Joe Marsh Jr., 82, dies

from the USTA Communications Department

Columbus, OH — Joe Marsh Jr., 82, one of the top drivers from the “glory days” of harness racing, died peacefully on July 27, 2016, after a long illness.

Joe Marsh Jr. died at the age of 82.

Born on June 20, 1934, at Cadiz, Ohio, Mr. Marsh followed in the footsteps of his father, beginning as a groom in 1952, and entering the driving ranks in 1959, when he batted .316 against all other North American drivers, placing him 12th in the nation.

He soon became one of the leading drivers on the continent, competing at Roosevelt, Yonkers, Liberty Bell, Washington Park, Hazel Park, Wolverine, The Meadows, Sportsman’s Park, Maywood, Aurora Downs and Hollywood Park.

Mr. Marsh and his son Ron share membership in the “5,000 win club” as the only father-son driving team in harness racing history to achieve that elite status.

Mr. Marsh drove 5,882 winners to the tune of $36,401,271, and also had the longest streak (35 years) of driving at least 100 winners per season, from 1960 through 1994. From 1978-1992 he also had consecutive $1 million-plus seasons.

Mr. Marsh also held the distinction of being the first American driver to win the World Driving Championship in 1974. He also represented the U.S. in 1973, 1975 and 1987, and over the years won driving titles in Illinois, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Michigan. In fact, he won nine consecutive driving titles at all Chicago area racetracks from 1971 through 1973, and as a result of that was voted 1973 Horseman of the Year by Harness Horsemen International.

Besides steering racehorses in California, Florida, New York, New Jersey, Illinois, Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, he drove in Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Europe. In 1972 and 1973 Mr. Marsh finished second to Herve Filion in North American dash wins, and was also voted Chicago Driver of the Year in 1972.

Mr. Marsh captured numerous stakes races, and trained and/or drove some of the top horses in the country in some of harness racing’s major events for five decades. He won seven American-National events and finished third in the Little Brown Jug once.

Some of his top horses included Careless Time, Tarport Hap, Sir Dalrae, Follow That Star, Rambling Willie, Jiffy Boy and Pacific Dream.

“Joe was a very good friend of mine and was at the very top of the list of great drivers,” said USTA President Phil Langley. “Were he in his prime today, he’d rank right up there with Yannick, Brian, Tim, Dave and other top drivers.

“I had the good fortune to go to Europe with him in the World Driving Championship and also to see him race a good part of his career in Chicago. He drove and trained a lot of very good horses including the excellent mare Glad Rags.”

Mr. Marsh was preceded in death by his wife, Marge; and is survived by his sisters, Donna Dusseau and Patricia Snide; sons, Ronnie, Ed (Maureen), Robert (Niki) and Dan; daughter, Susie (Jay) Litchfield; grandchildren, Deadra, Brad, Ryan, Tara, Chris, Frankie, Eric and Adam; and great-grandchildren, Brooke, Brandon, Mackenzie, Eddie, Logan and Cadence.

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