Day At The Track

Muscle Hill: 'Up there with my best' - Silva

12:13 PM 04 Aug 2009 NZST
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Jerry Silva with his wife Theresa
Jerry Silva with his wife Theresa - who paid $210,000 for Donato Hanover filly Spyglass Volo.
Lisa photo

One of North America's most prolific harness racing owners, Jerry Silva, is on the verge of claiming his fourth Hambletonian Trotting title this weekend when race favorite Muscle Hill will be vying for his 13th consecutive victory in the prestigious $1.5m Mile run at Meadowlands Raceway on Saturday (August 8).

The $750,000 Hambletonian Oaks, for 3-year-old trotting fillies will also be staged and Silva has Muscles Yankee filly I Wanted wings lining up in the event, but it's his Muscles Yankee colt, Muscle Hill that the 75-year-old Long Beach resident is most excited about.

"I'm not sure I Wanted wings has the caliber to win the Oaks. It's an open race and a win would surprise, but I'm way more confident with Muscle Hill. He's right up there with the best trotters I've had in previous Hambletonians," Silva told Harnesslink from his New York home on Tuesday.

That's a big call considering Silva owned the winner of last year's Hambletonian, Deweycheatumnhowe; as well as Self Possessed in 1999 and Continentalvictory in 1996.

"Dewey and Self Possessed were very good trotters but this colt has proved in just over a year that he is above average. He has won 12 of his 13 starts and just over $1m, and a lot of the commentators out there think he can win Saturday's big race. I hope they are right," Silva said.

The Hambletonian is steeped in history. It dates back to 1926 and because Silva especially loves trotters the race means a lot to him. He owns the gifted bay with TLP Stables [Tom and Lou Pontone], Kearny, NJ; Southwind Farm, Pennington, NJ [Allen and Connie Skolnick]; and Muscle Hill Racing.

The Pontones signed for the colt in the November 2007 Harrisburg yearling sale for $55,000 and sold a half-interest to Silva. They were the sole owners through December 2008, when Southwind Farm paid $3 million for a 50 percent share of Muscle Hill and syndicated him to the following: Muscle Hill Racing LLC, Flintlock Farm Inc, Ross Stables LLC, Patricia M Bolte, Margaret K. Dey, Curtis E. Larrimore, William G. Mulligan, Michael Dean Robinson, Jerry Silva, Robert A Stewart, Steve H. Stewart, William B. Weaver III, Brittany Farms, Celebrity Farms, D'Elegance Stable IX, Joie De Vie Farm LLC, Little E LLC, Odds On Nourrir and Spring Haven Farm.

Greg Peck is the trainer and Brian Sears does the driving behind Muscle Hill. They both admit the race favorite is way above average and can make it four Hambletonians for Silva - one of North America's biggest supporters of harness racing.

"Every time Muscle Hill does something special it surprises me, and that gives you more of a sense of confidence," Peck said.

"But everybody is looking at him as the measuring stick, and they're not giving up for sure. One of the best qualities my father, Bernie had was he respected the other guy's horse and he knew the competition. I try to do that as well. It's still a horse race and anything can happen," he added.

Muscle Hill's only career loss was in his first pari-mutuel start. He finished second by a neck to Homer Jay in a New Jersey Sire Stake leg on July 3, 2008 at the Meadowlands. A week later, he won the $175,000 NJSS Championship and has been perfect since. His sire, Muscle Yankee won the 1998 Hambletonian.

"I really like his gait and I think he will get even better as the season progresses. He can win on Saturday and I am hopeful," said Silva who has been supporting harness racing since his Roosevelt Raceway days back in the early 1960s.

To say Silva knows quality horseflesh when he sees it is understating the obvious. He says he doesn't but you only have to look at last year's harness racing awards ceremony where he won five titles as owner, to prove him wrong. These included Deweycheatumnhowe (3yo trotting colt); Major In Art (2yo pacing colt); Enough Talk (open trot); Tug River Princess (3yo pacing filly) and Muscle Hill (2yo trotting colt).

And if that's not enough Silva and his partner Theresa also have a share in New Zealand's best pacer (possibly ever) Auckland Reactor.

"We went down to New Zealand earlier this year and watched him race and he is definitely a great racehorse. We are excited about having him race up here next May. He should perform very well against our best horses," Silva said.

Silva is chairman of the board and chief executive officer of Chem Rx, which he founded more than 40 years ago. Chem Rx is a long-term care pharmacy, headquartered in Long Beach, which services New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. •

For the record reinsman Sears will be bidding for his first Hambletonian trophy with Muscle Hill.

Duane RANGER (editor)

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