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Sears On Muscle Hill's Season

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Published: October 19, 2009 9:01 pm ET

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Brian Sears is having the time of his life with three-year-old trotting superstar Muscle Hill. The time, though, has almost passed too quickly.

On Saturday, Sears and Muscle Hill will attempt to complete a perfect season in the C$617,880 Breeders Crown at Woodbine Racetrack. Muscle Hill has won all 11 of his starts this year and 19 races in a row since losing his career debut by a neck in July 2008.

Along the way, Sears and the colt have captured numerous stakes, including the Hambletonian, Kentucky Futurity, Canadian Trotting Classic, World Trotting Derby and American-National. He could join Malabar Man (1996-97) and Mack Lobell (1986-87) as the only colt trotters to win the Breeders Crown at both ages 2 and 3.

Not that Sears is any stranger to handling success – he has won 17 Breeders Crown titles, good for fourth place in history – and was the driver of 2005 Horse of the Year Rocknroll Hanover.

“It’s flown by,” Sears said. “But I’ve enjoyed the experience with Muscle Hill even more than when I raced Rocknroll Hanover. I’m further along in my career and it’s just a little more comfortable situation, I guess. I can appreciate it and enjoy it while it’s going on.”

It can be challenging to live in the moment, yet also remain focused on the work at hand.

“First things first, it is a job,” Sears said. “There’s an expectation for me, so I can’t get caught up in the celebration like an owner does. That’s why sometimes I’m not as emotional as some people would think. But it’s great to win these races. It’s a nice relief, too.”

Sears and Muscle Hill have been so dominant thus far, winning by an average of four lengths during the 19-race win streak, that there can be pressure to live up to expectations. Sears is taking nothing for granted as he prepares for Saturday’s Breeders Crown.

“I just hope everything works out,” Sears said. “I hope the track agrees with him. When you’re shipping around all over the place, you have concerns. I have a lot of concerns. I definitely want to end on a good note. Hopefully, everything goes smoothly because it’s been an amazing year.

“I’ll be very delighted when it’s over, but there’s no question about the fact that I am going to miss him. He’s been such a great horse for me to drive and it’s an honor to be a part of this, to be associated with a horse that will be in the record books like he will be. He’s a really amazing horse.”

Part of what makes Muscle Hill so strong is his intelligence.

“I hope he passes that trait on to his offspring,” Sears said. “He’s a really smart horse. Some horses, they know what we’re trying to do, but they can only race one way – like off the pace. Muscle Hill has everything going for him as far as being able to race on the front or off the pace. He’s smart enough to know we can do it both ways.

“You don’t have to stress him every start. That’s what takes it toll on horses. When you have to max them out every start, you pay a price. When you can save them a little bit, you’ve got a little more meat on the bone.”

Never in the history of harness racing’s Horse of the Year voting, which began in 1947, has a trotter won the honor with an undefeated season. Muscle Hill is the No. 1 ranked horse in the sport’s weekly poll.

In addition, Sears is in position to join a select group – John Campbell, Ron Pierce, Mike Lachance, Bill O’Donnell, and Stanley Dancer – to be the regular driver of both a trotter and a pacer to earn Horse of the Year. Not that he is really interested in discussing history right now.

“I never like to get cocky or overconfident. I just want to get the job done,” Sears said. “Then we can talk all we want.”

MUSCLE HILL: JUST THE FACTS

* Muscle Hill has won 19 consecutive races since finishing second in his career debut as a 2-year-old on July 3, 2008 at the Meadowlands Racetrack. He was beaten by a neck by Homer Jay in a leg of the New Jersey Sire Stakes.

* Since then, the total margin of victory for Muscle Hill in his 19 wins is 77-3/4 lengths – an average of four lengths per triumph. No horse has been nearer than a length of Muscle Hill at the finish of any of his wins.

* Never in the history of harness racing’s Horse of the Year voting, which began in 1947, has a trotter won the honor with an undefeated season. That could change if Muscle Hill – the No. 1 ranked horse in the weekly harness racing poll – wins the U.S.$600,000 Breeders Crown for 3-year-old male trotters.

* The closest a trotter came to an undefeated Horse of the Year campaign was in 1948 when Rodney won 12 of 13 starts (with the setback being a second-place finish). Four pacers have had unbeaten Horse of the Year seasons: Artsplace in 1992, Forrest Skipper in 1986, Niatross in 1979, and Bret Hanover in 1964.

* Over the last 35 years, no horse has won the U.S. Dan Patch Award as best 3-year-old male trotter with an undefeated season. The only 3-year-old filly trotter to accomplish the feat was Syrinx Hanover, who was 12-for-12 in 2001. The only undefeated horse to be voted the Canadian O’Brien Award as the best 3-year-old male trotter was A Worthy Lad, who was 13-for-13 in 1990. (A Worthy Lad was a perfect 30-for-30 as a 2- and 3-year-old.)

* Muscle Hill will set the U.S. single-season record for earnings with a win in the Breeders Crown. Muscle Hill will surpass $2.45 million with the triumph, breaking pacer Somebeachsomewhere’s record of $2.44 million set last year.

* Lifetime, Muscle Hill has earned over U.S.$2.97 million in purses. He ranks No. 18 on the all-time money list for trotters. He can join Deweycheatumnhowe as the only trotters to surpass U.S.$3 million in career earnings prior to turning 4.

* Muscle Hill equaled the all-age world record for trotting on a mile track when he won the Hambletonian by six lengths in 1:50.1 on August 8 at the Meadowlands Racetrack. Donato Hanover, Giant Diablo and Lucky Jim share the mark with Muscle Hill.

* Last year, Muscle Hill won the Breeders Crown for 2-year-old male trotters at the Meadowlands Racetrack in 1:53.3, which set the world record for 2-year-old trotting colts on a mile track.

* The only colt trotters to win the Breeders Crown at ages 2 and 3 are Malabar Man in 1996-97 and Mack Lobell in 1986-87.


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