Musical Rhythm Striking A Tone

Published: May 5, 2017 10:09 am EDT

Rolling into his five-year-old stakes season, Musical Rhythm prepares to return to The Meadowlands on Saturday, May 6 when he starts from post 10 in the $200,000 Arthur J. Cutler Memorial.

“I’m hoping he’s better this year; I think he is,” said trainer Ben Baillargeon. “He looks like he’s gotten bigger -- he has a big neck like a stud’s on him.”

Competing for Baillargeon and co-owners Santo Vena and Claude Hamel, the Cantab Hall son from the Valley Victory mare Musical Victory has won 21 races in 45 starts, amassing $466,208 in career earnings.

When asked what makes him such a great competitor, Baillargeon said, “Because he’s winning.”

“He’s got lots of speed,” Baillargeon also said. “He’s not that big of a horse -- he trots home fast for a piece.”

Out of 21 starts in 2016, Musical Rhythm raced at The Meadowlands four times. He finished fourth in a preliminary for the Graduate Series before winning the $250,000 final from post 10 at odds of 5-1. He followed that effort with a ninth-place finish after parking the first part of the mile from post nine in the $471,200 Hambletonian Maturity. And, in his last Meadowlands outing, he was second as the 9-5 favourite in the $75,000 Vincennes Invitational on Hambletonian Day.

“This is the fifth time I’m racing him at the Meadowlands, and it seems like he either races from the ten hole or the nine hole,” Baillargeon said. “He has to like the track for what he’s done there. I don’t know how he does it, but he’s still winning.”

Qualifying twice before making his pari-mutuel return, Musical Rhythm trotted miles of 1:58.3 and 1:55.1 before debuting with an off-the-pace rally to finish second in the Preferred at Mohawk on April 24.

“Mario [Baillargeon] did not have permission to leave with him,” Benoit said. “I wanted to put a start under his belt; I wanted to see what he was capable of doing, right now...I wanted to see if he was up to the task, and I think he is. It’s a long year, but he should go with the best. I’m pretty sure he can fly around in [1]:51 at the Meadowlands. Just you wait.”

Musical Rhythm will face eleven competitors going a mile-and-an-eighth, including 3-1 morning-line favourite Resolve, who starts from post five in his 2017 debut. Neighbouring Resolve are Crazy Wow, who recently qualified in 1:53.1 at the Meadowlands, and world-champion JL Cruze.

“With post 10 in a 12-horse field, I just hope he races good,” Baillargeon said. “This is a very tough task. With 12 horses there are not many options from the 10-hole; everyone will be trying to protect their position. I don’t want to overuse him -- I actually think I’ve over-raced him a bit; he never had a break between his three and four-year-old years. This year my main concern is trying to manage him.

“I would rather see him finish the mile strong than going backwards down the lane. This is only his second start, and we drew the ten hole, so we will have to deal with it. If we had the rail, we would be more willing to put him into the race and see what happens, but the outside in a ten-horse field will be tough. I would rather be in the grandstand and watch than be the driver.”

While Ben’s brother, Mario, is Musical Rhythm’s regular driver in Canada, he will pick up Mark MacDonald with Baillargeon’s original choice, Tim Tetrick, choosing to drive Maestro Blue Chip.

“I thought I had a shot at getting Tetrick if I would have drawn better, because he’s raced against this horse with Maestro Blue Chip and Crazshana and I’ve beaten both of those horses,” Baillargeon said. “But, Jim King Jr. and Jeff Bamond Jr., he drives lots of horses for them.

“I asked Mark MacDonald if he would be available to drive him, and he was going to be at the Meadowlands anyway.” That option might not be available for much longer as MacDonald was the regular driver of 2016 U.S. divisional champion Obrigado.

Aside from the Cutler, Baillargeon is preparing Musical Rhythm for a long stakes season.

“We pretty much have him staked to everything; the Cashman, the Charlie Hill at Scioto, the Breeders Crown, the TVG, Maple Leaf Trot.”

Here is the Cutler field in post order with drivers and trainers. The Cutler is Race 7 on Saturday’s Meadowlands card, with a 9:15 p.m. (estimated) post time.

(PP – Horse – Driver – Trainer)
1 – Centurion ATM – Brett Miller – Ake Svanstedt
2 – Crazshana – Andy Miller – Jeff Bamond Jr.
3 – Maestro Blue Chip – Tim Tetrick – Jim King Jr.
4 – Rubber Duck – Joe Bongiorno – Richard Johnson
5 – Resolve – Ake Svanstedt – Ake Svanstedt
6 – Crazy Wow – Yannick Gingras – Ron Burke
7 – JL Cruze – Corey Callahan – Eric Ell
8 – Rose Run Parker – Andrew McCarthy – Ron Burke
9 – Gural Hanover – Matt Kakaley – Ron Burke
10 – Musical Rhythm – Mark MacDonald – Benoit Baillargeon
11 – Windsun Revenge – Scott Zeron – Jeff Durham
12 – Muscle Diamond – John Campbell – Brett Bittle

Windsun Revenge and Muscle Diamond will start from the second tier.

(A Trot Insider Exclusive by Ray Cotolo)