Harness Racing Weekly – 14 October 2009
By Michael Guerin
Todd Mitchell knows this season is not going to be as successful as his last.
But horses like Muscles Kiwi are going to ensure Mitchell still has plenty of highs ahead this season.
The talented trotter provided his Cambridge trainer with his first success of the season at Alexandra Park last Friday, winning like a horse who will one day work his way to open class.
And that makes him pretty close to being Mitchell’s stable star at the moment.
While he is best known for his freakish run of four New Zealand Cup-winning drives, Mitchell has also developed into a top-flight trainer.
His 36 wins last season saw him finish 10th on the national Trainers’ Premiership, an outstanding return considering he has few big spending owners and is not a major yearling sales player.
But Mitchell admits this season could fall well short of that number.
“We’ve sold quite a few of the racehorses, which is a good business for the owners but they are hard horses to replace.
“So I can’t see the stable having anywhere near as big a season this year.”
With a quieter start to the season, Muscles Kiwi’s win brought a smile to Mitchell’s face and you get the feeling it won’t be long before he repeats the victory.
Mitchell had gone into the race thinking he may be a race or two away from his peak after not having raced for 10 months.
“He has had two different injuries in the last year and the second one only showed up when he was ready to go again, so it set us back a long way with him.
“So after only having had two workouts I thought he might struggle to beat a horse like Isagoodlooking.”
But Muscles Kiwi showed great manners to get away, trail and when the passing lane presented itself he raced to a four-length win.
Still only a four-win trotter, the 5 year-old could be at least another year away from his peak and look an open class contender.
“I am not saying he will get there this season but I think he will make it there.
“And he is only young and hasn’t had that many starts (11), so he could improve a lot.”
Muscles Kiwi has developed during his time long break but his pure trotting blood is showing through – not only is he by Muscles Yankee, but out of a Pine Chip mare in Xena Hest.
“He only wears light aluminium shoes in front, although I have got very light toe weights on him at the moment.”
While Muscles Kiwi’s future lies at Alexandra Park, Mitchell admits with the structure of his team that finding travelling companions north for the trotter won’t be easy.
“It is getting even harder to win races up here at the moment, especially when we have a younger team.
“Bow Street Runner is ready to come back through and I want to get him sorted out this way around so he can race for the good money up here.
“And then we will have a few horses maybe better suited to the CD circuit when it starts up.”
As always at this time of the season, Mitchell starts to think of the New Zealand Cup and is still hoping to secure a drive in the race.
“I thought I was going to be on Tennis Ball at one stage but that doesn’t look like it is happening, but I might have another one I can get on.
“I’d love to be in it again.