Marion Marauder survives in Yonkers Trot and Racing Hill succeeds in Messenger Stakes

by Kim French

Despite a spectacular steer by Dan Daley and Smalltownthrowdown tossing down the gauntlet, Hambletonian victor and 1-5 favorite Marion Marauder withstood the late heroics of that rival to win the second jewel in the Trotting Triple Crown, the $500,000 Yonkers Trot, by a diminishing head in 1:56.1 on Saturday (Sept. 3) at Yonkers Raceway. After a valiant first-over effort, Lagerfeld followed that duo home in third.

“Last week (in the elimination) we were unchallenged in the lane and he trotted harder to the wire, but he’s been racing hard since the Hambo,” said reinsman Scott Zeron in the winner’s circle. “It turned into a sprint the last eighth of a mile and he put on a show. All hats off to him to stick his nose out in front. These great horses get the victories and I’m just the pilot. I’m just glad to be part of it.”

Marion Marauder (No. 4) held off Smalltownthrowdown by a head to win the Yonkers Trot.

Leaving from post four, the son of Muscle Hill-Spellbound Hanover was quarter-moved by Zeron to inherit the lead from Smalltownthrowdown with the first fraction of the 62nd edition of this trotting classic flashing on the timer in :29. Daley, who also conditions small track specialist Smalltownthrowdown, was content to sit in the pocket behind Marion Marauder throughout the first quarters of this journey around the Yonkers Raceway oval.

The Hambletonian winner set rather leisurely fractions of :58.3 and 1:27.4 with a distance of 1-1/2 lengths between himself and Smalltownthrowdown at the top of the lane. While the other five members of the field appeared outdistanced and convinced that Marion Marauder would assert command on his way to the wire, Lagerfeld and Mark MacDonald pulled from third position to come first over.

While Lagerfeld was never allowed to clear and the son of Yankee Glide was safely held at bay, he trotted very gamely to apply light pressure through the stretch, as Daley and Smalltownthrowdown stepped towards the inside to launch a furious bid for victory.

Those witnessing the contest surely had an anxious moment as Smalldownthrowdown nearly dethroned the champion, but Zeron confidently handled Marion Marauder and the colt collected his eighth win from 10 seasonal starts and his ninth lifetime triumph. He has banked $1,124,905 in 2016 and $1,406,891 lifetime.

Owned by Marion Wellwood and Devin Keeling, Marion Marauder is conditioned by Wellwood’s daughter Paula and her husband Mike Keeling. He paid $2.40 to his backers, with the exacta providing $5.70 and the trifecta $24.40.

The colt is not nominated to the Kentucky Futurity, the final gem in the Triple Crown, but his connections still retain lofty goals for the rest of the season.

“It has been fantastic and tonight is another little bit of icing on the cake,” Mike Keeling said after the trophy presentation. “I thought he looked strong going into the last turn and it looked like maybe he did get a hold of the track in the last turn, but he has a lot of grit.

“That is a big stretch for a 3-year-old (when asked about entering the Yonkers International Trot, with a bid forthcoming thanks to the Yonkers Trot triumph), going against older horses. The Canadian Trotting Classic is very important to us and the Breeders Crown. If we put something in between those it would take a lot of convincing (on any other stakes race), but we will talk about it.”

Immediately after Marion Marauder was on his way back to the barn, it was Racing Hill’s turn to add a classic victory to his resume. Tom Hill’s homebred son of Roll With Joe-Chasing Ideals was the overwhelming 1-9 favorite against six foes after Manny was a late scratch in the $500,000 Messenger Stakes, the second event in the Pacing Triple Crown, but like Marion Marauder, his victory was not as resounding as those witnessing the contest had anticipated.

Mike Lizzi photos
Racing Hill was a 1:53 winner in the Messenger Stakes.

“He was very good tonight,” said his regular reinsman, Brett Miller. “The first turn got a little tight. Once I moved him to the front, he felt very good. Most of the time the real good horses can get around any size track.

“This is a very nice colt. He has a great gait to him and he’s extremely fast. He has all the tools and has always been professional since I first sat behind him as a 2-year-old. He also has the ability of his quickness and his ability to go the next quarter slow, then he can finish fast. That is probably his strong suit.”

Commencing his journey from post three, Miller employed tactics similar to Zeron’s in the previous race on the card, as he moved his horse from third onto the lead near the quarter marker, overhauling his stablemate Dr. J Hanover.

From there, Miller and the Adios winner paced around the half-mile track in fractions of :56 and 1:25 after a :27.3 opening first fraction, with Racing Hill’s lead never extending beyond two lengths. Despite the final surges of 30-1 Stonebridge Beach and Daniel Dube, as well as Zeron behind Dr J Hanover, Racing Hill repelled their advances to stop the clock in 1:53 and post a 1-1/4 length triumph.

Conditioned by Tony Alagna, the colt collected his fifth win of the season to establish a stellar seasonal slate of 11-5-5-1, eclipsed the $1 million mark in money earned in 2016 and paid $2.10 to those who supported him at the windows.

Alagna minced no words when discussing what he thought of his sophomore stable star.

“He has been a godsend,” he said. “When he won his first lifetime start at the Meadowlands he came from an impossible spot when he was driven by Randy Waples. He has a phenomenal pedigree and comes from one of the oldest foundation females of Brittany Farms.

“He was stuck with a bad hip number in the sale, but I talked to the Hills and I told them to watch him because I liked him. That is when they bought him back. He’s always been very good but did hit a bit of a rough patch before the North America Cup, but has been on a tear since.”

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