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Book Review

On The Muscle - A Year Inside a Thoroughbred Racing Stable
from Pony Highway Productions
DVD, 3 hours

Ever wonder just how much work goes into getting a horse ready to race? This new DVD will take you inside trainer Richard Mandella's barn and show you exactly what goes on behind the scenes in a top racing stable. Covering the year of 2002, you get to follow such quality horses as Redattore, The Tin Man, and Pleasantly Perfect through the highs and lows of their careers. This DVD includes three one hour segments in chronological order, culminating in the Breeders' Cup at Arlington Park. The very end takes you forwards to the 2003 Breeders' Cup at Santa Anita where Mandella achieved the amazing feat of winning four races. This is a very interesting and beautiful DVD that will educate fans about how much work, heart break, and luck go into making champion race horses while entertaining them at the same time.

Everything about running the stable and caring for the horses is covered here, including footage from two different operations. You get to meet the vets, farriers, grooms, exercise riders, and other people who handle the horses day to day see how much they really do care about them. It is amazing to see just how fragile these huge animals are and how one little thing can keep a horse sidelined for weeks if not months. Redattore was a perfect example of this with continuing foot problems and then getting in the van healthy to ship to a race and arriving there with a 103 degree temperature for no good reason.

Pleasantly Perfect starts in the video as a maiden who just doesn't seem to want to win and ends up a Breeders' Cup Classic winner in 2003. He might have been able to win in 2002 if he hadn't bled when winning the Goodwood which kept him from racing at Arlington due to their rules about bleeding. It was funny to watch Mandella talking to him in his stall at that point telling him "You'll win that Classic next year," knowing he actually did.

Other equine stars on the video include Kudos, Cagney, Ile de France, Brisquette, Listen Indy, and many more. Emotions run from the highest of highs after a win to the lowest of lows when a horse gets ill or needs surgery. You not only get to see the training of the top horses, but the schooling of the 2-year-olds fresh off the farm, turning them into race horses and getting that first win. Watching the strategy behind their training and how he teaches them to go between horses and settle down to be serious racers is very interesting.

This video is a must see for any racing fan just so they will understand what goes on behind the scenes and how much work and time it takes to bring that two minutes of race they get to watch and wager on. It will definitely make you appreciate the horses and the people who take care of them much more and I highly recommend it.

On The Muscle is available direct from Pony Highway Productions or from Russell Meerdink Co. for $30.00. There are some clips from the video available here.

Rating:     5/5

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