The 2010 Hambletonian went to post a wide-open affair, with three different elim winners vying for the role of favorite. At the wire, Muscle Massive, beaten a half-length in his $70,000 Hambletonian elim by Pilgrims Taj, turned that same half length measure to his favor, prevailing over Lucky Chucky in the second fastest clocking in Hambo history.
Trainer Jimmy Takter score his second Hambletonian victory with the blue-blooded colt sired by 1998 Hambletonian winner Muscles Yankee. "This is a race everyone dreams of winning," said a jubilant Takter post-race. "I always had faith he could win it."
Driver Ron Pierce shared that same faith, turning in a sharp steer as he guided Muscle Massive through a perfect tour of the one-mile Meadowlands oval. "I knew when he warmed up nobody could beat him," said Pierce. "He was so good scoring down I knew it was up to me to get the job done driving."
Pierce go the job done in textbook fashion, zipping out of the gate at the start to drop in the two hole, then letting the race unfold as elim winner Cassis and Tim Tetrick cut fractions of :27.1 and :54.3. When race favorite Lucky Chucky and John Campbell went on the attack approaching the last turn, Pierce had Muscle Massive perfectly poised to pursue them. Lucky Chucky seized the lead from Cassis with three-quarter pole time unwinding in 1:22.2 and Pierce slipped out from behind the fading Cassis, drafting behind Lucky Chucky as Campbell geared him up to sprint away in the stretch. It was at that point that Pierce made his move, counting on Muscle Massive to run down Lucky Chucky in the straightaway. Pierce took dead aim on Lucky Chucky's two length lead and let his colt roll, wearing down Lucky Chucky till Muscle Massive surged to the front a mere 50 feet from the wire. Wishing Stone closed well for third with George Brennan in the bike.
A Hambletonian victory is a stand-alone triumph in a career, let alone on the day. For Jimmy Takter it was the crown jewel in a day where he started nine horses, won three races and took home $1.1 million in purses. For driver Ron Pierce it was Hambletonian win number 3, following a 1993 wine with American Winner and Donato Hanover's 2007 victory.
The Muscle Massive ownership group was comprised of four Canadians and two Swedes, all standing in Hambletonian victory lane for the first time - most on their first try! Marvin Katz, Al Libfeld and Sam Goldband, (brothers-in-law) and business partners respectively) have long shared ownership on race horses and one of the finest trotting broodmare bands in the sport. They won the 2008 Hambletonian Oaks with Creamy Mimi, and were second in the 2002 edition with Duke of York.
"Muscle Massive was a joy to be involved with," Libfeld said. "From purchasing him for the highest price two years ago, to his successful three-year-old season, capped off with the thrilling Hambo win." Louis Camara teamed up with Takter in 2006 on the top pacing filly Ambro Dancer but experienced his first Hambletonian winner with Muscle Massive (he also shared ownership on On The Tab, who was ninth). Stefan Balaczi (Order By Stable) and Anders Agerup (Brixton Medical AB), both Swedish natives, were making their first start in a race that is sought after by trotting enthusiasts around the globe.