Muscles Network got Friday afternoon's Grand Circuit stakes action at The Red Mile off on a fast note as the freshman colt trotter scored a world-record 1:53.2 victory in the first of three divisions of the $260,500 International Stallion Stake (ISS). In breaking his maiden in style, the time bested the previous mark of 1:53.3 set ironically by his sire, Muscle Hill, in 2008 at the Meadowlands.
Driven by Jody Jamieson, Muscle Network powered his way to the lead in the final turn in the first $86,500 division, wrestlng control from the tempo-setting Odds On Amethyst. Muscle Network opened up a clear margin over his six rivals, crossing the wire well in front of runner-up Monkey Man and driver Yannick Gingras, with Shift Into Glide and David Miller third.
Muscle Network is owned by Frank Bellino, who purchased the rookie trotter in late July before he made his pari-mutuel debut. Muscle Network had four prior starts coming into Friday's race, having made breaks in his first two attempts.
"We trained him, we loved him and we bought him," said winning trainer Tony O'Sullivan afterward.
Muscle Network finished second last week in a Bluegrass division at The Red Mile but appeared to have trouble in the turns despite finishing second. O'Sullivan addressed last week's effort by saying, "Jody said he was a little green on the turns."
O'Sullivan added Muscle Network earned a trip to Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs for next weekend's Breeders Crown eliminations.
"Obviously, he needed to race well today for him to go to the Breeders Crown, which he did," said the conditioner.
Outburst, who set a world record for 2-year-old geldings on a mile track last time out when he won a Bluegrass division in 1:53.1, needed just 1:54.4 to go back-to-back in Grand Circuit action in the second $87,500 ISS division.
Driven by Ron Pierce, Outburst held off a game Muscle Midas and driver Brian Sears to gain his third straight win and fifth in eight starts. It Really Matters and Tim Tetrick finished third.
A son of Explosive Matter, Outburst is owned by trainer Noel Daley in partnership with Adam Victor & Son Stable and Mirva Bogucki, a caretaker in his stable. The win increased Outburst's earnings to $132,904. Daley said Outburst will now head to Vernon Downs for the final leg of the Kindergarten Series and the final.
The third $86,500 ISS division went to EL Titan, who outdueled Trixton down the stretch to score in 1:53.4. Driven by trainer Riina Rekila, EL Titan ranged up first-over around the final turn versus the tempo-setting Trixton, pulling on even terms turning for home. Midway down the lane it appeared Trixton would hold off his rival, but a final surge by EL Titan in the shadow of the wire was enough for the victory. Hillustrious and Ron Pierce finished third.
A homebred son of Muscle Hill owned by Erkki Laakkonen, EL Titan is out of the Garland Lobell mare Courtney Hall, who has already produced star performers EL Rock, Appomattox and EL Rocket. Courtney Hall is a sister to the outstanding mare Cameron Hall.