Before the field gets to this year's Hambletonian, however, Sanders Russell may be given some uneasy moments by the very same people. Safe Mission, the leading money winner among 2-year-olds, with earnings of $72,211, but a disappointment since, is rounding into shape again. The colt has been bothered by brittle hoof walls; Joe O'Brien has to change the horse's shoes from bar plates to open-faced plates before every race. O'Brien is a genius with sore-footed horses—a Dr. Scholl of the equine world—and Safe Mission will almost surely be ready for The Hambletonian. Anyone who has followed O'Brien's training patterns with Hambletonian or Little Brown Jug candidates knows that his horses consistently go to the post as firm and as fine as plucked strings.
Nor will Safe Mission be the only problem for Russell and A. C.'s Viking. Impish, that mischievous filly (SI Oct. 23), is still around. Although she suffered a cut leg last week she should return to form, and there is no forgetting her 1:58[3/5] mile of last season. If she can come close to that this year, she may be unbeatable. "If you can find one fault with Impish," says Johnny Simpson, "you have to say it is that most of her races have been against fillies. When it comes to The Hambletonian it takes a terrific filly to win. Some people say that it is not as difficult for a filly to win among trotters as among Thoroughbreds, but I'll say this: a filly has to be quite a girl to win The Hambletonian."
Within the next few weeks other Hambletonian candidates will be getting set in major prep races around the country, and their names will become more and more prominent. But as of now, the man with the horse that is the readiest is the old Preacher.