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Trainer Greg Peck told Thursday afternoon, shortly after his reigning divisional champion trotter Muscle Hill won his 3-year-old debut in a qualifier at the Meadowlands, that “Operation Hambletonian” is now fully underway.


“I decided on May 1 when I was bringing him up here to train, I told (co-owner) Louie Pontone that ‘Operation Hambletonian’ starts today,” Peck said with a slight laugh by cell phone from New Jersey. “Now all systems are go. He was excellent this morning and I was very happy with him.


“Everybody’s been on board and worked diligently as giving him the best possible chance that we can, so you are looking for him to be impressive in the qualifier,” added Peck.


With regular driver Brian Sears in the sulky, Muscle Hill trotted to an easy 1:55.4 victory in the first of what Peck said would be two qualifiers. Peck said Muscle Hill would qualify again on Thursday, May 21, and then be entered in the second round of New Jersey Sire Stakes action June 4 at the Big M.


Last year, Muscle Hill won eight of nine starts, including the Peter Haughton Memorial and Breeders Crown, on his way to $817,301 and Dan Patch Award honors as the 2-Year-Old Colt Trotter of the Year. The son of Muscles Yankee is now owned by Jerry Silva, Tom and Lou Pontone’s TLP Stable, Allen and Connie Skolnick’s Southwind Farm and Muscle Hill Racing. 


Muscle Hill coasted to a 4 1/2-length win in Thursday's qualifier, trotting a final quarter of :28.3 for Sears to seal the decision. Peck reiterated he was very satisfied with the initial results of “Operation Hambletonian.”


“There are certain expectations I have for him and you want him to at least meet them or exceed them. That’s what today was about,” said Peck. “He’s been off since the first of December, so he met my expectations today—as he always has.”