Marion Marauder and Ariana G captured Saturday’s star-studded Maple Leaf Trot eliminations at Woodbine Mohawk Park. A total of 16 older trotters were entered in the eliminations and split into a pair of $40,000 eight horse fields. The top five finishers from each elimination punched their ticket to next Saturday’s $651,000 final, while eliminations winners also earned the right to select their post.
Marion Marauder surpassed $3 million (Can.) in career earnings with a 1:53.1 victory in the first elimination. Driven by Scott Zeron, Marion Marauder didn’t get off to the greatest of starts and got away fifth in the field of six. Pinkman left from the outside to claim the lead and posted a :27.2 opening quarter before slowing things down for a :57 opening half.
Crazy Wow came first up from fourth on the far turn, allowing Zeron to situate Marion Marauder second-over. Pinkman reached three-quarters in 1:25. In the stretch, Marion Marauder came off cover and powered by his rivals with ease to come home in :27.3 for the victory. Dancer Hall rallied from sixth with a strong final quarter to finish second, beat just a length.
The top five finishers were rounded out by Emoticon Hanover, Pinkman and Crazy Wow. The first elimination saw a pair of scratches, leaving only one horse (I Know My Chip) to be eliminated.
A 5-year-old son Muscle Hill, Marion Marauder entered Saturday’s contest a little less than $5,000 away from the $3 million (Can.) mark. The Mike Keeling and Paula Wellwood trainee is now five for eight this season and continues to add to his impressive resume.
"It's uncharted territory for us. I don't know how many there is but there isn't many," said Keeling about Marion Marauder’s earnings milestone. "He's just fun to race and fun to watch…you just kind of watch and go 'how does he get this done' but him and Scott just get along so well. It's been a great ride and I hope we get to keep going."
Marion Marauder’s victory Saturday was his 19th career score for owners Jean Wellwood and Devin Keeling. He paid $3.90 to win.
The second elimination saw Ariana G and driver David Miller breakthrough for a 1:52.4 score. Defending champion Hannelore Hanover did the work on the front, storming out to post opening fractions of :27.3 and :56.2. Ariana G angled out from fifth just after the half and made the long journey first-up to get into third and three-lengths from the lead at three-quarters.
Hannelore Hanover reached the third station in 1:24.2 and was ready for a stretch battle with Will Take Charge, who enjoyed a two-hole ride. However, the lead pair didn’t have the trot to fight off Ariana G. The Takter trainee powered up to defeat Will Take Charge by a neck, while Hannelore Hanover finished nearly three lengths back in third.
Guardian Angel As and Warrawee Roo grabbed the final two spots in next week’s final.
A 4-year-old daughter of Muscle Hill, Ariana G was teaming up with driver David Miller for the first time Saturday, which Miller noted was a breath of fresh air.
"For sure. I've raced against her for about three or four years now and she's one tough cookie," said Miller. "I thought this was a way tougher division. I raced her to get her into the final and she surprised me. She was loaded around the last turn and finished it off against two good horses."
Ariana G is four for eight this season and has earned $375,515. The world champion increases her career numbers to 25 wins and more $2.3 million earned for owner-breeders Marvin Katz and Al Libfeld.
A $2 win ticket on Ariana G returned $23.60.
The draw for next week’s $651,000 final took place following the elimination:
1. Crazy Wow
2. Dancer Hall
3. Marion Marauder
4. Ariana G
5. Will Take Charge
6. Warrawee Roo
7. Hannelore Hanover
8. Emoticon Hanover
9. Guardian Angel As
AE: I Know My Chip