Top Hambo Hopefuls Near Return

Published: June 9, 2010 07:18 pm EDT

Last season, Greg Peck dubbed Muscle Hill’s successful march to trotting’s grand prize “Operation Hambletonian.” Last week, after watching three-year-old colt Holiday Road qualify for the first time at the Meadowlands, the trainer said, “Operation Hambletonian 2010 started today."

With Brian Sears at the lines, Holiday Road went gate-to-wire to win his qualifier by 9-1/2 lengths in 1:56.1. He covered the final quarter-mile in :28.3 seconds.

“It’s a relief he went around there easily and looked good,” Peck said afterward. “Brian just let him do what he wanted to do. We plan on [qualifying] three times anyway, so today was about what I thought.”

Last year, Holiday Road was third in the New Jersey Sire Stakes championship, behind O'Brien Award winner Il Villaggio and Break The Bank K, before winning his next two starts – his Peter Haughton Memorial elimination and the $523,600 final. His Haughton triumph came on Hambletonian Day, preceding Muscle Hill’s six-length victory in world-record-equaling time (1:50.1).

The horse had trouble keeping on weight the remainder of the summer and was shut down after only six races.

Holiday Road, owned by the Holiday Road Stable, is a son of Yankee Glide-Jambo and is a full brother to 2004 Breeders Crown champion Ken Warkentin. He was purchased as a yearling for $115,000 at the Lexington Selected Sale.

Peck is pointing Holiday Road to make his first pari-mutuel start in the Historic Dickerson Cup at the Meadowlands on July 2.

“He looks great,” Peck said. “He looks physically better than ever.”

Last season’s Dan Patch Award winner as the best two-year-old male trotter, Lucky Chucky, is expected to qualify for the first time Friday, June 11. Lucky Chucky, driven regularly by John Campbell, won nine of 12 races, including the $450,000 Valley Victory and the $166,800 Matron. He was second in the Breeders Crown, behind Pilgrims Taj, and third in the Haughton.

“You hope they end up good as a two-year-old, and most of the time if they do, they usually come back pretty good when they’re three,” trainer Chuck Sylvester said. “We gave him a nice long rest and when we started out jogging he was a hundred percent sound. He has a chance to be the best.”

Sylvester brought Lucky Chucky to the Meadowlands last week for a training mile, which was timed in “just under [1]:58,” the trainer said.

“He wants to do good for you,” Sylvester said. “He tries to please you. He’s more relaxed this year. Last year he had a little problem; he was on the bit a little too much. This year he’s way more relaxed. I think he’ll be a much better horse.”

This story courtesy of Harness Racing Communications, a division of the U.S. Trotting Association. For more information, visit