Douglass Hutchins is hoping for another happy hour in a Zweig Memorial.
Hutchins bred and owns Martiniwithmuscle, who is among the nine horses entered in Friday's $340,000 Dr. Harry M. Zweig Memorial for 3-year-old male trotters at Vernon Downs. Martiniwithmuscle will start from post five with driver Tim Tetrick and is 8-1 on the morning line.
Seven years ago, Hutchins watched Martiniwithmuscle's mom, Cocktail Hour, win a filly division of the Zweig Memorial at Tioga Downs.
"Maybe he can follow in her footsteps,” said Hutchins, a veterinarian from Maine. "It's probably farfetched, but we'll take a shot. He's probably a little over his head right now, but he's well-bred and well cared for.”
Martiniwithmuscle, who has won five of 13 career races and earned $52,695, will face a Zweig field that includes Father Patrick and Nuncio, two million-dollar-earners from the stable of trainer Jimmy Takter. The entry is the 5-2 morning line favorite.
Limited to four starts at age two because of allergies, Martiniwithmuscle started this season with back-to-back wins in conditioned races at the Meadowlands. Three starts later, he finished second to Trixton in the New Jersey Sires Stakes championship and Hutchins was aiming for an appearance in the Hambletonian.
But Martiniwithmusle went off stride in his next two starts, a conditioned race and the Stanley Dancer Memorial, and returned to Maine for evaluation.
"I'd hoped to race in the Hambletonian, but he made those two breaks, which I couldn't explain,” Hutchins said. "He seemed a little stressed (in New Jersey) maybe. We brought him home and couldn't find anything. He didn't seem sore.
"We brought him back to Maine and he seems a lot happier. We changed his shoeing a little bit. I think he's just happier with (trainer Ivan Davies) up in Maine where he's been. He's been with Ivan for quite a bit. You've got to keep your horses happy.”
Martiniwithmuscle returned to his winning ways after the brief respite. With Davies handling the driving, he won a conditioned start at Plainridge Racecourse on Aug. 6 and heads to the Zweig off a 9 1/2-length victory in 1:55.1 in the open at Plainridge on Aug. 20.
"I don't think he's shown his true potential yet,” Hutchins said about Martiniwithmuscle, who is a son of stallion Muscle Hill and whose maternal family includes 1986 Hambletonian Oaks winner and multiple Breeders Crown champion JEF's Spice. "He went really good last week, so we're hoping for a pretty good race in the Zweig, although he's probably not in the same category as Father Patrick or Nuncio.”
Martiniwithmuscle's remaining stakes schedule includes the Bluegrass Stakes and Kentucky Futurity in Lexington, plus the Yonkers Trot and Breeders Crown.
"For as little racing he got last year, he showed a lot of potential,” Hutchins said. "He's always had a fluid gait to him. He's been a great-gaited colt all along. I think he's done pretty well this year, all things considered.” (HRC)