Death, taxes and Marion Marauder

Ken Weingartner

Hightstown, NJ — To the list of certainties in this world, such as death and taxes, add Marion Marauder racing at The Meadowlands on Hambletonian Day.

Marion Marauder, a multiple Dan Patch Award-winner, makes his fifth consecutive Hambletonian Day appearance at The Big M on Saturday (Aug. 8) when he races in the $291,350 John Cashman Memorial for older trotters. The 7-year-old stallion won the 2018 Cashman and finished second in 2017.

Of course, his Hambletonian Day streak began in 2016 when he won both his elimination and the final of the Hambletonian Stakes. It was the first steps on his journey to sweeping the Trotting Triple Crown and being named Trotter of the Year.

Marion Marauder was the 2016 Hambletonian champion. USTA/Mark Hall photo.

“We’ve always said that if we thought he couldn’t compete we wouldn’t continue racing him,” said Mike Keeling, who shares training duties with wife Paula Wellwood. “He’s a special horse. He loves his job. I think he’s still competitive, I really do. We’re really hoping for a good Saturday. I’m sure he’ll make an account for himself.”

The Cashman is part of a stakes-filled card Saturday at The Meadowlands, highlighted by the $1 million Hambletonian for 3-year-old trotters and $600,000 Hambletonian Oaks for 3-year-old female trotters. The Hambletonian is the first jewel in the Trotting Triple Crown. CBS Sports Network will air a delayed one-hour broadcast of the Hambletonian from 6-7 p.m. (EDT) Saturday.

Racing begins at noon.

The Cashman features an 11-horse field going the standard distance of one mile. The race includes 2019 Cashman champ Crystal Fashion, 2018 Hambletonian winner Atlanta, and Gimpanzee, who is unbeaten in four starts this season. Gimpanzee is the 2-1 morning-line favorite followed by Atlanta at 3-1.

Marion Marauder, who starts from post three with driver Scott Zeron, is 6-1. The stallion heads to the race off a neck win over Don’t Let’em in 1:50.2 in a conditioned race at The Meadowlands on July 24. It was his first victory in four races this year. For his career, he has won 21 of 66 starts and $3.37 million for owners Jean Wellwood and Devin Keeling.

Marion Marauder heads to the Cashman off a neck win over Don’t Let’em in 1:50.2 in a conditioned race at The Meadowlands on July 24. Lisa photo.

“It was important for him to get position up close and get a chance to battle,” Keeling said of Marion Marauder’s most recent race. “The way they race nowadays really seems to hinder his abilities but he showed he’s still got a little fight left in him and given the chance to put his nose up front at the wire, he’ll do that.

“He hasn’t changed. He’s really the same horse. We just kind of have to change how we approach racing, I think. He can’t give up that six or seven lengths that he usually does and come charging. It just seems they can all sprint so much more. That’s probably the biggest thing, finding a way to have him a little closer to the leaders when they get rolling along. Otherwise, I think he’s a touch better than he was last year. He’s got no issues going into this race at all.”

Following is a look at some of the remaining stakes on Saturday’s card.

Race 2 – $90,525 Shady Daisy for 3-year-old female pacers

Reflect With Me, undefeated in three races this season for trainer Tony Alagna and driver Andy McCarthy, is the 4-5 morning-line favorite in a field of five. She brings a four-race win streak, which began with her triumph in her 2019 Breeders Crown final, to the race.

Race 3 – $166,550 Dr. John Steele Memorial for older female trotters

Manchego, coming off her world-record 1:49.3 win in the Spirit of Massachusetts on July 26 at Plainridge, is the 7-5 favorite for trainer Nancy Takter and driver Dexter Dunn. She has won four of five races this year and 10 of her last 12 (with two seconds). She captured the 2019 Steele in a stakes-record 1:50.

Plunge Blue Chip is the 5-2 second choice and When Dovescry, the 2019 Hambletonian Oaks winner, is 7-2.

Race 6 – $350,300 Jim Doherty Memorial for 2-year-old female trotters

Alter is the 3-1 favorite from post 10 for trainer Per Engblom and driver David Miller. She went off stride on the lead in her Doherty elimination, but won the New Jersey Sire Stakes title one start prior.

Elimination winners Darlene Hanover and Mazzarati are 7-2 and 5-1, respectively.

Race 7 – $229,660 Sam McKee Memorial for older male pacers

William R. Haughton Memorial winner Dancin Lou is the 3-1 favorite, with Brian Sears driving for trainer Tahnee Camilleri. Bettor’s Wish, the sport’s top-earning horse of 2019, is 7-2 and 2019 Breeders Crown champ American History is 9-2.

Race 8 – $319,000 Peter Haughton Memorial for 2-year-old male trotters

Elimination winner Plumville Prince is the 3-1 choice for driver Scott Zeron and trainer Rick Zeron. Venerate, who was third in the elim, is 7-2 and bye recipient Locatelli is 9-2.

Race 13 – $273,125 Cane Pace for 3-year-old pacers

The first jewel in the Pacing Triple Crown finds Meadowlands Pace winner Tall Dark Stranger the 6-5 favorite, with Yannick Gingras driving for Nancy Takter. Captain Kirk, who won last week’s Tompkins-Geers Stakes, is 4-1. Tall Dark Stranger, a returning Dan Patch Award winner, finished fourth from post 10 in the race, only his second loss in 13 career starts.

Race 15 – $177,100 Lady Liberty for older female pacers

Shartin N, the 2019 Horse of the Year, is the even-money favorite for trainer Jim King Jr. and driver Tim Tetrick. She is a two-time winner of the Lady Liberty and captured last year’s race in a world-record 1:46.4. Kissin In The Sand is the second choice at 4-1.

For complete entries for Saturday’s card at The Big M, click here.

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