The waiting is the hardest part. Not so much for Paula Wellwood, but for Marion Marauder.
Marion Marauder, a multiple Dan Patch Award recipient and 2016 Trotting Triple Crown winner, will make his seasonal debut Friday (June 14) in the third round of the Mr Muscleman Series at The Meadowlands.
Wellwood was in no hurry to get the 6-year-old stallion’s campaign underway, starting him this year nearly a month later than in 2018, but Marion Marauder looked full of himself and anxious to get going when he arrived at the Big M for his final qualifier last weekend.
“Yeah, he’s ready,” Wellwood said, laughing.
Marion Marauder, three stablemates, and Wellwood arrived in New Jersey from their Canadian base about a month ago. While the other horses raced, Marion Marauder waited.
“When we first got here, he really didn’t care,” Wellwood said. “But after we trained him a couple times and he went faster each time, he knew it was near time to go. When he sees the harness getting arranged (in the barn for a trip to the racetrack) he knows what’s going on. He’s thinking, maybe it’s my turn now.”
Marion Marauder faces eight foes in the $40,000 Mr Muscleman. The stallion, with regular driver Scott Zeron, will start from post nine and is 6-1 on the morning line. Guardian Angel As, the Maxie Lee Memorial winner, is the 3-1 favorite followed by Trolley (7-2), Cruzado Dela Noche (4-1), and Pinkman (5-1). Marion Marauder prepped for the race by winning his qualifier last Saturday in 1:53.1.
Last year, Marion Marauder won six of 14 races and earned $605,180. He finished no worse than second in his first 10 races, including victories in the Cleveland Trotting Classic and Cashman Memorial, but was no better than fourth in his final four.
“We are limiting his starts this year,” said Wellwood, who trains Marion Marauder for owners Marion Jean Wellwood, her mom, and Devin Keeling, her son. “He seems to like maybe a little less starts. We’ll let him tell us.”
By starting later, Marion Marauder missed the Cutler Memorial and Maxie Lee, but the bulk of the major stakes for older trotters are later in the year, particularly from late July through November.
“We know the heavy end is at the back (of the schedule),” Wellwood said. “That’s why we weren’t in any big rush.”
Wellwood, who shares training duties with husband Mike Keeling, said the stallion has continued to mature a bit physically, but little else has changed from last year to this year.
“I think he’s a little bit bigger, thicker, like in the girth and the shoulder,” Wellwood said. “His personality is the same, that doesn’t change.”
Marion Marauder has won 20 of 52 career starts and $3.14 million. His purse total ranks 10th among trotters in North American harness racing history.
“He doesn’t owe us anything so we kind of let him do what he wants,” Wellwood said. “It’s his world and we live in it.”
In addition to the third round of the Mr Muscleman, The Meadowlands hosts the third round of the Golden Receiver Series for older pacers. Highlator, who has won four races in a row including the first two legs of the Golden Receiver, is the 3-1 morning-line favorite from post eight.--By Ken Weingartner/USTA