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Will There Be A World Record Saturday?


Published: September 2, 2009 11:30 am ET

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Trainer Greg Peck has taken some time out of his schedule to talk world records with officials from the DuQuoin State Fair, where Muscle Hill will be participating in the $550,000 (est.) World Trotting Derby Saturday, September 5.

Is Muscle Hill the greatest trotter in harness racing history? Some experts and veteran horseman are saying that about the three-year-old which takes aim at the 'Derby.'

The son of Muscles Yankee has astonished the world of trotting with the effortless way it has broken established speed records. This past Saturday night, the 2009 Hambletonian winner broke the track record at Balmoral Park in winning the $200,000 American-National by more than seven lengths in 1:52.3.

The mile track at the DuQuoin State Fair is known to be conducive to trotting speed, and it’s possible that Muscle Hill could trot the first sub-1:50 race mile recorded over a mile track. The colt currently shares the world record of 1:50.1 with two other horses.

Winning the Derby, not setting records, is foremost on Peck's mind.

“I never think about setting a record,” Peck said. “I just go and try to win the race.”

For Peck, it will be his first time in DuQuoin since 1974 when his uncle, a veterinarian and racing official who lived in Park Ridge, Illinois, took him to DuQuoin. The Hambletonian was then contested on the southern Illinois oval.

“The World Trotting Derby is an important race to me,” Peck said. “There is the tradition of the past Hambletonians and the overall atmosphere at DuQuoin. I still remember seeing Christopher T win the Hambletonian at DuQuoin in 1974.”

Southern Rocketop and Dr McDreamy, the two finest and fastest three-year-olds in Illinois, tried their luck at beating Muscle Hill at Balmoral, but were left in the colt's wake.

Connie Hochstetler is proud of Dr McDreamy, a colt she bred and who is trained by her husband, Homer, but she harbours no illusions of beating the favorite in the World Trotting Derby.

“If he (Dr McDreamy) is second to Muscle Hill, that will be like winning,” Connie said.

Dave Magee, the most accomplished harness driver in Illinois, drove Southern Rocketop to victory in the Illinois State Fair championship at Springfield, but acknowledged that facing Muscle Hill “is a whole different level of competition.”

Southern Rocketop finished third behind Muscle Hill in the race at Balmoral Park.

Erv Miller, a native of Arthur, Illinois, has attended the World Trotting Derby about 25 times and loves the “great country atmosphere” at DuQuoin, but he also thinks his contender, Mr Cantab, has no chance of winning.

“Still, there’s a lot of money in the World Trotting Derby,” Miller said. “You can still finish second and be fine.” Second place in the World Trotting Derby would be worth more than $143,000.

(With files from DuQuoin)

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