Profile: Scott Zeron

Grand Slam

story by Ashley Mayotte

Resilience and determination central to Scott Zeron’s blockbuster 2023

Scott Zeron’s journey to a $10 million season in 2023 wasn’t just about the impressive races he won, but the intricate dance between determination, talent and the unforeseen twists that gave him an even deeper appreciation for the sport he has dedicated his life to.

“Surreal” was how Zeron described his 2023 driving campaign.

“It’s hard to absorb it as it’s happening,” he said. “When things are just going well and momentum’s high, you just ride the wave—you just have the confidence that it’s going to keep going well. And when it does, it’s a little surreal.”

 

Very few drivers have had seasons that have unfolded with the sheer thrill and victory-filled exhilaration that Zeron experienced last year. The Canadian-born driver, who relocated to the U.S. just over a decade ago, surpassed $10 million in single-season earnings for the first time.

Helping him earn that milestone were wins in four major races: the North America Cup and Little Brown Jug with the Linda Toscano-trained It’s My Show, and the Hambletonian and Breeders Crown 3-Year-Old Colt and Gelding Trot with Nancy Takter pupil Tactical Approach. Also worth mentioning was his win in the Jugette with Ucandoit Blue Chip, also conditioned by Toscano.

Zeron admitted it can be challenging to reflect on some of those exhilarating trips to the winner’s circle in the moment, given the intense hustle and bustle of the Grand Circuit schedule.

“Every day, there’s a stakes race somewhere. It’s whether or not you partake in it,” he explained. “To absorb some of those big major Saturday night wins, it’s a quick turnover to Sunday afternoon at Tioga; it’s a planes, trains and automobiles situation.”

To celebrate the year, Zeron, an avid golfer and fan, took a trip to the Bahamas to watch Tiger Woods play in the Hero World Challenge. The well deserved break allowed him to recharge and finally reflect on a year where he won 215 races and accumulated $10,063,089 in purses.

“$10 million felt a little out of reach sometimes,” admitted Zeron. “You don’t plan on it; you just put your head down and grind. It means a lot to me…it was something I hadn’t achieved yet.”

 

While it might not be obvious,the lingering impact of a racing accident Zeron sustained in 2023 at Pocono Downs at Mohegan Pennsylvania became an underlying factor that influenced last year’s campaign.

Rewinding to July 26, 2022: When Zeron’s mount, Java, a 3-year-old pacing filly, fell in the sixth race, it resulted in the reinsman sustaining a three-inch crack in his pelvis and a small wrist fracture, forcing him to sit out August and September. Having to miss most of the 2022 summer stakes season meant Zeron was faced with a more sudden adjustment to a heavier racing schedule in 2023.

“Kentucky has really ramped up their program and has taken up a lot of the summer—Sundays, Mondays, Tuesdays,” Zeron explained. “I didn’t experience a full year of just being constantly on the go the way I had to do [in 2023]. It was something that I had to adapt to.”

Zeron’s injury also reshaped his perspective on racing and fostered a renewed sense of gratitude for the nights in the winner’s circle. It was also a catalyst for a remarkable comeback and a season that defied expectations.

“When you get injured—especially at the start of stakes season—and don’t make it back to the end of stakes season, you realize what you take for granted on a daily basis,” he said.

“It changed how I view racing in general; it changed the gratitude I have for when things are going well. When you hold the trophies up in the winner’s circle, people don’t realize how much work went into getting to that point. And, obviously, a lot of luck is involved as well. I am just grateful to have the year I had.”

The 34-year-old driver also attributes his banner year to the overwhelming support he received both during and after his injury—support which seamlessly flowed into 2023.

“You don’t realize how much of an impact you make on some people,” he said. “I was pleasantly surprised by the support I had while I was injured and then following the
injury.”

One notable gesture of support came from Takter, who entrusted Zeron with the reins of the talented Treacherous Dragon in the 2022 Breeders Crown for 3-year-old pacing fillies. Zeron steered the daughter of Captaintreacherous to a neck victory in 1:49.1. The triumph served as a springboard for Zeron, which was further elevated by his longstanding relationship with Toscano.

“Linda’s barn really elevated me early on in the year and just got that momentum started, and it carried on,” he said. “That was a ripple effect of picking up a lot of better clients, better horses, and things were just flowing. From start to finish, it was a really good flow.”

 

As the exhilarating wave of victories carried him through the eventful 2023 campaign, Zeron found himself within a whirlwind of unforgettable moments, each holding its unique significance.

Topping his list of victories is the Little Brown Jug with It’s My Show.

“The race went so smoothly,” Zeron reminisced, his voice filled with satisfaction. “Everything was picture perfect. He tried every ounce that he could and got up, and it was an extremely exhilarating feeling crossing the wire there.”

Notably, It’s My Show also delivered Zeron his most challenging win of the session in his favorite race—the North America Cup, a contest the reinsman holds in high esteem.

“If you’re going to win that race, it’s going to be against all the best horses because it’s at the beginning of the year where everybody’s on an equal playing field, being the freshest they are—
nobody’s tired at that point,” Zeron explained. “It was so tough because you had to be in the top two (in the elimination) to (be guaranteed to) make the final. Everyone who made it was by far deserving of being in that race, but it also made it overly competitive.”

Throughout the race, the pressure was intense. Brett Pelling pupil Confederate and driver Tim Tetrick were relentless, but It’s My Show persevered to triumph by a head in 1:47.4.

“We worked for that win,” Zeron said.

Yet, it was the unexpected victory of Tactical Approach in the Hambletonian that took Zeron by surprise.

“I thought the odds were against us in every which way,” he said. “That one was an exciting finish because it was a major surprise—not based on his inability to win; it was just based on the way that race was going to set up, and the fact that the odds were heavily stacked against us winning it.”

Another significant moment for Zeron was a personal one, involving his girlfriend, Megan Scran. Scran had been campaigning a horse named Tactical Mounds for TheStable.ca, and the trotting filly earned her biggest triumph in the $275,000 New Jersey Classic with Zeron in the bike.

“That one was meaningful,” he said. “A lot of times I’m just a catch-driver. But that one, I was there to support her and help elevate her career as well.”

 

Looking ahead, Zeron is eager to keep the momentum going by targeting another $10 million season. He knows it’s an ambitious goal, but is undeterred. He is also acutely aware that winning the North America Cup, Little Brown Jug, Hambletonian and a Breeders Crown in the same season is a unique feat.

“If you’re in golf, I won all the majors,” he quipped. “To say that I would try to replicate that is a reach. It’s too much to ask for. It’s about staying healthy. If I show up and I am able to race every night, good things will happen. I’ll just work hard.”

In a sport where victories are measured in fractions of a second and success is quantified by numbers, dollars and trophies, there are moments when personal growth, the support you garner, and the companionship you share elevate the meaning of winning. As the curtain fell on this extraordinary chapter for Zeron, one thing remains clear: he emerges not just as a driver who conquered the sport’s biggest stage and amassed impressive earnings, but as a testament to resilience, adaptability and gratitude. HB

 

Ashley Mayotte is a freelance writer living in Ontario. To comment on this story, email us at readerforum@ustrotting.com.

 

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