Group 1 glory again for Muscle Mountain

by Jonny Turner

Muscle Mountain’s rivals can expect the heat to get even more intense after the trotting star claimed his second win in the Fred Shaw Memorial Group 1 New Zealand Trotting Championship.

Backers of the red-hot favourite only had cause for concern in the last 100m of the Addington feature, when the Greg and Nina Hope trained six-year-old appeared to lose concentration.

Driver Ben Hope stoked up the big striding squaregaiter and he went one better than his second to Sundees Son in last year’s edition.

Hope overcame an incredibly challenging seven days to win the race after being stuck down with what doctors thought was a bacterial infection which had him unwell into the early part of this week.

The reinsman controlled the pace with Muscle Mountain, speeding home in quick sectionals to score in a time that was seven seconds slower than last year’s running.

Though thrilled to win, Hope’s first thoughts were of regret because his ‘stackem up and sprintem home’ tactics didn’t let Muscle Mountain show off his huge motor.

“I don’t think I did the horse justice with how I judged the pace but lucky enough he’s superstar and was able to overcome it,” Hope said.

That seems bad news for the horse’s rivals on his upcoming North Island campaign.

The Hope camp plan to bypass the upcoming Waikato Trotters Flying Mile before the targeting the Lyell Creek Stakes.

Don’t be surprised if Ben Hope lets his superstar trotter roll along at Alexandra Park following the small fright he gave the reinsman in the late stages of Friday night’s feature.

Aardiebythehill was excellent in second and looked a winning chance when making ground in the late stages as Muscle Mountain shortened stride.

Midnight Dash ran into third ahead of Oscar Bonavena who ran a big race, sitting parked after losing ground after a rare early gallop.

Later on the Addington card, in the night's pacing feature, the Group 3 Fahey Fence Hire Autumn Pacing Free For All Bollinger made it two from two this time in when capitalising on an outstanding Tim Williams drive.

Williams gave the four-year-old a perfect run in the one-one and the Mark and Nathan Purdon trained pacer took full advantage when pouncing on the leaders on the turn.

The victory may have been enough to spark the interest of Hole In The Wall Gang who own the last remaining slot in $1m The Race by Grins at Cambridge on April 14.

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