Ok, I confess. Despite all he has accomplished, Muscle Hill does not excite me. Don't get me wrong, I think he is a very very good horse; one of the best trotters of this decade. I just don't get excited when he races. Donato Havonver had me excited, Deweycheatumnhowe had me excited (not as excited as I was for Somebeachsomewhere), primarily because I was happy Ray Schnittker finally had his 'big one'. But Muscle Hill, nothing.
The fact Muscle Hill does not excite me bothers me. Is there something wrong with me? I have been trying over the last few days to figure out why the name Muscle Hill triggers no real response. Is it there is a dominant horse on the pacing side that has gotten my interest? Nope, while Well Said is certainly the class of the three year old pacers, he has not gotten to the level of Somebeachsomewhere; Muscle Hill is certainly the story this year. Maybe I don't care for trotters? Nope, I appreciate a great trotter as much as anyone. Some of my favorite horses of all time are trotters (Vivid Photo, Malabar Man, Moni Maker, Savoir). Maybe I don't like the connections? No, that's not it. I am very happy for Greg Peck, one of the classiest people around). So what is it?
Perhaps part of the problem is Muscle Hill is too good. As dominating as Somebeachsomewhere and Deweycheatumnhowe were last year, their races were not ho hum. For sure they were the best horses in the races but there was drama and a chance they would lose (which they did). After the Hambletonian where has Muscle Hill raced? The American National, which for all purposes, was a glorified qualifier with a purse. The World Trotting Derby, where the biggest drama of the day was whether they would race or not and once that was decided, who eventually was going to drive Muscle Hill; the race was a foregone conclusion.
The main reason I am not excited is I have seen this story before, a couple of times. This is what racing has come to on the trotting side. Have the top two year old and you race the following year like a thoroughbred. Race the early part of the season exclusively at the Meadowlands, foregoing the early season stakes. Race as few parimutuel starts as possible (perhaps two or three before the Hambletonian) with almost as many qualifiers as races; after all, the more you race the better the chance someone can beat you and hurt your breeding value. Race if at all possible only on a mile track, but never, never on a half mile oval regardless of the purse being offered. Donato was the first, Dewey was the second and now with the success of Muscle Hill, the road map appears to be fixed; Muscle Hill's connections have already said that Holiday Road's path will be the same as Muscle Hill's; only illness or injury will change this path. With this path now being proven, expect more trotters each year to follow this road map.
Now I know why Muscle Hill doesn't excite me. Donato Hanover, Deweycheatumnhowe and now Muscle Hill. With minor variations, I have seen this play three years in a row and it is getting boring. The players are different but the end result are the same.
Here is wishing we see a top gelding make his appearance on the scene next year. With no breeders to worry about, we would see something different next year. Otherwise, I fear we will see the same play again.