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From Iowa Fairs To Breeders Crown?

Published: August 19, 2015 10:54 am ET

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The next rising star amidst a tough division of three-year-old trotting fillies got her start on the Iowa fair circuit. Now, she is poised to become the one to beat with many major stakes ripe for the picking in the coming weeks.

Starting out her career with a narrow runner-up finish in Oskaloosa, Iowa, she trotted first mile in 2:12.2. Not exactly Grand Circuit speed, but a closer look at her next two lines reveal massive potential. A win against two-year-olds at Eldon, IA in 2:11.1, followed by a win in an Open Trot at What Cheer, IA in 2:03.2. In that race, she defeated a number of older trotters with sub-2:00 lifetime marks.

For trainer Tony O’Sullivan, it was no surprise that Muscle Baby Doll emerged from her humble roots to become a trotting sensation that recently took a mark 1:52 at the Meadowlands.

“I took her on when Joe Bellino (of Frank Bellino & Sons LLC) bought her. We have bought racehorses out of Iowa before and she just happened to come up for sale. Her lines at the Iowa fairs were pretty good and the first time we raced her at Grand River, she raced really well."

Posting a 4-3-1 record in nine starts as a two-year-old, one of her seasonal highlights came in the Ontario Sires Stakes Super Final on October 11. Despite broken equipment, she finished a tight second to Danielle Hall, powering home in :28.2.

“She quietly made some money and was really good in the OSS Super Final,” said O’Sullivan. “Coming into this year, we were hopeful she’d be a top contender.”

A Muscle Mass filly out of mare Have You Ever, she was the ultimate bargain at $5,000 at the Lexington Selected Yearling Sale for her initial owners. Have You Ever took a mark of 1:55.2 at the Meadowlands for trainer Jimmy Takter in 2004, bankrolling over $200,000 in sixteen starts.

“When we bought her, I looked up her lineage and I said to Joe, ‘this filly has a lot of pedigree.’ I think she was probably a little bit small and with everything going on in Ontario at the time, she sold on the third or fourth day at Lexington and probably got overlooked.”

She’s not likely to be fly under the radar any longer, with six wins in seven starts so far this year.

“She grew quite a bit between two and three, she’s filled out to be a very good looking filly. I’d like to think she could be a Grand Circuit horse. She did it very well [in her last start] and honestly, before she went down, she had raced unbelievably well up here so I’d like to think she could tackle the best this season.”

The post-time favourite in the Duenna at the Meadowlands, she left from the five hole, sitting fourth at the quarter. Driver David Miller decided it was time to send the Muscle Mass filly, gaining the lead by the half and refusing to relinquish it, pulling away from the field with a 28-second final quarter to trounce her competition to add to her win streak.

“I think she was just as good as them last year but she wasn’t quite as mature as the others. Her race in the Super Final was as impressive as the one that beat her. I think that was an indication that she was going to step up this year.”

With her next engagement on August 28 at Mohawk Racetrack in the Casual Breeze, her stakes calendar features the Elegantimage as well as the remaining Ontario Sires Stakes Action. Her connections are already looking down the road to the Breeders Crown, the pinnacle of the North American harness racing season.

“We’re thinking of supplementing to the Breeders Crown. She wasn’t kept eligible to a lot as a baby and we put her into everything we could. I think ‘Baby Doll’ can hold her own against the three-year-old fillies in her division. As long as she stays healthy and sound, I’m hoping we’ll be there.”

(A Trot Insider Exclusive by Hannah Beckett)

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