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Hawthorne Racecourse (6/15/06)

Contact: DAK Productions
(708) 222-4540

Stafford Set to Flex His Muscles

Looks to Score Dygert Repeat with Muscles Marinara

The Gandolfo Stables and Lenny Zelin’s Muscles Marinara finished fifth in last year’s Dygert elims, barely making the Final. He pulled off the upset at odds of 30-1, legitimizing himself as a trotter to be reckoned with on the national scene.

This year’s elim was a different story. He won for fun, and now rolls into the Dygert as the odds-on favorite to defend his title. We caught up with trainer Paul Stafford.

Q: Why is this horse so good at Hawthorne?

A: It’s not the track, it’s just a timing issue. He’s in good form right now. He hurt himself in the fall, we gave him the time off, and then brought him back. He’s just a tremendous specimen. He’s one of the best looking horses I’ve ever been around. He’s got a real nice gait and really likes his job. People tell us all the time how good he looks. He’s always looked the part, and last year the mental part of racing finally caught up to his physical ability.

Q: How do you feel about drawing the nine post?

A: You never like to draw on the outside, but he can come from off of it as well as race on the lead, so it’s not a huge concern. We’re not sure what the plan is or exactly how the race is going to set up. We do know he can go either way.

Q: Was defending your title in the Dygert part of your plan all along?

A: Absolutely. We’ve been pointing for this race. You never know who will show up, but we know he likes this track, and the surface has been in really good shape all meet. He has had things really easy in his two starts here. Two starts back he got a :31 second quarter and stole it, and last week, he got an easy lead again. Basically, he’s been kind of lucky to get cheap fractions. We’ll see a different scenario on Saturday. If we go to the lead, I’m sure they’ll come at us harder and it will be a true test.

Q: Who do you fear most?

A: Dunkster is a legitimate trotter, and if Dink Adoo gets the right setup, he can trot home really fast.

Q: If he races well, and comes out of it in good shape, what are the short-term goals?

A: We’ll take him back out East, with the Breeders’ Crown in mind. Then we’ll bring him back here for the American Nationals (elims on Aug. 19 at Balmoral).

Hawthorne’s spring 2006 Standardbred meet runs May 6 through June 17 with live racing six days per week – Tuesday through Sunday. Post time is 7:20 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and 6:30 p.m. on Sunday.

Hawthorne’s fall 2006 Thoroughbred meet runs September 15 through December 31 with live racing five days per week: Wednesday through Sunday. Post time is 1:10 p.m.

Hawthorne’s spring 2006 Thoroughbred meet ran February 24 through May 2.

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