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Marion Marauder Ready To Rock

Published: June 10, 2017 1:15 pm ET

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After a three-year-old campaign consisting of 10 wins over 15 starts, earnings exceeding $1.5-million and titles in the Yonkers Trot, Hambletonian, and Kentucky Futurity to complete the Trotting Triple Crown, Marion Marauder makes his return to racing as a four-year-old on Sunday, June 11 at Tioga Downs in the second of two divisions for the Graduate series.

“Paula and I are just pleased to have him because he’s just a special animal to be around,” said Mike Keeling, who trains Marion Marauder with his wife Paula Wellwood. “The easiest-toughest decision to make in the world was last November when we had to decide whether to pursue the stallion career or race him as a four-year-old. The idea of bringing him back was always in the back of our minds.”

Marion Marauder’s last race as a three-year-old was in the $500,000 Breeders Crown Three-Year-Old Trot, where he finished tenth after parking part of the mile, back on October 29. While his sophomore campaign concluded here, he continued to make headlines over the winter months -- winning the U.S. Trotter of the Year, coming back to the track instead of standing stud and winning Three-Year-Old Trotter of the Year honours in Canada and the U.S.

“He’s thickened up since he was three,” Keeling said. “It’s hard to put a number on it but he’s probably 150-200 pounds heavier; he broadened up quite a bit, didn’t get much taller. He’s pretty much the same horse -- a happy horse that likes to do his work. It’s been fun bringing him back because it almost feels like déjà vu. He goes from level to level and he’s almost predictable about what he’s expecting and wants to do next. He does his work, but when we brought him to Mohawk to go fast miles you could see his demeanor change -- he knew what was coming and he was excited about it.”

Because Marion Marauder, a horse by Muscle Hill from the Donerail mare Spellbound Hanover, has not changed much from his three to four-year-old seasons, Keeling continues to train him as he did when he was three.

“He kind of lets me know when it’s time to move on; he’s quite a fun horse to train that way,” Keeling said.

Leading up to his debut on Sunday, Marion Marauder qualified twice, going 1:56.1 and 1:54.2 respectively, with his most recent qualifier being June 2 at Mohawk.

“He’s hard to put those fast, fast miles on without having someone either prompting him or chasing him,” Keeling said. “I wanted to go [1]:56 in our first qualifier and [1]:54 in our second one because I knew he was going to be all on his own. And he did it with not a lot of stretch and was very comfortable. Racing’s a whole different thing from qualifying —- he’s going to compete regardless; he’s fit and ready.”

Keeling and Wellwood initially felt that Marion Marauder would miss the Graduate series entirely. However, as he was qualifying, Keeling knew he would be ready for the third leg.

“We want to race him against four-year-olds as much as we possibly can,” Keeling said. “That’s only a couple of times before he will have to go into open company.

“You always have concerns when it comes to bringing horses to new tracks,” Keeling also said. “Regardless, it’s the nature of a trainer to worry about things he cannot control. He’s an honest horse, and he’s so good to his gait that I think he’ll be fine.”

Marion Marauder is listed as the 2-1 morning-line second choice to Dayson, who was established the favourite at 9-5, and will face four other trotters.

Marion Maurauder clinches the 2016 Triple Crown with his Kentucky Futurity win

“I always think he can win; he’s a competitor,” Keeling said. “The short field is a nice bonus just for that fact that if he doesn’t get off well off the gate, he won’t be like 15 lengths off but probably more like five lengths. A good scenario I think.”

Aside from his endeavours against exclusively four-year-old competition, Marion Marauder is staked to “pretty much every open stakes race,” Keeling said, which includes the Maple Leaf Trot, Centaur Trotting Classic, and the Breeders Crown.

“We have a schedule in mind and we’re trying to stick to it, but there’s always room for movement and deviation,” Keeling said. “If he races well Sunday and, the way I read the rules, he can get himself into the Graduate final, realistically that’d be his next start unless we can find him an Open race either up here [at Mohawk] or at the Meadowlands. The goal Sunday is to compete and try to get ourselves into the Graduate final.”

Graduate Leg - Tioga Downs - June 11
1. Marion Marauder (Scott Zeron - Paula Wellwood) - 2-1
2. Dayson (Yannick Gingras - Ron Burke) - 9-5
3. Cufflink Hanover (Jason Bartlett - John Butenschoen) - 6-1
4. Waitlifter K (Brett Miller - Paul Reid) - 6-1
5. Dia Monde (Jody Jamieson - Tom Durand) - 8-1
6. Hill Of A Colt (Doug McNair - Gregg McNair) - 10-1

(A Trot Insider Exclusive by Ray Cotolo)

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