Muscles For Life, masterfully handled by Hall of Famer Wally Hennessey, scored a mild upset in Pompano Park's $14,200 Open Handicap Trot on Tuesday (Dec. 28), stopping the timer in 1:53.4.
The brilliant eight-year-old son of Muscle Mass took charge around the initial turn and led at every port of call while sawing through fractions of :27.3, :56.4 and 1:25 before his :28.4 finale held off the determined challenges of Max (David Miller) and favoured Toys For You (Rick Plano) to score by a half-length. Flagman was fourth in the mile while Timon AS, actually closing fastest of all, picked up the nickel in a very classy sextet.
As the wings folded, Max left with his usual alacrity along with Muscles For Life, with the latter taking charge, as mentioned, an eighth into the mile. Meanwhile, Toys For You, a length off the gate at the start, was last, about eight lengths off of the leader.
Positions remained unchanged through the opening half as Toys For You began his patented backside binge, drawing alongside Muscles For Life around the final bend with Max continuing chilly along the pylons.
Turning for home, Muscles For Life repelled the challenge of Toys For You as Max, finally finding a seam, began gnawing away but running out of racetrack when they hit the wire.
"He (Muscles For Life) beat some very good ones tonight," said Hennessey after the race. "You know this is a very evenly matched group and, when post positioned were assigned, we got a bit of an edge in those assignments. With all that early speed in the race, I kinda figured that Rick's horse (Toys For You) probably wouldn't be in a hurry leaving. When I looked at the replay after the race, I was around eight lengths better than he was at the quarter and he was 7-1/2 lengths better than I was the rest of the way. Do the math, we got it by a half-length. David's horse (Max) was also very sharp and we're gonna hear from him, too, in the future."
Muscles For Life won for the 10th time this season and closed out 2021 with $96,374 to vault his career earnings to $507,103.
Maurice Goldschmidt Jr. trains Muscles For Life for owner Jarold Hawks.
Off at 5-2 as second choice, Muscles For Life paid every pound of that -- $7.80 -- to his faithful.
The $12,600 Open II Trot went to The Lionking AS, driven by trainer and owner Kevin Wallis. The six-year-old gelded son of Lionhunter ditched his usual early speed tactics and stormed home fastest of all to score in 1:55. In scoring his seventh win of the year in a busy 46 starts, The Lionking AS pushed his yearly bankroll to $108,907 on his 7-13-12 scorecard. Just Maybe The One (David Miller) was second over the 3-1 lukewarm favourite Keystone Apache (Ken Holliday). Sooo Handsome and Cantab Lindy were next in the field of seven.
The $11,000 Open III Trot went to Trix And Stones, driven by Joe Sanzeri. Owned by trainer Sanzeri in partnership with Russ Guardino, the five-year-old son of Trixton was up at the light to score the photo finish decision over Keegan Ho (Fern Paquet Jr.) in 1:55.2. Noble Legend (Hennessey) was third while Swan For All and Andover Contessa took home the minors.
Racing continues on Wednesday with a blockbuster 14-race program featuring a mandatory payout on the Super Hi-5 (with a $63,639 carryover going in) along with a pair of Pick-4 events with a $15,000 guaranteed pool on each (12 per cent takeout), a pair of Pick-5 events and several other options on the wagering buffet. Post time is set for 7:20 p.m.
(With files from Pompano Park)