August 7, 2004 - Windsong's Legacy (Conway Hall - Yankee Windsong) joined a very select and honored group in harness racing by winning the $1,000,000 Hambletonian today at the Meadowlands. Driven perfectly by his trainer, Trond Smedshammer, Windsong's Legacy proved that greatness belongs to him. From Post 7, Windsong's Legacy followed in 7th position behind Cash Hall from the gate, racing outside for the entire mile. A major traffic problem was averted when longshot Lantern's Law went offstride in the backstretch, leaving Cash Hall the reluctant first-over. Windsong's Legacy remained covered, second over, until the top of the stretch, when Smedshammer tipped him three wide past a tiring Cash Hall, sweeping by the field to win by a very comfortable length in 1:54.1. Cantab Hall was second after coming off the rail in deep stretch after making a mild move at the victor. Favorite and race leader Tom Ridge faded badly in the stretch, despite setting very soft fractions. Eilean Donon broke at the the start of the race and was never a factor. Windsong's Legacy raced the entire mile on the outside, never seeing the rail - a winning Hambletonian feat equalled only by Yankee Paco.
AP Photo / Bill Kostroun
Previously the winner of the $C322,700 Goodtimes Stake and the $382,000 Dancer Trot, Windsong's Legacy has become the dominant 3 year old trotting colt of 2004. He is the current top money earner in harness racing in 2004, with 5 wins, 1 second, and 1 third in 7 starts, and earnings of $845,486. Trond has called him "solid, durable, and tough," and he certainly lived up to that praise today. Windsong's Legacy has shown that he can carry his speed a long way racing on the outside as a durable closer.
The win was a very special one for trainer/driver Trond Smedshammer. Smedshammer missed winning the biggest race in American trotting twice before with Bowling For Dollars and Power To Charm. After his father Lars died from lung cancer last year, Trond was determined to win this year's Hambletonian with his rapidly developing star. Because the husband of owner Patricia Spinelli died of cancer as well a week before the race, the connections of Windsong's Legacy pledged a very generous donation of 5% of the winnings to the American Cancer Society in their honor.
Owners Fredrik Lindegaard and Anne Jeanette Brannvoll, their trainer Tom Magnussen, and their friends flew in from Norway for the race, and were well rewarded for their faith in making the trip. Always the gentleman, Windsong's Legacy calmly took his victory walk covered by the Hambletonian victory blanket for Emma and the Meadowlands outrider, and took all the attention in the Winner's Circle completely in stride. Trond and Emma broke away for a moment to personally congratulate their winning horse while the crowd milled about. Emma brought carrots, and Windsong's Legacy co-operatively took a ceremonial drink of water from the Hambletonian trophy for the cameras as photographers, owners Ann Brannvoll and Clair Chappell, and well-wishers swarmed around them.
The ownership of Windsong's Legacy has evolved considerably earlier this year. The Norwegian connections had never before owned a trotter in America. Trainer Tom Magnussen searched various US training stables looking for the right trotter for them to buy. Windsong's Legacy had the best developed musculature and the most stamina of the horses he reviewed, and Ms. Brannvoll bought into the horse. Certainly that investment has paid off! No stranger to the Hambletonian Winner's Circle, owner Ted Gewertz had previously won the 1991 Hambletonian with Giant Victory, and became the gracious spokesman for the group after the race. Owner Patricia Spinelli had re-acquired an interest in Windsong's Legacy only the week before the race
Windsong's Legacy has steadily developed into a great trotter whose best races may be yet to come. At 2, he made only five starts at the end of the racing season. The first indication of his ability came in his final start of 2003, when he won the $29,000 KYSS Consolation Final in 1:57.2 at The Red Mile. Hall of Fame trainer Jimmy Doherty noted what an impressive effort the colt made that day. Last winter, Windsong's Legacy made solid if not spectacular training progress. He did not give a true indication of his potential until his early starts of 2004, when he showed the depths of his sustainable speed, and his tough and resilient attitude.
Windsong's Legacy did not begin his life in an easy fashion. His dam, Yankee Windsong, died of recurrent colic despite surgery when he was only two months old. Orphans are generally thought to be at a disadvantage without their mothers, and there is real prejudice against them in our sport. With the great care of the best foal man in the business, Dennis King, and the team at the Hanover Shoe Farms, Windsong's Legacy has overcome those disadvantages to become a Hambletonian winner. Perhaps his real legacy is to show everyone that orphan foals can become champions!
Finally, a tribute to the dam of Windsong's Legacy, Yankee Windsong. Yankee Windsong was the very first broodmare of Windsong Stable, lending her name to our horse business. Charlie Keller of Yankeeland Farm said that she had great speed on the racetrack, but could be difficult to handle. Her first foal, Moonlight G by Super Bowl, has been our steady and gallant performer at Yonkers Raceway, with a record of 4,1:58.2f; 1:59h and earnings of over $140,000. Yankee Windsong underwent emergency surgery after the birth of her second foal. Following a truly amazing recovery, she was bred the next year after consulting with her veterinary surgeon. We believed that her mating two years later with Conway Hall would surely produce a great star. In that regard, we were right. But greatness often comes at a price. It's not clear that having another foal caused her death two months after foaling Windsong's Legacy, yet that question will always remain with us. Her legacy lives on in her Hambletonian winner, and in the name of our stable.
Read the in-depth story of Yankee Windsong and the 2004 Hambletonian here (pdf). Originally published as a three part series by The Horseman's Voice.
Photos used on this page were generously supplied by LisaPhoto, The Horseman and Fair World, the USTA, and The Horseman's Voice.
Addendum: After this article was published, Windsong's Legacy did indeed go on to cement his racing greatness by becoming the first Trotting Triple Crown winner in 32 years. Subsequently retired to stud, he sired many top racehorses, including several sons who have become notable sires in their own right. This is an amazing feat considering that Windsong's Legacy was somewhat similarly ill fated as his dam, and he passed suddenly of heart failure after siring only three crops - a massive loss to the racing world. None-the-less he has more than lived up to his name, leaving an enduring legacy and securing his place in harness racing world history with his many notable decendants and their continuing contributions to the sport.
Windsong's Legacy Video Tribute - Compilation of Major Races