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Muscle Hill arrives at Southwind Farm
Friday, October 30, 2009 - by Ellen Harvey, director, Harness Racing Communications

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Pennington, NJ - Against a backdrop of crimson and gold trees, less than a week removed from his 20th consecutive and final victory, Muscle Hill arrived at Southwind Farm in Pennington, N.J., Friday afternoon (Oct. 30). The 3 year-old trotter has been rated the top horse in harness racing for months in a poll of racing writers and executives.

 

USTA/Ellen Harvey Photos

Muscle Hill takes a look around his new home at Southwind Farm in Pennington, New Jersey with Southwind stallioneer Charlie Williams on Friday afternoon, Oct. 30. 

After stepping off the trailer with caretaker Sylvia Hovde, who has looked after the trotter for nearly two years, Muscle Hill’s lead shank was handed to Southwind’s stallioneer Charlie Williams.

Muscle Hill’s trainer, Greg Peck, was on hand to see the transition from racehorse to stallion. He characterized the day as, “Bittersweet.  Look at the shape he came in. He’s in as good or better shape as he was when the season started. I think that’s unheard of and I have confidence that he’ll go to the breeding shed with that as an asset.” 

Pecks lives in Newtown, Pa., only about 15 minutes away from Southwind Farm and expects to visit the horse, “Brendan [his 11 year-old son] and I will come over, Nancy and Sean [his wife and 14 year-old son]. He was here this past winter and I’m glad he came here. This would be the place I wanted him to go to, so it worked out.” 

Hovde brought along a rubber feed tub for Muscle Hill, who she nicknamed “Mouse” for his timid personality as a yearling, to help avoid injury in a game Hovde calls, “Kill The Feed Tub."

“He gets wild with it, he gets underneath it, pushes it up, jumps on it," she said. "Every time we went somewhere where we couldn’t put the feed tub on the ground, he’d come home with another scar on his face.”

Muscle Hill, who was trained by Greg Peck for owners Jerry Silva, TLP Stable and Muscle Hill Racing will now be cared for by

 
Williams leads Muscle Hill past his new paddock.
Southwind stallioneer Charlie Williams. Williams, a former Thoroughbred exercise rider from Ocala, Fla., has cared for many high profile horses, “Valley Victory, one of the greatest, Artsplace, Dancer’s Victory, Malabar Man, Tom Ridge, Chocolatier and now the great Muscle Hill,”  he said. 

Williams cared for Muscle Hill during a break from training between his 2- and 3-year-old season, “When I first turned him out in a paddock, he trotted all the time that day,” he recalled. “You could tell that he was a great horse. He was very easy, very quiet.  He enjoyed going outside in the morning.                   

“He’s taller now, and wider. He’s starting to fill out more," he said. "He reminds me of Valley Victory and what he’s passed down. He’s a grandson of Valley Victory [through his sire Muscles Yankee].”

Muscle Hill is considered by many to be one of the greatest – if not the greatest – trotters of the last 40 years.

 
Muscle Hill takes a look at the new neighborhood out his window.
The 3-year-old ended his career by winning 20 consecutive races (by an average of four lengths per victory) and was a perfect 12-for-12 this year. Only a loss in his first career race (by a neck) prevented him from having a perfect career (he was 20-for-21).

If he is voted Horse of the Year, which seems likely, he will be the first trotter in history to receive the honor with an undefeated season.

He set the sport’s seasonal purse record with $2.45 million this year.

He equaled the world record on a mile track (1:50.1) when he won the Hambletonian by six lengths on Aug. 8 at the Meadowlands.

Other wins this year included the Kentucky Futurity, Canadian Trotting Classic, World Trotting Derby, American-National, Stanley Dancer Memorial and New Jersey Sire Stakes championship. He also became only the third trotter to win the Breeders Crown at ages 2 and 3, joining Mack Lobell (1986-87) and Malabar Man (1996-97).

Click on the video player below to see USTA videos from Muscle Hill's historic career.


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