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Muscle Diamond to make his return in Saturday's Reynolds at Meadowlands
Friday, July 10, 2015 - by Kimberly French, USTA Web Newsroom Senior Correspondent

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Kimberly French
Louisville, KY --- He’s only competed once since May and that was a victory in a qualifying race on July 3, but Muscle Diamond, the runner-up to Pinkman in last year’s edition of the $500,000 Breeders Crown 2-Year-Old Colt and Gelding Trot, is now fully prepared to commence his journey to the $1 million Hambletonian on Aug. 8 at the Meadowlands. His quest for a classic triumph begins Saturday (July 11) at that same facility in the $62,406 W.N. Reynolds Memorial for sophomore trotting males.

Muscle Diamond’s hiatus from his work was not by design, but the result of a certain characteristic that causes Brett Bittle, his co-owner and conditioner, to miss essential hours of slumber.

“He hit himself playing around while he was turned out and had a filling in a leg,” said Bittle. “It was nothing serious, just one of those things that happens, but we got a clean bill of health from Dr. Patty Hogan two weeks ago. That’s just him though. He loves to play and there have been many nights I haven’t slept wondering what he is going to do the next day. He is so talented but a character for sure.”

Nigel Soult photo
Muscle Diamond has banked $306,994 in his career and has hit the board in 10 of his 11 starts.

Also owned by Bittle’s uncle, Dan Bittle, Charles E. Keller III, who was recently placed on the Hall of Fame ballot and Mr. Keller’s son, Charles E. Keller IV, Muscle Diamond is a son of Muscle Hill and the champion mare Windylane Hanover. He is the fifth foal from his dam, who captured the 2002 Hambletonian Oaks, and is the only one of her progeny to exceed the $11,000 mark in purse money earned.

Oddly enough, Muscle Diamond also possessed the cheapest price tag of any of his mother’s offspring as his four siblings went through the ring as yearlings for $235,000, $140,000, $125,000 and $90,000. The Bittles acquired Muscle Diamond for the bargain price of $40,000 at the 2013 Lexington Selected Sale.

“My uncle is the reason why we have him,” Bittle said. “We never expected him to go for that low of a price and he made sure I knew this horse was still available. He hung right there and if it wasn’t for him we would not have taken him home. We were so, so lucky to buy him and it means even more because we did have his mother. She was a tremendous horse for us.”

For his second engagement of this year, Muscle Diamond will leave from post position one and his regular pilot, Hall of Famer John Campbell, will be holding the reins. The colt is 5-2 on the morning line and is the first choice ahead of Cruzado Dela Noche (3-1) and Suit And Tie (9-2).

“We are just looking to get him back going again and get some more races under his belt,” Bittle said. “We did not race him too much last year, because we wanted to focus on this one, but as usual he had other ideas about what he wanted to do.”

His connections always knew they had a talented youngster on their hands, but Muscle Diamond’s spirited attitude has remained a concern.

“He has so much ability, is perfectly gaited and so fast,” Bittle said. “But he just loves playing. All the time. To him racing has been like a big game. He definitely enjoys it and stays focused when he’s on the track, but you have to keep an eye on him all the time. Everyone in the barn knows it.”

As a 2-year-old, Muscle Diamond participated in 10 pari-mutuel miles with two victories, one of which was a $77,120 division of the International Stallion Stakes at The Red Mile. He also finished second on six occasions, including the aforementioned Breeders Crown, the $237,500 Matron and a $114,651 Champlain Stakes division and was third once. The only time the colt failed to pick up a check was when he broke stride in a $40,500 New Jersey Sire Stakes leg and that was in his first trip to the post. He collected $301,994 for his efforts and established his lifetime mark of 1:53.4 during his win in Lexington.

In 2015, Muscle Diamond has only raced one time and that was a second place finish in a $20,000 division of the New Jersey Sire Stakes, but on form alone he definitely deserves mention with the best in his division. He trotted home in :27.1 in the Breeders Crown final and just missed nabbing Pinkman at the wire.

“I can’t say enough how gifted this colt is,” Bittle said. “It is absolutely amazing to be around a horse with that kind of ability, but it can also make you nervous because he is that good. Our job is just to keep him happy. We are really excited to get him started again and see what he accomplishes this year, because he has such a bright future. We have him staked to everything and it is really all up to him.”

Below is the field for Saturday's W.N. Reynolds Memorial:

Post-Horse-Driver-Trainer-Morning Line
1-Muscle Diamond-John Campbell-Brett Bittle-5-2
2-Real Dj Hanover-Brian Sears-Ake Svanstedt-5-1
3-Colbert-Matt Kakaley-Ake Svanstedt-10-1
4-Suit And Tie-Corey Callahan-John Butenschoen-9-2
5-Cue Hall-Yannick Gingras-Rich Gillock-15-1
6-Uncle Hanover-D.R. Ackerman-D.R. Ackerman-20-1
7-Soboro Hanover-Brett Miller-Nifty Norman-12-1
8-Total Darkness-Tim Tetrick-Jonas Czernyson-15-1
9-Cruzado Dela Noche-David Miller-Nancy Johansson-3-1
10-Mountain Top-Oskar Florhed-Ake Svanstedt-30-1
11-Ice O Late-Ake Svanstedt-Ake Svanstedt-12-1

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