Muscle Mountain too good once again
By Michael Guerin
Nobody would have begrudged driver Ben Hope the rarest of all racing celebrations at Ashburton if he had had the audacity to launch into a double whip salute.
Hope restricted himself to just one though as Muscle Mountain strode to one of the easiest wins of his career in the What The Hill Trotters Sprint, the salute dedicated to the great trotter’s late owner Ian Dosbon who died last week.
Dobson showed faith in Ben when many others lacked it, allowing him to drive Muscle Mountain throughout his career when he could easily have opted for a more experienced driver.
Hope and Muscle Mountain have grown up together so Dobbie deserves his salute to cap a poignant day for his family after Akuta’s win earlier.
But Hope also would have been justified in saluting again, this time as the exclamation mark on a win Muscle Mountain needed to regain maximum respect.
He cost himself his previous start at Addington when divebombed by Oscar Bonavena and his tendency to shut off late was going to start costing him far bigger races if he didn’t get it out of his system.
So Team Hope opted for slide down blinds and controlled aggression and now Muscle Mountain is back as king of trotting’s castle, his fear factor re-established.
“I might have been a bit easy on him in front a few times but it is time to start driving him like the best horse,” says Hope.
If that re-ignites Muscle Mountain’s home straight desire then he has the potential to go to another level.
He is already one of our best ever trotting sprinters and now the Dominion beckons, with him potentially giving Bolt For Brilliance a start in what will be one of the great highlights of Cup week.
Muscle Mountain's win was his third straight in the Trotters Sprint and his 1:54.5 mile rate for the 1700m was slick enough on a track holding plenty of top.
Smokin Bandar looked happy to be home with a super second and Time Up The Hill roared into third, another emotion-filled placing with the mare’s connection to regular driver Katie Cox as the industry rallies around her.
Oscar Bonavena could manage only fourth, coming to the end of his run after looming at the top of the straight.