Shiaway, a gelding, was bred and is owned by Robert, Wilbur and Ronald Huff of Durand, Mich., whose 431-acre Shiawassee Farm is strictly a family operation. Last year Shiaway raced exclusively in Michigan, on a fair circuit that included such wayside tracks as Kinross, Hillsdale, Allegan and Fowlerville. Shiaway showed astonishing speed as a 2-year-old, but he also broke stride "two or three times a race," says Bob Huff. However, he so outclassed the competition, he'd occasionally win anyway. In March Bob Huff shipped Shiaway to New Jersey to prep for the Hambo. On the recommendation of a friend, he hired Ray Remmen to train and drive him.
Remmen, 34, operates a public stable. Last year it won more races and more money than any other stable at the Meadowlands, and this year it's tops among the money-winners again. Nonetheless, as Remmen says, "Guys like me aren't entrusted with top, high-priced 2-year-olds. Just having a contender in the Hambo is quite a thrill."
When Shiaway arrived in New Jersey, Remmen and his brother Larry, also a trainer, met the truck. "I thought it was a joke," Remmen says now. "He was a bag of bones, head drooping down and he walked like somebody had stuck something up inside him. Me and Larry laughed. 'So this is our Hambo horse.' "
But Shiaway impressed Remmen with his amazing speed. To calm the gelding and prevent him from breaking stride, Remmen made Shiaway a pair of earplugs. Then he made a discovery: Shiaway hates to be rushed. "We found if you take him easy at the start, he'd hold his trot. And by letting it out gradually, he had plenty to show." In June, Shiaway finished a fast-closing third in the Matron Stakes at Detroit Race Course to a trotter named Mo Bandy. A week later at the rich Yonkers Trot, Mo Bandy won and established himself as a Hambletonian contender. "I thought then and there that if Mo Bandy was good enough to win a Hambo, our chances were even better," Remmen says.
In the 10-horse third mile of the Hambletonian, Shiaway again zoomed to the front and straightened for home with the lead. But Super Juan was lying just off the pace and Beissinger pulled him out and caught Shiaway in the final strides to win by a head. Olaf broke stride at the start, and finished dead last.
After resting for 71 minutes, Olaf, Super Juan and Shiaway came back for the race-off. The starting gate pulled away and, once again, Olaf went off stride. Super Juan took the lead, Shiaway tucking in right behind. Up the back-stretch, Allen got Olaf back on gait and the colt caught the pacesetters at the half-mile mark, briefly taking the lead. But that was all Olaf had left. Around the last turn Super Juan regained the lead—but here came Shiaway, moving alongside, a neck behind. An eighth of a mile from home, it was Super Juan by a head. Then it was a nose. He fought bravely but couldn't quite hang on. At the wire, it was Shiaway by a neck.
Remmen, his wife, two daughters and about 40 Meadowlands drivers and friends whooped it up later at a local bar. And why not? Country horse and big-city driver made a fine combination.