by Rich Fisher
As Hambletonian winner Marion Marauder prepares for Saturday’s (Sept. 3) $500,000 Yonkers Trot for 3-year-old trotters at Yonkers Raceway — the second jewel in the Trotting Triple Crown — trainer Paula Wellwood feels the horse is set in his ways.
That’s great when it comes to being on the track, as Marion Marauder has won seven of nine starts this season, including this past Saturday’s Yonkers Trot elimination in his small-track debut.
“He just been his normal self,” Wellwood said. “He came into the race good and was well in hand the other night. He’s sharp, he’s healthy, he’s happy. There’s really no change in him. He’s the same horse, and you don’t want any changes. He just stays the same every day.”
In the stable, however, it can lead to a few issues.
“He’s a very smart horse and he figures things out pretty quick,” the Canadian trainer said. “If something’s not right he lets you know immediately. One day I mixed his food wrong and he just spit it out like a kid who would spit his food out back at you!
“I was trying to stand in there, I went to put the tub in and he just looked at me, and he went ‘Bleaaahh!’ all over my hand, literally like a kid spitting out something they don’t like. I threw it out, changed it and he ate everything.”
|Mike Lizzi photo|
|Marion Marauder was a 1:56.2 winner in the Yonkers Trot elimination.|
Wellwood, who trains Marion Marauder with her husband Mike Keeling, is not about to upset the routine. If Marion Marauder wants to be pampered a little more, so be it.
“The only thing I can say is different is maybe the horse is a little more spoiled,” Wellwood said. “He likes what he does, he really has a set routine and he seems to be thriving on it more than anything. It’s just a little bit of attitude he’s got, like ‘Don’t screw this up.’
“He kind of acts up a little bit at times. He’s a little more pushy and he probably should be put more in line, but I don’t do that. He deserves whatever he wants to do. He’s so set in his routine, he has a solid routine and it just seems to be agreeing with him.”
Wellwood is unsure if Marion Marauder is aware of just what he has accomplished this year, especially winning the Hambletonian. That being said, he has gotten an attitude boost from his feats this season. The colt, owned by family members Marion Jean Wellwood and Devin Keeling, has earned $874,905 this year with his other victories including the Goodtimes Stakes and a division of the Stanley Dancer Memorial.
“He’s pretty confident in himself, I will say that,” Wellwood said. “I don’t know if he knows or not, but it seems like the more big races he wins, he seems a little more pushy. He’s got lots of confidence too. He’s brimming with it, which happens. That happens with human athletes, they just get more and more confident and that’s kind of what he’s like.”
Driver Scott Zeron has been confident in Marion Marauder throughout the season and has not been afraid to share that confidence publicly when entering a race. Wellwood takes the opposite tact. Despite the fact she “couldn’t be more pleased,” with Marion Marauder drawing the No. 4 post Saturday, the trainer isn’t about to handicap the race.
“I leave that totally up to Scott,” she said. “I don’t like to predict how it will go. I’m kind of superstitious that way.”
She will say, however, that the horse is racing as well as he has all year.
“He’s so professional now,” Wellwood said. “Scott says you can do anything with him. Whatever he asks him to do he does. So I think he’s just more adept. In the race he’s very focused and he takes it serious and wants to do the best he can. That’s how I would describe him.”
An interesting sidebar to this race is that if Marion Marauder wins he is not staked to the final leg of the Triple Crown, the Kentucky Futurity at Lexington’s Red Mile. To do so, the horse’s owners would have to pay a substantial supplement fee.
Will it happen?
“It’s probably doubtful, and we’d have no regrets,” Wellwood said. “We mapped out a schedule and we don’t usually take them to Lexington to race. Things could always change but I would have to say we’re just going to stick with our main plan. He goes back to Canada after this and then he’s off to the Breeders Crown, so he has a big break, which I feel is a well-deserved break.”
And while Wellwood is not completely ruling out the Futurity, her overall concern is for Marion Marauder’s well-being.
“It’s all about whatever is good for the horse,” she said. “That comes absolutely first. We’re not going to say never, but he’s still got hurdles to overcome. So you don’t know. You can never predict anything.”
Following is the field for the Yonkers Trot and you can make your pick in the $100,000 Grand Circuit Challenge before 7pm EST on Saturday September 3, 2016.
$500,000 Yonkers Trot
3-year-old male trotters
Race 8/Post 9:30 p.m. (EDT)
1. Iron Mine Bucky–George Dennis–Greg Haverstick–12/1
2. Celebrity Express–John Campbell–Staffan Lind–20/1
3. Smalltownthrowdown–Dan Daley–Dan Daley–7/2
4. Marion Marauder–Scott Zeron–Paula Wellwood–1/1
5. Lagerfeld–Mark MacDonald–Jimmy Takter–7/1
6. Steed–Brian Sears–Richard Johnson–20/1
7. Hititoutofthepark–Corey Callahan–John Butenschoen–20/1
8. Cufflink Hanover–Jason Bartlett–Chris Oakes–7/1