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Muscle Hill coasts in a Red Mile romp

They are not so much races anymore for Muscle Hill as they are coronations.

On Saturday, an appreciative crowd at The Red Mile witnessed the colt's latest ceremony.

As has been the case for much of his 20-race career, Muscle Hill turned a marquee event into a glorified workout, romping to a straight-heat victory over Explosive Matter in the $600,000 Kentucky Futurity, the final leg of trotting's Triple Crown.

With a strong headwind to deal with and no challengers pushing him, the Hambletonian winner simply coasted to a 21/2-length win in the second and final heat, finishing in 1:51.1 while geared down in the lane by driver Brian Sears.

Muscle Hill had previously equaled the world record set in 2006 when he won the Hambletonian in 1:50.1.

"He's something special that's for sure," Sears said. "I asked him for a little trot around the turn and he just responded well like he has all year. He has done everything pretty much effortless, that's how good he is.

"When we saw it was going to be 25 mph winds we knew it was not going to be in our favor (to break the world record)," Sears continued. "But if we had ideal conditions I don't think it would have been too much of a problem to get done."

The Futurity is one of the few races still contested in heats, meaning the same horse must win twice on the card.

Such a task was of little consequence for Muscle Hill. After taking his first heat by 33/4 lengths, the colt was in full control during the finale after leaving from post position one.

With little urging from Sears, Muscle Hill opened up a 11/2 length advantage over long shot Dr McDreamy by the time he reached the half-mile mark in :54.3.

None of Muscle Hill's seven foes was able to seriously challenge as they came off the turn for home, leaving trainer Greg Peck and his large contingent of owners to try and come up with new superlatives to describe their star.

"It's been such a greatness," said Peck, who trains Muscle Hill for owners Jerry Silva, T L P Stable, Southwind Farm and Muscle Hill Racing. "I've had renowned horsemen come up to me say he's right at the top (of all-time greats)."

"There is (pressure), no doubt about it because ... it's all about expectations. He not only has to do it but he has to do it convincingly and he seems to do it each and every time. Today he had to do it twice in one day."

Explosive Matter, who finished second behind Muscle Hill in both the Hambletonian and Canadian Trotting Classic, settled for runner-up honors again with Tom Cango third.

Big Bikkies, who won his first heat of the Futurity, never fired and came home eighth in the second heat.

There was no Triple Crown on the line this year as Muscle Hill skipped the Yonkers Trot after taking the Hambletonian.

After losing his career debut at the Meadowlands last July, Muscle Hill has reeled off 19 consecutive victories while boosting his career earnings to more than $2.9 million.

Though many in the racing community have been clamoring to see the colt return for a 4-year-old season, Peck maintains Muscle Hill will head to the breeding shed after capping off his career with a start in the Breeders Crown later this month.

"People have asked why not race him again next year but you know, because of his greatness I actually want to see him go to the breeding shed because I think he's going to be a phenomenal stallion," Peck said. "He's done everything that has been asked and he deserves to go and be a father."

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