Well, one thing was proven in Saturday night’s Canadian Trotting Classic. The rest of the three year old trotting colt division has surrendered to Muscle Hill. At this point, no one is willing to even tangle with him in a race; it is “let Muscle Hill win the race and everyone else races for second”. Short of Muscle Hill making a miscue, he should go undefeated the rest of the year. While I contend only through the eyes of history can it be determined if a horse is the greatest, I don’t ever recall seeing a horse be given so much respect that no one will even tangle with him; they even tangled with Niatross, arguably the greatest pacer ever. Surely Muscle Hill is the best 3yo colt trotter I have ever seen.
The question to be asked is why no one ever challenges Muscle Hill? Now I admit, taking him on is probably a foolish thing to do, but usually you will find someone on occasion willing to take on a horse no matter how good they are, but the way they are conceding to Muscle Hill is unprecedented. There are a couple reasons for this. The first reason is that 3yo trotters are now racing somewhat thoroughbred-like; picking their spots. In the past, a trotter would race more often so the likelihood of a horse racing tired one week was greater. With the schedule Muscle Hill is on, the chances of him being tired are very remote. Other drivers know this.
Perhaps the biggest reason races are conceded to the Hill is purses are too high to take a chance on being aggressive. In the past, when the big races were raced for more modest purses, drivers were willing to take a shot against a horse like Muscle Hill. Now, where you have second place finishers earning $250,000 (using the CTC as an example) and third place earning $120,000, who is willing to make a move which may get you first place or an out of the money finish, especially when there are so few stake races when compared to the pacing side? Look at Explosive Matter, just for finishing second in the Hambletonian and the Canadian Trotting Classic finals he earned $625,000. Why should he try to take on Muscle Hill when second place is so lucrative?
Earlier in the year fans were looking forward to the first sub 1:50 trotting mile. With the competition running up the white flag don’t expect to see it this year. This is a shame. While history will determine who the greatest trotter ever is, a sub 1:50 mile would ensure Muscle Hill's legacy. Wouldn’t it be ironic if his complete domination cost him his place in history?
The New York Times reports that the United States Appeal Court for the 8th circuit in Minnesota has ruled that two players from the Minnesota Vikings may appeal proposed suspensions for violating the league’s drug policies in state courts even though those suspensions were permitted under the collective bargaining agreement. What does this mean for harness racing? Assuming this ruling is upheld, one of the strongest arguments for a harness racing czar, the ability to discipline cheats quickly, goes out the window as state laws will take precedence. Rather than looking for a czar, harness racing's best chance for discipline is the uniformity a multi-state racing compact would provide.