Muscle Mountain looking for boost
By Michael Guerin
Driver Ben Hope says it is time to wake Muscle Mountain up.
Not that New Zealand’s most naturally-talented trotter has been sleeping on the job, just more resting a little earlier than he should judging by his latest outing at Addington.
Muscle Mountain goes into today’s $40,000 What The Hill Trotter’s Sprint at Ashburton in the rare position of having been beaten last start, even more rarely by a horse coming from behind him.
He made a brilliant standing start beginning to lead off a 20m handicap past start but was grabbed late by a flying Oscar Bonavena, who looks back to his best and is in today’s 1700m mobile as well.
It is disrespectful to Oscar Bonavena to suggest he fluked his win last time as he was stunning and his little body looks in the best shape it has been in years so he can win one of the big trots coming up.
But there was an element of Muscle Mountain either not seeing Oscar Bonavena so wide on the track or stargazing himself in the last 100m, not an uncommon habit for a horse to develop when they get used to winning easily.
So Team Hope (trainer Greg and Nina, driver Ben) have added slide down blinds to Muscle Mountain in the hope they will provide a mental turbo boost if and when needed today.
“Initially I was disappointed last start but maybe it was an element of him not seeing Oscar or shutting up shop,” says Ben.
“So we have tried the blinds on him and they did seem to sharpen him when activated in his work so they go on Monday.
“He is really well but we also think he will be better by the time we get to Cup week but we all know what a great sprinter he is.”
Muscle Mountain has won the last two runnings of today’s race and might be one of the best trotting sprinters this country has ever produced so the best version of him will be able to rate 1:53ish for the 1700m mobile under the right circumstances.
He is also aided by old rival Majestic Man being scratched as that is one less gate flyer to apply early pressure from wide and if Muscle Mountain can get into a good rhythm early and reach the front it will take something truly special to run him down.
But if Oscar can pull that off again the big two of New Zealand trotting, Muscle Mountain and Bolt For Brilliance, will become the big three.