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A Colt That Can Go The Distance

Published: July 15, 2016 5:29 pm ET

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There’s really no other way to put it. Scott Zeron is optimistic when it comes to driving Marion Marauder.

The Canadian-based trotter drew post six in his $153,250 division of Saturday’s (July 16) Stanley Dancer Memorial for three-year-old male trotters at the Meadowlands Racetrack and will not have to contend with Hambletonian favourite Southwind Frank, who is in the opposite division. Marion Marauder finished second to Southwind Frank four times last season.

Marion Marauder is the 5-2 morning line favourite in his Dancer division, with Jimmy Takter-trained Bar Hopping the 3-1 second choice from post nine in the 11-horse field that will go 1-1/8 miles.

“I think the Stanley Dancer looks great,” Zeron said of the prep race for the $1 million Hambletonian on Aug. 6 at the Meadowlands. “He couldn’t be coming into the race any better. Last week when we were just in an overnight to make sure he got prepped for the Dancer, he finished guns a blazin’, splitting horses. I didn’t have to pull the earplugs and he was as strong as he’s ever been going across the wire. I’m excited, and he’s lightly raced so he’s fresh.”

Marion Marauder has won three of four races this year, including the Goodtimes Stakes at Mohawk Racetrack on June 18. A week ago, he started from post nine in a three-year-old open at the Meadowlands and stormed home from last place in :26.3 to finish second-placed-first when Jack Vernon made a break and was eventually placed ninth.

Owned by (Marion) Jean Wellwood and Devin Keeling and trained by Mike Keeling & Paula Wellwood, Marion Marauder has won four of 17 career races and earned $404,862. As a two-year-old, he won once in 13 starts but finished second five times and third three times.

“Last year he had a few quirks,” Zeron said. “He didn’t like going up to the gate. If he did, you had to follow another horse and then slide him onto the gate at the last second. So that was the main reason we never positioned him in a winnable spot last year. He was always a little too far back. We did what we had to do with the quirks we were working with.”

Those issues have been resolved this year, not to mention the fact that Marion Marauder has gotten substantially bigger.

“I don’t usually see a big difference from (ages) two to three,” Zeron said. “Not a lot of them get a lot of size and mass to them like I’ve seen him do this year. That’s going to be a great thing, we’re going to need that for two heats in the Hambo.”

Since the Stanley Dancer attracted 11 starters in each division, it will be contested at 1-1/8 miles rather than the traditional one-mile distance. That added distance is another reason Zeron feels good about his horse.

“I think it helps me,” said Zeron, who leads all drivers at the Meadowlands in wins with 70 this year. “If he was a stone cold frontrunner I think it’d be terrible. But the fact that my horse likes coming off the pace, it’s good. The further he goes in the mile, the better he picks up his speed. It’s better suited to me.

“Obviously having trailers is never a good thing but I’m perfectly fine with the extra eighth. I’m not worried about it being harder for him to win. I feel like it’s a little easier for him to win.”

Of course, it’s not like Zeron would complain if Marion Marauder got out front.

“But so far I like him a little bit better following the helmet,” he added. “I almost feel like he slowly starts to build up his speed the further in the mile he goes. His last quarter is always going to be his best quarter.”

Zeron has driven Marion Marauder in eight of his career starts, including second-place finishes to Southwind Frank in last year’s William Wellwood Memorial and Breeders Crown.

“So far the trips have been working out,” Zeron said. “We’re being patient with him, trying to have him in the right situation heading home, and he’ll always give you everything he’s got. It’s always nice driving a trotter who’s good gaited, well mannered and lets me do whatever I want with him. He’s very easy for me to drive.”

As for not getting another shot at Southwind Frank in the Stanley Dancer, Zeron is not complaining. He hopes it will materialize a few weeks down the road. Southwind Frank, trained by Ron Burke and driven by Yannick Gingras, is the 6-5 morning line favourite in the first of the two Dancer divisions.

“Any time you can miss one of the favourites, it’s good for all of us,” he said. “To beat Southwind Frank, if we have to do it on Hambo Day than that’s the time we’ll try to do it. But it’s perfectly fine he’s in a separate division. By the same token, my horse isn’t a frontrunner. I’m not saying he can’t do it, but horses like Southwind Frank, when they’re in a race they push it and that’s always a good thing.”

It seems everything about Marion Marauder is a good thing where Zeron is concerned.

“He’s given me no inkling as to why he would be not capable of winning (on Saturday) and I feel like he’s only gotten that much better every start he’s raced this year,” he said. “The extra eighth should be suited for him. Everything is prepping into solid form for the Hambo and I’m excited about it.”

It’s not hard to tell.


This story courtesy of Harness Racing Communications, a division of the U.S. Trotting Association. For more information, visit www.ustrotting.com.


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