courtesy Standardbred Canada
Canada's representative for the 2017 International Trot has been confirmed, and Trot Insider has learned that the representative is virtually trotting 'royalty'.
Marion Marauder, the 2016 Triple Crown winner will carry the Canadian flag into the 2017 International Trot, slated for October 14 at Yonkers Raceway.
"We knew his name was being floated about," trainer Mike Keeling told Trot Insider on Wednesday. "They reached out the end of last week and we had to see how he trained and he seems to be over his sickness. We're pretty pleased with where he's at."
The sickness Keeling refers to came to light after the horse's off the board finish in the 2017 Maple Leaf Trot eliminations. Following favoured Resolve second over, Marion Marauder failed to fire off cover and finished an uncharacteristic eighth. Keeling confirmed the horse came out of that race with sickness, requiring treatment and a change of plans.
"We gave him an entire week completely off of exercise, just turnout. He had a respiratory ailment, mostly inflammation of the lungs. It was allergy and sickness-related. So we gave him time off the track, that's the best thing you can do...jogged him back a week, trained him Saturday at Mohawk and he trained really, really well."
Given the race is more than two weeks away, Keeling was hoping to get a solid tightener in before the International Trot in the form of a start this week.
"We entered him for the Preferred [at Mohawk Racetrack] that was scheduled to go Friday, and they obviously didn't fill it so that was a bit disappointing as we probably need to get him behind the gate once between now and then so it looks like we'll probably end up qualifying him Tuesday.
"We had fully intended to take him to Lexington; that was always our plan. We knew the International Trot might come up but we didn't plan on it. Once it became a reality, the Lexington idea just seemed like too much travel and it probably put him in a position of racing four weeks in a row and travelling from the midwest to the East coast and back to the midwest for the Breeders Crown. We always try to do what's right for him and this seems like the right move."
The four-year-old son of Muscle Hill raced twice at Yonkers last year, winning both his elim and final of the Yonkers Trot. In three lifetime starts at longer distances, he's won two and finished second (to 2016 International Trot winner Resolve) in the other. Keeling feels the mile-and-a-quarter distance will play to his horse's strengths.
"I train him distances so he's very used to it and never shies away from it. As always with a half-mile track there are lots of other variables that come into play but I think if he's healthy he'll make a fine account of himself."
Keeling and the connections -- co-trainer Paula Wellwood, driver Scott Zeron and owners Devin Keeling and Jean Wellwood -- will also serve as strong ambassadors of Canadian harness racing in this global invitational event. The privilege of representing Canada isn't lost on longtime horseman Keeling.
"That went into a lot of our decision making. When we got the official invite and sat and thought about it, we said we'd be foolish not to. It's a million-dollar purse, of course. I've had some other friends in [the International Trot], and they had nothing but great things to say about Yonkers and the people behind it and how they treat you.
"The opportunity to represent your country is always pretty exciting and might never come back. We thought he deserves the opportunity, and it's an honour. Once we thought about everything, it seemed like a pretty easy decision."
Marion Marauder (Muscle Hill - Spellbound Hanover) sports a summary of 14-9-4 in 35 lifetime starts, with earnings exceeding $2.36 million.
The field for the million-dollar Yonkers International Trot at Empire City Casino is nearing completion. According to race secretary Steve Starr, nine of the 10 places behind the starting gate for the Saturday afternoon, Oct. 14th, mile-and-a-quarter classic have been finalized. They are, alphabetically with country of representation:
Marion Marauder (Canada)
Midnight Hour (Finland)
Oasis Bi (Italy)
On Track Piraten (Sweden)
Resolve (USA, defending champion)
Shadow Woodland (Finland)
Tripolini VP (Denmark)
Twister Bi (Italy)
Starr indicated the final invite shall go to an American in the next couple of days. Starr also said the fields for the pair of $250,000 Invitationals (Dan Rooney Pace and Harry Harvey Trot), are also about confirmed, with both races announced shortly.
Those races, plus the $1.8 million New York ‘Day’ of Champions (eight NYSS finals at $225,000 each), comprise the $3.3 million program the richest harness racing program ever in the Empire State.
First post for the 11-race, all-stakes card is 1:00 p.m.
Marion Marauder winning the 2016 Yonkers Trot on his way to capturing the Trotting Triple Crown
Saturday, October 14, 2017