Lexington, KY — Muscles Yankee (Valley Victory-Maiden Yankee), the Hambletonian champion of 1998 and among the greatest trotting stallions in history, passed away peacefully in his paddock at Perretti Farms on Mother’s Day (Sunday, May 10), it was reported by Nicola Abrams, manager of the still existing Cream Ridge, N.J., farm.
Muscles Yankee, immortalized as the sire of the greatest trotter in his decade, Muscle Hill, won 15 of 21 starts at two and three and retired with earnings of $1,424,938.
A foal of 1995, Muscles Yankee was 25.
“I remember that when we got him he had OCDs taken out of his hocks…and when we x-rayed him, he still had OCDs in his hocks. So he had to be operated on again,” remembered Chuck Sylvester, who trained Muscles Yankee. “So he got a late start because of that. He never had a bad training day. He was always a horse that was ready to do his work and it came easy to him. He never had any problems. He was a horse that always wanted to please you.
“He was good gaited even though he had a dish foot in his right front. We always had to worry and work on that. But he was a very smart and very good horse. I knew that with the way he was built that he’d be a good sire. He was a good-sized Valley Victory, and never touched his boots or anything.”
Muscles Yankee was one of four Hambletonian victories for Sylvester, and one of six wins for driver John Campbell.
“He was exceptional,” said Campbell, currently the president of The Hambletonian Society. “I’ve always said it is hard to compare horses from one year to another, and they can only be compared to the ones they raced against. He certainly compared quite favorably his year.
“He had enough ability at the end of his 2-year-old year that he won some Grand Circuit races, but he got a little over-aggressive at the end of the year and that cost him some money and races. But I think certainly ability wise he was on par to be successful. He really matured both physically and mentally over the winter, and when he came back he was just a professional horse. And a very easy horse to drive. He certainly left his mark as a stallion, and that is going to show up for generations.
“I would have liked to have seen him come back as a 4-year-old because I think he would have been bigger and stronger. But the economics of him going to stud didn’t allow for that, and I certainly understand it. I think he would have proven himself even more so on the track had he had another year.”