Among all the eligibles, there has been no bigger disappointment this year than Joe O'Brien's colt, Bond Hanover. As a 2-year-old, Bond was the most consistent race horse in his class, finishing first, second or third in 23 of his 27 starts, an exceptional record for a freshman. He was second choice (to Hickory Smoke) in the winter book and a favorite of the many who consider O'Brien the peer of any trainer-driver around. As of this writing, however, Bond has yet to start this season. He has been lame and otherwise unsound for reasons which O'Brien and the vets have been unable to discover and must now be reckoned a doubtful starter at Du Quoin. But Joe, who drove Scott Frost to his Hambletonian victory in 1955, has another entry in Mudge Hanover, Bond's stablemate and almost exact opposite, medically speaking. It was last year that Mudge was lame and this year that he has shown well. He still suffers from a quarter crack that appears slow in healing, but that's the only thing slow about this colt.
One other entry, particularly, rates most serious consideration: Ralph Baldwin's filly, Hoot Song. This young lady has a great deal to recommend her if you discount her odd habit of going into a break right at the wire—a trait which leads some to believe that she lacks stamina, tiring and losing her gait at the precise moment when it counts most. The rest must be figured as long-odds hopefuls, which scarcely rules them out as potential winners in this event. A consistent colt like Silver Way, for example, might bring Driver Frank Ervin first past the wire simply by outstaying the field. Ned Bower, last year's dark horse winner with The Intruder, has another sleeper in Storm Cloud. The Hayes brothers have their own entry, Royal Rodney, who has been training well on his home grounds in Du Quoin. Only a newcomer to harness racing would fail to note carefully the presence of a Hambletonian colt trained and driven by the slick veteran Curly Smart; the other drivers won't. His name is Philip Frost. Finally, there are those who say that Johnny Simpson will be driving the wrong horse in his entry if he expects to win. They prefer the fast but flighty Rhonda Hanover to Hickory Smoke.
One thing is certain for Tuesday, August 27: the Hayes brothers will have a superbly conditioned track ready for this race. What happens on it may bear not the slightest resemblance to all of the above predictions for a reason which can only be termed an act of God. It can get pretty hot at Du Quoin. A few years ago, a little chestnut pacer led the field down to the half in about 1:00 or so—and then finished up the track, near collapse from heat prostration. It was 120� in Du Quoin that afternoon, and anything can happen to men and horses in that kind of weather.