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Peck En Route To Another Hambo Victory?

HolidayRoadDickersonLisaedi.jpg

Published: July 28, 2010 7:06 pm ET

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Trainer Greg Peck, who sent out last year’s Hambletonian winner Muscle Hill, has a chance to make it two in a row with this year’s Hambletonian entrant, Holiday Road.

The son of Yankee Glide, owned by the Four Friends Racing Stable, Jerry Silva, TLP Stable and Deo Volente-Peck Stable, has won both of his starts this year. The first win was in the Historic-Dickerson Cup on July 2 at the Meadowlands in a career-best 1:52.4 and the other was July 17 in a division of the Stanley Dancer Memorial, also at the Big M.

Holiday Road will be driven from Post 2 by Brian Sears, who also drove Muscle Hill, in the second of three Hambletonian elimination races Saturday night. Peck is bidding to become the first trainer since Per Eriksson to win back-to-back Hambletonians. Eriksson won in 1991 with Giant Victory and in 1992 with Alf Palema. The last driver to win consecutive Hambletonians was John Campbell with Mack Lobell (1987) and Armbro Goal (1988).

With no purse starts until July, the return to the races was a bit delayed for Holiday Road, compared to most Hambletonian starters, but Peck says he needed the time.

“I took my time coming back,” he said. “Remember, he did not finish up his two-year-old year the way one would like, so you had to address that.”

Holiday Road won three of six races last year, including the Peter Haughton Memorial at the Meadowlands on the same day as Muscle Hill’s Hambletonian triumph, and earned $312,350. But the colt failed to get a check in the Simpson and Bluegrass stakes in the fall at Lexington’s Red Mile and was shut down.

“You had to say, ‘Ok what was that?’ instead of ignoring it,” Peck said. “The only way to get where you’re going is to know where you are and where you came from. I wanted to take my time coming back with him and that’s what happened.”

Peck notes that slightly different stake schedules for Muscle Hill and Holiday Road also accounted for the relatively late start.

“Muscle Hill started out earlier, in the New Jersey Sire Stakes,” Peck said. “The other thing about Muscle Hill is that he was not eligible to the Historic Series and Holiday Road was. That was just an omission on our part. Holiday Road had that [Historic Series], so therefore I didn’t have to ramp him up. Muscle Hill would have had no pari-mutuel engagement until the Stanley Dancer, but Holiday Road had the Historic Series.”

Peck says Holiday Road’s health was closely investigated after his lackluster performances last fall.

“His general health wasn’t good,” he said. “With all the examinations, the x-rays, ultrasound, really there was nothing, other than physically he didn’t look good. This year he looks better physically now than he ever has in his life. I spoke with Bob Brady, manager at Kentuckiana Farm, who raised him, and he said it was hard to keep weight on him as a yearling.

“He lost weight last year and it took a while to get it back, but once it came back, it stayed pretty well. A lot of that credit would go to Mali Norbye and Sylvia Hovde [Peck Stable caretakers who also cared for Muscle Hill]. They are very careful about how he’s fed and how many times a day and how much – he eats a lot. If you are doing it right, it should be relative to body weight and he’s a bigger horse. In the standardbred business, we tend to feed them all the same amount. But it should be relative to their body weight, so he requires a lot more. Added to that, you can put all you want in front of them; it’s what they’ll consume that’s the issue.

“He’s fed four times a day, which he was anyway, but he just wasn’t coming around. We turned him out [last fall], but only for about a month because he wasn’t progressing, so we did a combination at White Birch Farm of turning him out and giving him a little work and that seemed to go better.”

Peck notes that Holiday Road is physically very impressive, which contributes to his ability.

“Big and strong, he has tremendous shoulder on him and the conventional wisdom is that the strongest part of the horse is the shoulder and wither,” he said. “He’s about 16.1, maybe 16.2. He’s a little more high strung than Muscle Hill, a different type. Holiday Road has demonstrated professionalism on the track. He’s been able to leave, brush and then shut down and speed up. He seems to have similar assets to Muscle Hill.”

Peck has been more lenient with turnout time for Holiday Road than for Muscle Hill, who got no paddock time for months leading up to the Hambletonian for fear of injury. “We’ve continued to turn him out sparingly because he seems to like it,” he said.

Holiday Road, out of the dam Jambo, is a full brother to Ken Warkentin, who was the 2004 two-year-old male trotting champion. His maternal family tree also includes 1932 Hambletonian winner The Marchioness and 1942 winner The Ambassador.


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

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