Day At The Track

Svanstedt dials M for magical in Graduate

03:03 AM 21 Jun 2019 NZST
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Muscle M Up, harness racing
Muscle M Up
Lisa Photo

With a returning Dan Patch Award winner (Six Pack) and multiple world-record-holder (Plunge Blue Chip) among his 4-year-old trotters, it's no surprise to find harness racing trainer Ake Svanstedt with a horse tied for the points lead after three rounds of the Graduate Series.

Except for the surprise.

The horse is Muscle M Up.

"He's a surprise. He's surprised me," Svanstedt said with a laugh about the 4-year-old stallion, who has a win and a second in his two Graduate starts. "When he came to me, he did not train so good before he qualified. But when he qualified, he was a different horse. He was a real racehorse. He wants to race. He has a good heart, very good heart."

Muscle M Up has won three of four races overall this season, earning $54,000. The stallion was purchased by Knutsson Trotting Inc. at last fall's Standardbred Mixed Sale for $65,000 after campaigning for breeder-owner Fashion Farms and trainer Jim Campbell. As a 2-year-old, Muscle M Up won two of three races including a division of the Pennsylvania Sire Stakes. He was limited to eight starts, winning two, at age 3.

"I talked with Jim Campbell and he said he had a lot of problems when he was young," Svanstedt said. "Maybe he is older now and stronger. I think the time has helped. He feels like a good horse."

Muscle M Up, a son of Muscle Hill out of stakes-winner Fashion Athena, won his first Graduate start in a career-best 1:51.2 on May 18 at The Meadowlands. On June 9, he finished second to mare Custom Cantab in a Graduate division at Tioga Downs. Custom Cantab and gelding Crystal Fashion are tied with Muscle M Up with 60 points apiece in the series.

On Friday, Muscle M Up competes in the first of two $50,000 final preliminary rounds of the Graduate Series at the Meadowlands. He faces a challenging task, meeting a field that includes newly minted Canadian record holder Atlanta, Crystal Fashion, Custom Cantab, Plunge Blue Chip, and 2017 Dan Patch Award winner Manchego.

Atlanta, the 2018 Trotter of the Year, is unbeaten in four races this season and heads to Friday's start off a 1:50.2 win in the Armbro Flight Stakes at Woodbine Mohawk Park. The Ron Burke-trained mare is the even-money favorite on the morning line.

"This is a tougher race for him, but I think he can do a good race," Svanstedt said about Muscle M Up, who will have Andy Miller in the sulky because Svanstedt will drive mare Plunge Blue Chip. "I think he is going to race good."

Plunge Blue Chip finished second to Atlanta in her elimination for the Armbro Flight Stakes but got sick the day after the race and was scratched from the final. She shares the world records for 3-year-old filly trotters on a half-mile track (1:53.1) and mile track (1:49.4).

Plunge Blue Chip (Curtis Salonick Photo)

"She grew a lot during the winter," Svanstedt said about the mare, who has won 17 of 27 career races and earned $1.01 million. "She is bigger and taller. She is a bigger horse. She did not grow so much between (ages) 2 and 3, but this winter she grew a lot. I'm excited to see what she can do this summer.

"There are some tough horses, but she raced (1):49.4 two times last year, so she's not so bad either. She trained a lot of miles but not so fast before she qualified, so every race is going to move her forward."

Svanstedt expects the same from Six Pack, improvement in every start. Six Pack, who last season became the fastest 3-year-old trotter in history (1:49.1) on his way to Dan Patch honors, is in the second Graduate division, where he is the 2-1 morning-line favorite over Fiftydallarbill (5-2) and Phaetosive (4-1).

Six Pack, a stallion who has won 16 of 25 career starts and $1.38 million, captured his Graduate debut at the Big M before finishing third behind Crystal Fashion and Fiftydallarbill at Tioga.

The $250,000 Graduate Series finals for trotters and pacers are July 6 at The Meadowlands.

Friday's card at the Big M also includes the third round of the Rainbow Blue Series for female pacers. Caviart Ally is the 8-5 morning-line favorite in a field of six going for a purse of $40,000. Caviart Ally won the May 18 leg of the Rainbow Blue and enters Friday's race off a third-place finish in the Roses Are Red Stakes. Kissin In The Sand, the 2018 Dan Patch Award winner for best 3-year-old filly pacer, is the 2-1 second choice.

Racing begins at 7:15 p.m. (EDT) Friday. For complete entries, click here.

by Ken Weingartner, USTA Media Relations Manager

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