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Harness racing world champion makes 2015 debut Friday, April 24 after injury-plagued 2014 EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ (April 23, 2015) - When Muscle Network races Friday night (April 24) at the Meadowlands, it will mark the first start of the horse's four-year-old season, but more importantly, it will serve as the first step in what his owner hopes will be his road to redemption. "Last year was probably one of the biggest disappointments I've ever had in racing," said co-owner Joe Bellino. "It was definitely a bitter pill to swallow." Muscle Network set a world record as a two-year-old when he won the International Stallion Stake at Lexington in 1:53.2. He ended his season with an upset victory in the $494,750 Valley Victory over Nuncio, who would go on to win two-thirds of the Trotting Triple Crown last year. "He's probably the best trotter I've ever owned by far," continued Bellino. "We really thought that he would be one of the top three three-year-olds last season." Unfortunately, things did not go as planned. Muscle Network suffered through a series of nagging injuries and underwent surgical procedures on his knees. He made only three starts and earned $5,580. After spending the winter in Florida with trainer Ake Svanstedt, Muscle Network appears to be headed in the right direction. He qualified twice at the Meadowlands, including a second-place finish last week behind the top trotter Melady's Monet. "We were all very, very happy with his qualifiers," explained Bellino. "He's huge, he's muscular, and he's beautiful. He's a totally different horse than he was. Now, hopefully he races as good as he looks." Muscle Network is now trained by Tony O'Sullivan, who was also the trainer during his two-year-old season. Muscle Network has been made eligible to most of the sport's top trotting races, including the TVG Free For All Series and premier four-year-old restricted races including The Graduate Series and Hambletonian Maturity. Friday's 13-race card also features a pair of carryovers in the Jackpot Super High 5 wagers. The fifth race carryover has grown to $87,136 and the thirteenth race carryover sits at $58,172. Justin Horowitz

Freehold, NJ --- Joe Bellino was uncertain whether newly acquired pacer Polak A would be competitive in the George Morton Levy Memorial Pacing Series, but he made the Australian 7-year-old eligible for the harness racing event before the horse ever set foot in the country. After watching Polak A win his first two starts in the series, Bellino is enjoying the decision. “I had a feeling,” Bellino said about Polak A, who was purchased for an undisclosed amount two months ago and is owned in partnership by Bellino, F Bellino & Sons LLC, and Frank Bellino. “Before we got him, I told my wife to make him eligible to the Levy. I made that payment just on a hope. “I figured if he does well I look like a genius -- which is usually never said with my name. I’ve been called a lot, but never a genius.” Last week, Polak A fought off challenges from multiple-stakes-winners Michael’s Power and Foiled Again to capture his Levy division by a neck in 1:52.4. In the opening round, Polak A won by a neck over Take It Back Terry in 1:52. “I would have been happy with hitting the board, or a fourth or a fifth, just to know we could go with them,” Bellino said about last week’s race against Michael’s Power and Foiled Again. “But once he’s on the front, he’s hard to get past. He’ll let people get to his eye, but he doesn’t like to be passed. That’s what’s most impressive.” Polak A, who arrived in the U.S. in mid-February, is a son of Pacific Fella-Capture A Million and won 17 of 75 races and $219,652 in Australia. The horse is named after Richard Polak, who was a promising junior driver in Australia before suffering severe injuries in a training accident in 2007. Polak was in a coma for several months and is now confined to a wheelchair. Polak co-owned Polak A’s full brother Schinzig Buller, who was a Group One winner in Australia. Polak A is trained by Tony O’Sullivan, who is a native of New Zealand. “Tony always wanted some horses from where he’s from, down in Australia and New Zealand,” Bellino said. “I liked (Polak A) a lot when I saw his replays, and Tony liked him a lot. Both of us liked him a lot, so we took a shot. We were hoping he was going to be an open horse, or a high non-winners (condition). Tony is just doing a great job with him. He got him acclimated to America, which is very hard from what I hear.” Bellino recently bought another pacer from Down Under, New Zealand-bred Reuben Brogden, but for now is focused on Polak A. On Saturday, the horse is in the third of four Levy divisions and will again face Foiled Again and Michael’s Power. Polak A is tied with fellow series unbeatens P H Supercam and Beach Memories for the top spot in the Levy standings. The six-week event concludes April 25. “He’s going to race this week and we’ll probably give him next week off and see how it goes from there,” Bellino said. “He’s a workhorse. People seem to like him. He’s something new. We’ve been lucky.” by Ken Weingartner, Harness Racing Communications   

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