Hall Of Muscles, who hadn’t seen the lead in seven straight races, got there by accident Friday at The Meadows and discovered he liked it as he clicked off a stake-fastest 1:56.2 victory in a Keystone Classic division. The $125,198 event for 2-year-old colt and gelding trotters was contested over three divisions, with Major Athens and Hes An American taking the other splits.
Hall Of Muscles was away second for Eric Ledford but quickly found himself on the point with the break of the early leader, Boy Of Mine. He held off the late challenge of Punxsutawney to down that rival by a head and break his maiden in his ninth career outing. Maxamillus was third.
"He’s been facing a little stiffer competition,” Ledford said. "I thought I would give him a chance to fight on the front today. He was a little lost on the front — you could tell he hadn’t been there much — but other than that, he was really good.”
Jim Campbell trains the son of Broadway Hall-Bowl of Muscles for Fashion Farms.
Sporting a new bike and an open bridle — changes suggested by his regular driver, Brian Sears — 1-9 favorite Major Athens notched an easy front-end triumph in 1:58.2. Markup Hanover was second, a length back, while Marat earned show.
"He was very relaxed and a lot easier on himself,” Sears said. "He’ll need that to get a trip off a helmet for a change. He’s always been a little aggressive and either off or on. Now, he can see what’s going on. He has enough starts under his belt to figure out what we’re trying to do. If horses can race with an open bridle, they don’t fight you, and they race other horses.”
Rich Gillock, who trains the son of Andover Hall-Miss Athena for owners/breeders Thomas Brice and Charles Receski, said Major Athens will be pointed to Grand Circuit action at the Red Mile as well as the Breeders Crown. A Peter Haughton elimination winner, Major Athens has collected six victories and $249,356 in his nine-race career.
A bridesmaid in six of his seven previous starts, Hes An American burst through the inside late to capture his maiden victory for trainer/driver Charlie Norris in 1:59. MM’s Rosebud was a ground-saving second, 1-1/4 lengths in arrears, with the rallying Cashco third.
"He’s been kind of an overachiever all year,” Norris said. "He’s not real great gaited, but he always tries. He finally got the job done at the end of the year. He’s a little growthy and needs to mature. We may race him once or twice more.”
Leonard Bucker bred and owns the American Winner-It’snevereasy gelding.
In the $22,500 Preferred Handicap Trot, Sir Caviar made it five straight by thwarting the late rally of Victory Is Coming for Brian Zendt and narrowly defeating the mare in 1:53.3. Sing Jesse Sing completed the ticket. Leslie Zendt trains the 6-year-old son of SJ’s Caviar-Sierra Flower K, who boasts a career win percentage of 49.3 in 75 lifetime starts, and owns with Bill Zendt.
Dave Palone drove three winners on the 15-race card. (The Meadows)