After falling just a half-length short of winning the 2008 Hambletonian, owner Robert Rudolph hopes he has a 'winner' in 2023.
Anyone involved with trotters most definitely has the Hambletonian atop their bucket list for races to win, and that likely goes even for people who are fortunate enough to win it once. Rudolph was involved on the ownership of top sophomore Crazed, a lighty-raced two-year-old who blossomed at three and nearly took down the undefeated Deweycheatumnhowe in the 2008 Hambletonian.
A resident of New Jersey, Rudolph has owned horses for more than 20 years — and only trotters — with those same connections he partnered with on Crazed, Lindy Farms of Connecticut.
"For some reason I started with trotters and that's what I like," Rudolph told Trot Insider.
He feels that 2022 O'Brien Award finalist Winners Bet would be on par with that millionaire in terms of top trotters he's had his name associated with in that time.
"They are very enjoyable people to be with," Rudolph said of Lindy Farms, his partners on Winners Bet. "Very honest, very straight people. And it’s a lot of fun to be with them."
Winners Bet, a son of Walner trained by Domenico Cecere, won three of 10 races and $434,938 in his rookie campaign. The biggest highlight, and payday, of the year for him came on Canadian soil when he triumphed in the William Wellwood Memorial Final and earned a spot in the Mohawk Million.
That win in the Wellwood was the highlight of Rudolph's year, and he's hopeful that the O'Brien finalist adds more highlights and stakes victories to his resume in 2023. But that success won't be handed to him, and much like his business venture outside of harness racing in manufacturing waste collection equipment, Rudolph knows there are no shortcuts to the top.
"You’ve got to work hard, that’s what you have got to do," said Rudolph. "Nothing is guaranteed in this world."
And that's definitely the case in harness racing, whether a yearling costs four figures, five figures, or — in the case of Winners Bet — $200,000. The yearling doesn't know its price tag, and the conditioners are the ones trusted with bringing that raw material into its finished form. Rudolph trusted the team at Lindy Farms to do that with Crazed, and he has full confidence in those same connections with Winners Bet — one of six horses he co-owns with Lindy Farms, and a horse he invested in without any questions asked.
"I took their word on what the horse would be."
Will Winners Bet be a 2022 O'Brien Award winner, or will Gaines Hanover gain the upper hand? Standardbred Canada presents the 34th edition of the O'Brien Awards on Saturday, Feb. 4, 2023 at the Hilton Mississauga / Meadowvale Hotel. Details on the event live stream will be announced later this week.