Bigger, better Muscle Mountain impresses

By Jonny Turner

Trotting fans got their first glimpse of the older, wiser and faster Muscle Mountain when he started his spring on a perfect note in the Ordeal Trotting Cup at Addington on Friday night.

The Greg and Nina Hope trained five-year-old sped off the back of last year’s Dominion runner-up Mataderos to win the Group Three feature in the hands of Ben Hope.

Though they clearly had an established Group One winning star on their hands, the feeling within the Hope camp is that after a full season of open class competition, Muscle Mountain has returned an even stronger force this spring.

“To be honest, he felt like he has gone up a gear, to be honest,” Ben Hope said.

“He feels like he has taken that next step and hopefully he continues to show that this campaign.”

Muscle Mountain was away quickly from the standing start tapes, in the first show that he is older and wiser than last year.

In stark contrast, the trotter missed away in his fresh-up run last year.

After jumping into an early trail, there were little concerns for favourite punters with such a classy trotter getting such a sweet run.

“He did it on his ear, to be honest,” Hope said.

“The best part was that he stepped well and showed good manners, he was good to drive and relaxed in the running.”

“He got the run to win and he was too good on the day.”

Muscle Mountain ended the winning run of Sundees Son in the Ordeal Trotting Cup.

After three consecutive wins in the feature race, the undisputed king of New Zealand trotting bypassed this year’s edition.

Muscle Mountain will now keep tuning up for his face-to-face meetings with the champ.

But how he moves forward isn’t quite certain.

The Hope team plan to start Muscle Mountain in the Canterbury Park Trotting Cup which is more than a month away.

They’d love to start in a race before then, but need to find an event where Muscle Mountain isn’t off a huge handicap.

“The Canterbury Park Trotting Cup is about five weeks away, so we wouldn’t mind having a race before then.”

“But in saying that, we don’t want to be off 50m or something like that.”

“We will see if we can find a race where he would be off a reasonable handicap and if we can find one it would be great.”

Mataderos fought hard to take second behind Muscle Mountain and though he was defeated there was plenty of merit in his run.

The trotter looked to stride out more fluently than in his win at Addington last week.

Majestic Man tracked the first two throughout from three back on the pegs and he took third.


Hear from Ben Hope and the beaten runners

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