was too strong, and they matched strides in the stretch before Robust Hanover won out. Barberry Spur finished three lengths in front of third-place Souffle.
Robust Hanover made his first start in September at Garden State. According to his owner, Ronald Knigge, "It took time for him to come around. We had to take our time with him (because of his size)"
"He's a little horse. You would term him a peanut," said Knigge.
In the final, the crowd of 8,112, which bet a Rosecroft-record $898,161, made Barberry Spur the 3-to-5 favorite and Robust Hanover the 13-to-10 second choice. Barberry Spur started from the rail and Robust Hanover held the No. 2 post position.
Local favorite Towner's Big Guy broke stride in the first elimination and finished last. According to Towner's Big Guy's driver, Buddy Gilmour, "He just took a bad step. I feel sick about it."