Muscles Yankee - 1998
Campbell Muscles His Way to Record Fifth Hambletonian Hall of Fame driver John Campbell earned his way into the record books yet again as he claimed his fifth Hambletonian victory with Muscles Yankee in 1998. The powerful colt with a quick turn of speed also provided trainer Chuck Sylvester with his third win in the trotting classic. Campbell eased the three-year-old colt up second-over, claimed the lead past the half and confidently sailed to a three-length victory. "And when I asked him [Muscles Yankee] to step to the front, he responded very well, and he was really on the muscle and felt great," Campbell said after the race. "Coming around the last turn he was real strong, and I felt real confident. As Chuck said, he doesn't quit. He's never shown any quitting in any of the starts of his life. It was just a great performance." The time of 1:52.2 was only a fifth of a second off of Continentalvictory's stakes and track record. David Raymond, also trained by Sylvester and driven by Cat Manzi, secured second place for Sylvester. Kick Tail, with driver Berndt Lindstedt, made two strong bids for the lead and ended up three and a half-lengths back in third. Sylvester teamed with Campbell to win the 1987 Hambletonian with Mack Lobell. He also won the 1989 race with Park Avenue Joe in a unique deadheat with Probe. "Muscles is the horse I said he was," said Sylvester, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame in July of 1998. "He trotted home great and won easy. When Kick Tail was first up, I knew that unless something was wrong with Muscles, he would trot away. This is the one race if you ask any trainer the race they want to win, this is the ultimate race." Muscles Yankee's victory in the Hambletonian was the first for each of his owners: William Perretti of Saddle River, New Jersey, Irving Liverman of Montreal, Quebec and David French of Boca Raton, Florida. "This was fantastic," Perretti said. "I've waited 20 years for this." Hambletonian Day realized a total harness handle of $6,503,202, (up from %6,115,766 in 1997), a record for the Hambletonian and second only to the $6.7 million of the 1997 Meadowlands Pace. The crowd of 25,873 included Beth Pritch of Clinton, New Jersey, honored as a the 500,000th guest to attend the Hambletonian since its debut at the Meadowlands in 1981.
John Campbell won his record fifth Hambletonian, just 15 years after driving in his first (Joie De Vie 1-4dh in 1983). Chuck Sylvester is only the seventh trainer to finish first and second in the final: Jimmy Takter (1997); Per Eriksson (1992); Bill Haughton (1980); Ralph Baldwin (1959); H.M. "Doc" Parshall (1934); Walter Cox (1929, Cox's entry in all captured the first four monies). Sylvester's other two horses, Silver Pine and Armbro Rotary, made breaks and finished ninth and tenth respectively (last and next to last). Muscles Yankee was a $200,000 yearling purchase at the Kentucky Standardbred Sale Co., a record yearling price for a Hambletonian winner. Valley Victory was the sire of the winner for the third time in five years, with only five crops of age to race in the Hambletonian. Kick Tail, owned by Arden Homestead Stable (E.T. Gerry family), was their 32nd starter in the Hambletonian. It is by far the record for any single ownership, which raced the entry of Cinema and First Choice in the inaugural 1926 race and has won the classic on two occasions: Titan Hanover (1945) and Flirth (1973). In 1996, the Hambletonian Oaks trophy was named for Elbridge T. Gerry Sr, in recognition of his nearly 50 years of service to the Hambletonian Society. Berndt Lindstedt drove in Arden Homestead's historic orange and blue colors.