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In his final prep for the Hambletonian, Muscle Hill became the sport’s newest millionaire with a career best 1:52.1 victory in the first of two $185,250 divisions of the Stanley Dancer Memorial on Friday night at the Meadowlands.


Muscle Hill scooted to the lead in a :27.2 opening quarter and strolled through middle fractions of :55.3 and 1:24.3 before firing off a :27.3 final panel to shave one full second off his lifetime mark. His 1:52.1 clocking was one-fifth of a second off the stakes record of 1:52 set by Mr Pine Chip in 2006. The victory vaulted Muscle Hill’s career bankroll to $1,037,736.


Explosive Matter recovered from an early miscue to finish six lengths behind Muscle Hill, while the pocket sitter Copy Catch held on for third. The overwhelming 1-5 favorite, Muscle Hill returned a $2.40 win mutuel in the fifth race.


“I wasn’t necessarily intent on taking the lead,” said Muscle Hill’s driver, Brian Sears. “I just wanted to see how they left out of there and I knew I had to be aggressive with the rail. After Explosive Matter ran I just had to try to get everyone into a seat [behind me on the rail] so I wouldn’t have to move him back [to the lead]. He’s not a real big horse, but he has quite a motor. He’s right on track [for the Hambletonian].”


Muscle Hill will carry an 11-race winning streak into the August 1 elimination races that will decide the field for the $1.5 million Hambletonian on August 8. Muscle Hill’s three victories this season also include the $200,000 New Jersey Sire Stakes Championship on June 13.


Greg Peck trains the son of Muscles Yankee for Jerry Silva and Muscle Hill Racing of, Long Beach, NY; TLP Stable of Kearny, NJ and Southwind Farm of Pennington, NJ.


“I think he would respond to competition,” Peck said of Muscle Hill’s thus far unchallenged campaign. “He’s that good and he’s a very competitive type. It’s a good year; there is competition. It’s just that things have been working out really well. We still have to win it [Hambletonian] and have our work cut out for us. We take it seriously and we hope to get there.”


That competition in the Hambletonian could come from Federal Flex, who romped to a convincing 1:53.3 score in the second Dancer Memorial division, race eight.


With Jody Jamieson at the lines, Federal Flex assumed command before the half and was never challenged en route to a 5 1/2-length romp. Mr Cantab and Cesar A Blue Chip were the best of the rest.


Federal Flex is perfect in three starts this season after sweeping the Goodtimes elimination and final at Mohawk prior to the Dancer.


“I’m glad we drew into this division [avoiding Muscle Hill],” Jamieson said. “We got a tough post [nine], but it worked out really well. He’s always been a sound horse.”


As for the Hambletonian, Jamieson said, “All we can do is get in a race and take a shot at it.”