Brian Sears Having The Time of His Life with Muscle Hill
TORONTO – Brian Sears is having the time of his life with 3-year-old trotting superstar Muscle Hill. The time, though, has almost passed too quickly.
On Saturday, Sears and Muscle Hill will attempt to complete a perfect season in the C$617,880 Breeders Crown at Woodbine Racetrack. Muscle Hill has won all 11 of his starts this year and 19 races in a row since losing his career debut by a neck in July 2008.
Along the way, Sears and the colt have captured numerous stakes, including the Hambletonian, Kentucky Futurity, Canadian Trotting Classic, World Trotting Derby and American-National. He could join Malabar Man (1996-97) and Mack Lobell (1986-87) as the only colt trotters to win the Breeders Crown at both ages 2 and 3.
Not that Sears is any stranger to handling success – he has won 17 Breeders Crown titles, good for fourth place in history – and was the driver of 2005 Horse of the Year Rocknroll Hanover.
“It’s flown by,” Sears said. “But I’ve enjoyed the experience with Muscle Hill even more than when I raced Rocknroll Hanover. I’m further along in my career and it’s just a little more comfortable situation, I guess. I can appreciate it and enjoy it while it’s going on.”
It can be challenging to live in the moment, yet also remain focused on the work at hand.
“First things first, it is a job,” Sears said. “There’s an expectation for me, so I can’t get caught up in the celebration like an owner does. That’s why sometimes I’m not as emotional as some people would think. But it’s great to win these races. It’s a nice relief, too.”
Sears and Muscle Hill have been so dominant thus far, winning by an average of four lengths during the 19-race win streak, that there can be pressure to live up to expectations. Sears is taking nothing for granted as he prepares for Saturday’s Breeders Crown.
“I just hope everything works out,” Sears said. “I hope the track agrees with him. When you’re shipping around all over the place, you have concerns. I have a lot of concerns. I definitely want to end on a good note. Hopefully, everything goes smoothly because it’s been an amazing year.
“I’ll be very delighted when it’s over, but there’s no question about the fact that I am going to miss him. He’s been such a great horse for me to drive and it’s an honor to be a part of this, to be associated with a horse that will be in the record books like he will be. He’s a really amazing horse.”
Part of what makes Muscle Hill so strong is his intelligence.
“I hope he passes that trait on to his offspring,” Sears said. “He’s a really smart horse. Some horses, they know what we’re trying to do, but they can only race one way – like off the pace. Muscle Hill has everything going for him as far as being able to race on the front or off the pace. He’s smart enough to know we can do it both ways.
“You don’t have to stress him every start. That’s what takes it toll on horses. When you have to max them out every start, you pay a price. When you can save them a little bit, you’ve got a little more meat on the bone.”
Never in the history of harness racing’s Horse of the Year voting, which began in 1947, has a trotter won the honor with an undefeated season. Muscle Hill is the No. 1 ranked horse in the sport’s weekly poll.
In addition, Sears is in position to join a select group – John Campbell, Ron Pierce, Mike Lachance, Bill O’Donnell, and Stanley Dancer – to be the regular driver of both a trotter and a pacer to earn Horse of the Year. Not that he is really interested in discussing history right now.
“I never like to get cocky or overconfident. I just want to get the job done,” Sears said. “Then we can talk all we want.”