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Making His Mark At Woodbine

Scorpion-Moon.jpg

Published: January 13, 2009 4:39 pm ET

Last Comment: February 8, 2009 11:17 pm ET | 8 Comment(s) | Jump to Comments

When 26-year-old Josh Marks packed up his bags and moved to Toronto in December, his friends all told him he was insane.

But the young driver with the big ambitions had an inkling of what he was in for. His birthplace, after all, was Smiths Falls, Ontario, and though he’d been a U.S. resident from the age of three, he wasn’t a complete stranger to Canadian conditions.

And he had a couple of good reasons for setting his sights on the Ontario circuit. The first was that he and his girlfriend, trainer Tracy Brainard, had designs on the superior purses in the province, and the right horses to take a serious shot.

And the second, in Marks’s words, was this: “The only way to get to be the best, is to race with the best. Some of the best drivers in the world are at Woodbine.”

A third-generation horseman whose father, Arnold, is still actively training and racing at New York ovals such as Vernon Downs, Saratoga, and Batavia, Marks cut his teeth as a linesman at the tender age of 14, when he entered and won an amateur race at Goshen racetrack. By 16, he was qualifying horses, and by 18 he was driving professionally, both for his dad and for other conditioners.

“I just always wanted to do it,” says Marks of his predilection for piloting. “It might be an adrenaline junkie thing.”

He enjoyed a career season in 2007, breaking the million-dollar mark in purse earnings for the first time, and scoring 198 victories, 140 seconds, and 116 thirds in 876 starts, for a UDR of .358, mostly on the half-mile oval at Yonkers Raceway. Though he picks up the odd catch-drive, Marks has concentrated on steering Brainard’s horses since partnering with her in 2006 and enticing the 32-year-old Binghamton, New York native -- also a third-generation horseperson -- back into racing after a brief detour into the real estate trade.

Brainard’s fortunes have also soared. In 2008, she sent out her first Breeders Crown starters: the black two-year-old pacing filly, Hawaiian Drink (I Am A Fool--B Passionate) and the two-year-old pacing colt, If I Can Dream (Western Hanover--Arterra), both owned by Bulletproof Enterprises of Boca Raton, Florida.

Hawaiian Drink, who also captured the Three Diamonds final at Mohawk in 2008, as well as a division of the Matron Stakes at Dover Downs in a new lifetime mark of 1:51.3, cruised to a front-end victory in her Breeders Crown elimination at the Meadowlands in November, installing herself as the 2-1 morning line favourite for the final. Unfortunately she couldn’t deliver on the big day, finishing seventh, but If I Can Dream, who was fourth in his elimination, did grab a cheque in his division when he finished fifth to Well Said and Art Colony.

Old hands George Brennan and Brian Sears did the steering for Brainard on Breeders Crown night, but Marks says now that he’s in Toronto, the pair have set their sights firmly on the 2009 Pepsi North America Cup. If I Can Dream is one candidate for the $1.5 million dash, and they have another in Schoolkids, another offspring of I Am A Fool who has earned over $212,000 thus far, including a win in the Bluegrass Stakes last fall.

Marks and Brainard made the move to the Acton, Ontario Ideal Training Centre on December 1, with 20 horses, and Marks has rarely missed a racing night at Woodbine since. “It’s tough here,” he admits. “It’s much harder in terms of strategy. At the little tracks, you can make a mistake and recover from it.

“Here, they’ll eat you for lunch.

“The first couple times behind the gate, I felt pretty lost. It’s definitely making me up my game, though,” he adds. “There are so many talented drivers here. I really watch Mark MacDonald and Jody Jamieson, in particular. I think I can learn a lot from them.”

One of the best horses in Brainard’s lineup right now is eight-year-old trotter Scorpion Moon, who impressed many on January 3 when he thrust a nose in front of veteran stars Please Poppy and Abbey Road C, to capture the opening round of the Glorys Comet series at Woodbine. San Pail got past the son of Armbro Scorpion in the second leg on January 10, but Scorpion Moon is regarded as a serious threat for the upcoming $90,000 final on January 17.

“Yeah, I couldn’t feel my hands for about five hours after that night in the first leg,” said Marks enthusiastically.

As he acclimates, however, expect Josh Marks to continue to make his mark in the Woodbine driver’s colony, among the best of the best.

(WEG)

February 8, 2009 - 11:17 pmKeep up the good work Ace

Anonymous (not verified) SAID...

Keep up the good work Ace and dont forget us little people!!

January 15, 2009 - 5:10 pmJosh kick some butt! You as

Anonymous (not verified) SAID...

Josh kick some butt! You as good as any driver at Woodbine!

January 14, 2009 - 12:45 pmyes, good point, the

Anonymous (not verified) SAID...

yes, good point, the regulars in the colony could do with some shaking up.

January 14, 2009 - 10:29 amGreat article on Josh and

John (not verified) SAID...

Great article on Josh and Tracy , best of luck racing in 2009.

January 14, 2009 - 7:12 amGOOD LUCK,MR MARKS,I will

Anonymous (not verified) SAID...

GOOD LUCK,MR MARKS,I will try you on a couple of horses,your numbers look great. THE BEST TO YOU AND BRAINARD.

January 13, 2009 - 10:05 pmforget those that are

lil ralph (not verified) SAID...

forget those that are envious and be the best you can and have fun doing it all the best josh

January 13, 2009 - 8:25 pmi thought that the Ontario

Anonymous (not verified) SAID...

i thought that the Ontario Government brought slots in to help the Ontario horseman not to have everone flock to Ontario. Enough is enough time to look after the Ontario Horseman and the Ontario Breeders.

January 13, 2009 - 7:26 pmSo happy to see a new face

Anonymous (not verified) SAID...

So happy to see a new face in the driver's colony.
Someone who's ambitious and does not appear timid in his appraoach.

He could help shake up the regulars in the colony.

Go go, Mr. Marks.


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