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Peck On Return Of Holiday Road


Published: April 16, 2010 11:56 am ET

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As the top juveniles from 2009 make their way back to the track for their three-year-old campaigns, trainer Greg Peck has much to look forward to. Not only is the conditioner highly anticipating the upcoming Cape Breton Horsemen's Awards banquet, but he is also champing at the bit to get 'Operation Hambletonian 2010' rolling with Holiday Road.

For good reason, the majority of attention Peck and his stable received in 2009 was due to a colt which many consider to be the best trotter to ever look through a bridle, Muscle Hill. In what has become a very well known story, the multiple-stakes winning son of Muscles Yankee was retired last October after winning 20 of 21 career races, $3.3 million in purses and the captivation of the trotting world.

Although he obviously did not get the overwhelming notoriety that Muscle Hill did, Yankee Glide colt Holiday Road didn't exactly fly under the radar last year during his freshman campaign, either. Relative anonymity for the fledgling was thrown out the window in 2009 during the Hambletonian undercard. Holiday Road raced above his years with his performance in the $523,600 Peter Haughton Memorial against the best in the class. He was started up off the gate and then had to be checked up after traffic came out in front of him as he was about to go first-over in the second quarter. When he did eventually go first-up in the third panel, he passed a trio of horses and held off a closer for an impressive 1:54 win, a time which would stand as the class' fastest for the 2009 campaign.

Speaking retrospectively a couple of months after the Haughton, Peck told Trot Insider that he believed Holiday Road's performance in the dash was the most impressive of 2009, but not merely because of the speed aspect. The trainer said it was the maturity that Holiday Road showed while facing adversity in the mile that really made him stand out.

2009 Peter Haughton Memorial - Holiday Road (1:54)

In conversation with Trot Insider earlier this week, Peck explained that Holiday Road's performance in the Haughton may have, in a way, been a detriment to the rest of his season, although to no fault of the colt's at all. After a six-week hiatus from the pari-mutuel battles, Peck brought Holiday Road back at the Red Mile in Kentucky. The colt finished a disappointing sixth in a division of the Simpson Stakes on September 21, and was distanced in an October 1 division of the Bluegrass Stakes after having broken stride early in the mile.

"It was just one of those things -- he did it (win the Haughton) so easily," Peck told Trot Insider this week. "Traditionally, a lot of trainers would stop with a horse after a mile like that in the Haughton, but the fact that he did it so easily is why I went on with him. If I had the ability to do anything different with him, in retrospect, I would have stopped with him there. As things would play out, and I am saying this in retrospect, the Haughton mile just really taxed his system. His general health just wasn't that good after that. He lost some weight and muscle tone."

After the disappointing outcome for Holiday Road down at the Red Mile, Peck shut down the colt, as 'Operation Hambletonian 2010' was the main priority going forward.

"We turned him out at Southwind Farm in New Jersey and then brought him back to White Birch," Peck explained. "He's grown some, but just a normal growth from two to three. The thing with him is that he has such a long shoulder and high hither. Right now, he looks better than he ever has in his life.

"We started back with him in January. The weather was not good here this past winter, but luckily enough it didn't really throw us off-schedule at all. Knock on wood, we haven't had any issues with him this year. Physically he's been great and he hasn't had to deal with sickness or anything."

One thing that Holiday Road's competition surely does not want to hear is that the colt is getting better, but to the sure dismay of some, that is what Peck is reporting.

"He's trotting faster and straighter than he did last year. Don't get me wrong, he was fantastic last year, but last year the few mistakes that he made were when he was around water trucks or tractors. We've been training him in an open bridle, and he has been in 2:10 in a jog cart as of this past Saturday (April 10). He appears to be more 'push-button' this year -- similar to the way that Muscle Hill always was. He's got a regal pedigree, and you usually see great pedigrees start to shine through at three, so we're really excited about him."

In terms of a schedule going forward, Peck told Trot Insider that they have a game plan with does contain a little bit of wiggle room.

"We're looking to qualify him in the first or second week of May at the Meadowlands," Peck explained. "He is eligible to the New Jersey Sire Stakes in late May. I don't know if he'll make the first or the second round. That is where we are pointing him, roughly, for now, but he will stay close to the Meadowlands until after the Hambletonian."

As mentioned, Peck, a native of Nova Scotia, also has his sights set on the Cape Breton Horsemen's Awards banquet, which will take place Saturday, April 24 in North Sydney.

"I'm honoured to be doing it. Diane Collins called me and asked me if I would be interested in coming over for it. I was actually in the barber shop with my son when I took the call. Without hesitation I told her that I would be honoured to do it and that I would be there."

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