EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - The stretch drive of the $1.5 million Hambletonian for three-year-old trotters unfolded in slow motion for winning trainer Jimmy Takter.
It only took Canadian-owned Muscle Massive 28 2/5 seconds to edge past Lucky Chucky, the 3-2 favourite for a half-length victory. For Takter, it went on much longer.
"All my feelings were gone. It felt like that last quarter of a mile took five minutes for me," Takter said.
It was well worth the wait.
Takter got his second win in the trotting classic. Driver Ron Pierce got his third Hambletonian victory.
Muscle Massive is co-owned by Louie Camara of Puslinch, Ont., and Marvin Katz, Al Libfield and Sam Goldband, all of Pickering, Ont.
The time was 1:51 for the one mile, the second fastest in the 85-year history of the stakes. Muscle Hill set the mark of 1:50 1/5 last year.
Muscle Massive got his fourth victory in eight starts this season. It was his sixth win in 14 career races.
Lucky Chucky, driven by John Campbell of Ailsa Craig, Ont., took charge turning for home and appeared on his way to victory. Pierce, who had Muscle Massive sitting second behind the pacesetting Cassis, angled off the pylons as soon as Lucky Chucky cleared the lead.
Once unleashed, Muscle Massive kicked into high gear to reel in Lucky Chucky for its biggest career win.
Campbell was attempting to extend his record for most Hambletonian wins to seven.
"I have never seen the horse as good," Pierce said of the pre-race warmup. "I remember Jimmy telling me last year he was pointing to this race.
"The trip worked out, and he did the rest. My colt was loaded. Jimmy had him ready to go."
Takter, whose previous winner was Malabar Man in 1997, had faith in Muscle Massive from the start.
"I loved him from the beginning," Takter said. "He had some mishaps at two and got hurt.
"We've been very patient with him, and he really showed that he's a unique animal."
Takter had three horses in the field, all with Canadian connections. Hard Livin, co-owned by Toronto's John Fielding and driven by Yannick Gingras of Sorel, Que., was seventh; On The Tab, co-owned by Fielding and Camara and driven by Daniel Dube of Trois-Rivieres, Que., finished ninth.
Muscle Massive paid $15, $5.80 and $5. Lucky Chucky returned $3.40 and $2.80. Wishing Stone paid $5.80 to show.
Bar Slide, the 3-1 second choice, captured the $750,000 Hambletonian Oaks, the companion event for 3-year-old trotting fillies.
Tim Tetrick sent Bar Slide to the lead with a decisive move on the final turn. Trained by Joe Holloway, Bar Slide held off Ultimate Cameron by 1 1/2 lengths with Springtime Volo third. She paid $8.40 to win. The time was 1:53 4/5.
Poof She's Gone, last year's two-year-old champion trotting filly and even-money favourite in the Oaks, skipped off stride turning for home and finished seventh.