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g style="font-weight: bold;">East Rutherford, NJ --- Muscle Hill, the early favorite for the $1.5 million Hambletonian, won his 2009 debut under wraps on Thursday night (June 4) at the Meadowlands.

Driven by Brian Sears, Muscle Hill ($2.40, $2.20, $2.10) tucked in fourth around the first turn and strode up to take command from The Chancellor with three-eighths of a mile to go.

He opened up as The Chancellor ($7.20, $4.80) gave chase and powered away to a 3-3/4 length tally in his 2009 debut. Howthehaloareyou ($8.60) was a distant third.

"Physically, he's grown up and filled out," Sears noted of Muscle Hill. "I couldn't ask for anything more. He looks fantastic. Obviously, he's maturing and getting faster. His manners have always been great. It was his first start back and when he heard Andy (Miller and The Chancellor) chasing after his horse a little bit, he pretty much went on his own."

During his champion freshman season, Muscle Hill won $817,301 and eight of nine starts, including the Breeders Crown in a world record 1:53.3 and the Peter Haughton Memorial. The son of Muscles Yankee-Yankee Blondie is the leading contender for the $1.5 million Hambletonian, harness racing's most prestigious event, on Saturday, August 8. Greg Peck trains Muscle Hill for co-owners Jerry Silva, TLP Stable, Southwind Farm and Muscle Hill Racing.

"This is the best crop (of 3-year-old trotters) I've ever seen," Peck said. "It's going to be a tough year. There's going to be a lot of really good horses and we're aware of them. We are going to go straight through (the summer racing) at the Meadowlands."

Peck is well poised for a big payday in the $200,000 New Jersey Sire Stakes Championship on Saturday, June 13. His other top colt, My Back Pages, captured the evening's second NJSS division in 1:54.2. With George Brennan at the lines, My Back Pages brushed to the lead before the half and kicked away to a 1-1/2 length victory over Homer Jay.

"We got ducked in third, and I could tell Schnittker (Ray Schnittker and Homer Jay) wanted some cover so I just moved into the lead," Brennan said. "We got an easy half (:57) and three-quarters (1:26.1), and he trotted home strong. He was pretty game. I think he's going to get better. He doesn't make any mistakes and he's really well-gaited. He's going to get his that's for sure."

It was the second win in five starts this season for Irving Bork, TLP Stable, and Jerry Silva's My Back Pages. The Hambletonian-eligible son of Revenue S -Windsurfing V C made just two starts as freshman before ankle issues put him on the sidelines.