Crowning touch for Muscle Hill

ROB LONGLEY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 1:54 PM ET

Muscle Hill didn't even have to flex.

So simple was the superstar trotter's win in his $617,880 Breeders Crown event last night at Woodbine Racetrack that the 3-year-old colt didn't have to strut anything near his best stuff to retire as a champion.

But when you're pushing your winning streak to 20 in a row and in the process make your opposition look like the pylons that ring the track, looks can be deceiving.

How easy was it? The winning time of 1:541/5 was Muscle Hill's slowest effort of the season, though the final quarter mile was trotted into a stiff headwind.

But with mission accomplished, there's no doubt the smooth-gaited animal will be remembered as one of finest of his breed.

"Now that it's all over, I will say it: He's the greatest trotter that ever lived," said trainer Greg Peck, a native of Sydney Mines, N.S., who admitted he had to do little more than put Muscle Hill in his harness and watch him go through most of his career.

"By most conventional wisdom, he's the greatest. I haven't seen many that have won so easily and looked like they were ready to go again."

Muscle Hill, who is now headed to the even more leisurely life of a stallion, was seen as such a standout that track officials banned place and show wagering, a rarity in a 10-horse field. Those who wanted to back him anyway, didn't exactly build up their RRSP's as the champ returned a meagre $2.10 to win.

The win was worth more than $308,000 and allowed Muscle Hill to finish off a single-season earnings record of $2.45 million, surpassing Somebeachsomewhere's $2.44-million campaign a year ago.

So dominant was the son of Muscles Yankee that it looked more like a victory parade than a horse race. With driver Brian Sears patient as usual, he made the lead on the backstretch, slowly grinding down early pacesetter Swan For All and then cruised to the wire, easily prevailing over 83-1 long shot Triumphant Caviar.

His winning margin of 21/2 lengths was well below his career average of four lengths but it hardly mattered. When you have a horse that has never been asked to extend himself, that's the way it goes.

"I don't think he ever was," Peck said when asked the last time his colt was pushed in a race. "The slowest he was going was at the wire tonight and it was only (the wind) that could slow him down."

Though he has lived in the U.S. for years, Peck is the latest Atlantic Canada horseman to hit stardom.

"It's the humble beginning, living above a store in Sydney Mines, going on the ice with horses," Peck said. "The farther you go north and the farther you go east, the slower and lamer and cheaper the horses are.

"I used to read about big races like the Hambletonian and just dream about it. I'm humbled by this."

ROB.LONGLEY@SUNMEDIA.CA


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