By Joshua Smith, Harness News Desk
Muscle Mountain capped a massive day for owner Ian Dobson at Addington Raceway’s Grand Prix Meeting on Sunday.
His victory in the Group 1 New Zealand Trotting Free-For-All (1980m) was Dobson’s third of the meeting, following Don’t Stop Dreaming’s win in the Group 1 Ace Of Spades (1980m) and Akuta’s win in the Group 1 New Zealand Derby (2600m).
With archrival Sundees Son withdrawal from the race earlier in the week and Bolt For Brilliance’s absence as a result of the Inter Dominions, Muscle Mountain was backed into a short-priced $1.30 favourite for the feature trot.
From his ace draw, Ben Hope drove Muscle Mountain positively off the mobile arm and took an early lead, seeing off an early challenge from Majestic Man.
Hope was able to dictate terms up front and Muscle Mountain looked in control throughout, running away to a 2-1/2 length victory for trainers Greg and Nina Hope, and posting a new New Zealand record of 2:22.9.
Muscle Mountain was brave when runner-up to Sundees Son in the Gr.1 Dominion Trot (3200m) last month and Hope was rapt to be able to go one better on Sunday.
“His work after the Dominion has been superb. He had a week off after it and he came back awesome,” he said.
“He looks phenomenal, and he has been training phenomenal.
“There are no certainties in racing, but I knew that if he was on his game it would take a special horse to beat him over the short distance.
“In my opinion, he is the best horse in the race and I think you have to drive him like it.”
Hope was pleased to get another Group One for Dobson, particularly having recorded his first elite-level victory in the bike behind Muscle Mountain in the NZ Trotting Championship (2600m) last year.
“Ian has shown a lot of faith in me, so it is great to reward him with another Group One win,” Hope said.
Victory in the Trotting Free-For-All is nothing new for the Hopes, with the Woodend Beach operation having tasted success in the race with their former top trotter Monbet.
“Monbet won it twice. He was a super horse and so is this guy,” Hope said.