One final northern mountain for southern trotter
By Joshua Smith, Harness News Desk
Group One-winning trotter Muscle Mountain is set to have his final northern run at Cambridge Raceway tonight before he heads for a spell in preparation for spring racing.
The talented trotter has been in stellar form in the north, becoming a worthy adversary for the ever-dominant Sundees Son.
Muscle Mountain got the better of his rival two starts back when winning over a mile at Alexandra Park, but Sundees Son equalled the northern ledger a week later when winning the Group 1 Peter Breckon Memorial 2022 National Mobile Trot (2700m).
Greg Hope, who trains Muscle Mountain in partnership with his wife Nina, has been pleased with the way his charge has come through his gruelling last start run.
“He was a little bit jaded for a couple of days, but he has bounced back really well from the hard run,” he said.
“We couldn’t be happier with the way the horse is, he is a box of birds at the moment.”
While the pair are developing a great rivalry, they will not meet in the Group 2 Group 1 Turf Bar Trotters Flying Mile “G2” Mobile Trot (1609m) on Thursday, with trainers Robert and Jenna Dunn electing to bypass the Cambridge feature with Sundees Son.
While Muscle Mountain will meet just four other competitors on Thursday, Hope said he will have to be at his best to beat Bolt For Brilliance.
“We don’t underestimate Bolt, he is a very good horse,” Hope said. “There is not a lot between Bolt and Muscle Mountain, it’s just on who gets the better run.”
While Hope is happy with his gelding heading into Thursday, he said it will likely be his last race before returning home to Canterbury for a spell.
“We will probably make the Flying Mile our last start and he will go home for a break, only because we want to look after him. Hopefully next year will be his year,” Hope said.
“Johnny (Dunn, driver of Sundees Son) sets up New Zealand records every time they go out the last few times and we don’t need to keep doing that, I don’t think.
Hope is also looking forward to lining-up in-form pacer A G’s White Socks in the Group 2 McMillan Equine Feeds Pacers Flying Mile “G2” (1609m) on Thursday.
The son of Rock N Roll Heaven ran third in the Group 1 NZ Messenger (2700m) last month and Hope has been pleased with the eight-year-old in the lead-up to Thursday.
“He is really in the zone at the moment,” Hope said. “It is going to be difficult for him where he is placed (5), there is a lot of speed inside him.
“But we are really happy with where he is at, he is working great.”
Following Thursday’s race, Hope said A G’s White Socks will head to the Group 1 Auckland Cup (3200m).
“He will miss next week’s Roy Purdon, and we will give him a crack at the Auckland Cup,” he said.
“It is not an ideal race next week because it is a 2200m stand and it is a handicap, so it is not an ideal race for AG to have a go at seeming as how he begins, so we will just throw the dice at the Auckland Cup.”