Muscle Hill - 2009
Trainer Greg Peck’s Operation: Hambletonian was complete as Muscle
Hill etched his name in the record books with a stunning 1:50.1 victory. Starting
from rail position, Muscle Hill and driver Brian Sears coasted untested through
splits of :27.1, :55 and 1:23 and drew off to a six-length victory.
The colt equaled the all-age record on a mile track and eclipsed the
stakes record by one full second. Sears, who also steered Broadway Schooner
to a narrow win in the Hambletonian Oaks, became the first driver in history
to capture both the Hambletonian and its companion event in the same year.
Sears and Peck also captured the Peter Haughton Memorial for 2-year-old
trotting colts with Holiday Road that afternoon.
“It’s very humbling to win such prestigious races on a day like today,” Sears
said. “I knew I had the horse this year to get it done and I never had any doubts.”
“Midway around the last turn, I could see Ronny [Pierce] tapping Explosive
Matter and I knew what that meant,” Peck said. “I know what Muscle Hill is like
and when Brian [Sears] steps on the gas he’s like a sports car that just goes
into overdrive and does it easily.”
Muscle Hill became the third freshman Dan Patch champion in as
many years to win the Hambletonian, following Donato Hanover  and
Deweycheatumnhowe  into the spotlight. He would go on to be named
Horse of the Year for a flawless, 12-race campaign and single-season earnings
record of $2.45 million.
The eyes of the world were focused on harness racing at the Meadowlands
on Hambletonian Day as total wagering surpassed $8.3 million. The $8,343,405
total was the third highest handle in harness racing history, trailing only the $8.8
million wagered on the 2002 Hambletonian and $9 million wagered in 2005.
European wagering was up 72 percent over the previous year, with a record
total of $1,968,994 bet on races simulcast to Scandinavia and France. For the
first time, the Hambletonian Day card featured the top 2-year-old trotting stakes,
the Merrie Annabelle and Peter Haughton, in addition to the Hambletonian and
Hambletonian Oaks for 3-year-olds.
• Muscle Hill’s time of 1:50.1 was the fastest Hambletonian ever, lowering
Glidemaster’s standard of 1:51.1 set in 2006. The time equaled the all-age
• The six-length winning margin was the largest since Mack Lobell’s 1987 record
of six and one-quarter length victory. It matched that of Peter Astra in 1939.
• The total purse of $1,730,333 [three $70,000 eliminations] and the final purse
of $1,520,333 were the richest purses ever offered for trotters in North America.
• Trainer Greg Peck made his first appearance in the Hambletonian a winning
one. A native of Sydney Mines, Nova Scotia, and a third-generation horseman,
Peck is not just a successful trainer, but also the president of a media training
company, Fine Line Inc.
• Peck purchased Muscle Hill in the fall of 2007 at the Standardbred Horse
Sale yearling venue in Harrisburg, PA. The son of 1998 Hambletonian winner
Muscles Yankee had an appealing video presentation, and Peck dog-eared
the catalog page for potential owners TLP Stable. TLP, the father-son team of
Lou and Tom Pontone, knocked Hip No. 199, Muscle Hill down for $55,000
from the Winbak Farm consignment. Shortly after they sold an interest in the
colt to Jerry Silva, a co-owner on 2008 Hambo winner Deweycheatumnhowe.
• Muscle Hill’s sterling freshman year ended with a Breeders Crown and divisional
championship, and resulted in Allen and Connie Skolnick's NJ breeding
operation, Southwind Farm, offering $3 million for a 50% interest and stallion
syndication rights. The multiple syndicate partners then made up the Muscle
Hill Racing LLC.
• Muscle Hill Racing LLC included many of the sport’s top breeders and owners:
Flintlock Farm Inc; Ross Stables LLC; Patricia Bolte; Margaret Dey; Curtis
Larrimore; William Mulligan; Michael Dean Robinson; Jerry Silva: Robert
Stewart; Steve Stewart; William Weaver III; Brittany Farms; Celebrity Farms;
D’Elegance Stable IX; Joie De Vie Farm LLC; Little E LLC; Odds On Nourrir
and Spring Haven Farm.
• Jerry Silva added a record-tying fourth Hambletonian trophy to his collection.
He was also part of the ownership group on prior Hambletonian winners
Continentalvictory (1996), Self Possessed (1999), Deweycheatumnhowe
(2008). He joins Lindy Racing, Frank, Gerald and Guy Antonacci as four-time
• Muscle Hill lost his debut race as a two-year-old by a neck to Homer Jay on
July 3, 2008 at The Meadowlands. It would be the only defeat of his racing
career. He went on to win 20 races in a row and $3.7 million in purses. He was
always the odds-on favorite and never really threatened in his racing career by
the proximity of another horse.
• The total margin of victory for Muscle Hill in his 20 wins was 79 1/4 lengths – an
average of 4 lengths per triumph. No horse has been nearer than a length at
the finish of any of his wins.
• Victories at three included the $200,000 New Jersey Sire Stakes final, $180,000
division of the Stanley Dancer Memorial, $1.7 million Hambletonian, $1 million
Canadian Trotting Classic,$540,000 World Trotting Derby, $200,000 American-
National Stakes, $600,000 Kentucky Futurity, and $600,000 Breeders Crown.
• The connections of Muscle Hill briefly entertained racing the stupendous colt
against older trotters in the Breeders Crown at the Meadowlands, two weeks
after the Hambletonian. Ultimately they opted for the far easier task of the
American-National, for 3-year-olds.
• There was no attempt at the Triple Crown as Muscle Hill skipped the second
leg, the Yonkers Trot, which was won by Judge Joe. He did take the third leg,
the Kentucky Futurity making him one of 18 horses to win two legs of the Trotting
• Muscle Hill’s $2.45 million in earnings in 2009 set the seasonal record for a
harness horse of any age, any gait.
• He was one of only three sophomore colt trotters to successfully win the
Breeders Crown at age two and three. The others were Hambletonian winners
Mack Lobell [1986-87] and Malabar Man [1996-97]
• Muscle Hill was also a Dan Patch Award winner in 2008 as harness racing’s
• He received all 173 votes from the US Harness Writers in the Dan Patch year
end championship voting for his division, 166 votes to sweep Trotter of the Year
and 164 votes for Horse of the Year over older trotter Lucky Jim and 3-year-old
pacer Well Said. Never in the history of harness racing’s Horse of the Year
voting, which began in 1947, has a trotter won the honor with an undefeated
• Muscle Hill was an easy choice as New Jersey’s Standardbred Horse of the Year and dominated voting as the O’Brien sophomore trot colt winner in Canada.
• Peck was recognized as the sport’s top trainer with the Glen Garnsey Award
from the U.S. Harness Writers’ Association. He also trained one of the winter
book favorites for the 2010 Hambletonian, Holiday Road.
• Brian Sears was voted USHWA Driver of the Year.
• Muscle Hill’s dam, Yankee Blondie, was named Trotting Broodmare of the Year
• Winbak Farm was harness racing's 2009 Breeder of the Year.
• Oaks winner Broadway Schooner took the Dan Patch 3-year-old filly award.
• Oaks winning owners Arlene and Jules Siegel were voted Owners of the Year.
• The Hambletonian victory also swept voting in the inaugural Railbird Recognition
Awards sponsored by the US Harness Writers as Racing Moment of the Year.
• No driver in Meadowlands history has soared as high, as quickly as Brian
Sears. Though Sears has placed among the top 20 dash-winning drivers in
North America every year since 1994, he first joined the Meadowlands colony
in 2003. Two years later, Sears became the first driver in harness history to top
$15 million in a single season. The Secaucus, NJ resident won five straight
January-August driving titles [2005-2009].
• This success did not immediately follow Sears in his Hambletonian
appearances. Though he drove in the classic event each year since 2003, his
best finish was a 4placed3 with Strong Yankee in 2005. That drought ended in a
big way in 2009 when Sears became the first driver to win both the Hambletonian
and Hambletonian Oaks [Broadway Schooner] on the same card. In addition
he won the Peter Haughton Memorial [Holiday Road] and two other races on
the star-studded card, bringing home a total of $1,520,333 in purses. As drivers
earn 5% of the purse, it was a red-letter $77,783 day for the “White Knight.”
• In addition, Sears joined a select group – John Campbell, Ron Pierce, Mike
Lachance, Bill O’Donnell, and Stanley Dancer – to be the regular driver of both
a trotter and a pacer to earn Horse of the Year. Not that he is really interested
in discussing history right now.
• The father-son team of Doug and D. R. Ackerman finished second in their elim
and seventh in the final with their homebred Judge Joe. It marked the Ackerman
stable’s sixth starter in the race since 1974, a notable 35-year span. Their best
finish was second in 2006 with Chocolatier