by John Furgele
He is back and last week was not a fluke. Those are the two stories you can take from the Sunday racing action at Tioga Downs as three Grand Circuit races were contested at the Southern Tier racing oval; two $50,000 races for trotters and a $75,000 one for pacers.
Marion Marauder, the 2016 Trotting Triple Crown winner prevailed in a field of six, taking the $50,000 graduate race in his 2017 debut. Driven by regular driver Scot Zeron, MM sat fourth through panels of 28.2 and 57. When they hit three-quarters in 1:25.1, he was third and then, showing his championship pedigree surged home to win in 1:52.4.
Last year, MM won all three races that make up the Trotting Triple Crown; the Hambletonian, the Yonkers Trot and then in the shadow of the wire, the Kentucky Futurity. With that resume, most head to the breeding shed, but MM is back for another run as a four-year old, and that is good for those who love racing.
In the other Graduate trot, Trolley prevailed in a tight one, nipping Tight Lines in 1:52.1.
Last week, Dr. J Hanover went north of the border to Mohawk and ran a startling 1:46.4 to nip Boston Red Rocks. These two hooked up again over the 5/8 mile track and just like last week, they did not disappoint. The Doctor got to the lead and cut solid fractions of 26.3 and 54.4. The third quarter was the blazer as Doctor J Hanover ripped a 26.1 as they hit the three-quarter mark in 1:21.1 en route to a final clocking of 1:48.3, a tremendous time on a 5/8 mile track. Boston Red Rocks was right there, 1/10 second back for the second straight week.
So, as we head to summer, the schedule begins to take shape. Before long, Wiggleit Jiggle It will be back in action and the heavy hitters will be vying for the big stakes money. In the winter many of the big dogs are resting, readying themselves for the big races this summer and fall.
Speaking of big races, the inaugural Spirit of Massachusetts Trot saw 38 nominations for its Friday, July 28 race. This is a free-for-all and as you’d expect, many big names have been nominated. They include Marion Marauder, Charlie Hill Memorial Trot winner Crazy Wow, runner-up Obrigado, 2016 International Trot winner Resolve, Trolley, and of course many more. At $250,000, the SOM figures to be a race that many more will shoot for going forward.
Yonkers returns from a two plus week hiatus with 12 races on Friday and 12 more on Saturday. The big news is that the finish line has been moved back 30 feet. This will encourage more movement at the start and should help horses that draw the 7 and 8 posts. The old finish line was right near the turn which made things difficult to say the least and almost impossible for a horse on the far outside to triumph.
The big race of the spring takes place on Saturday with the $1 million Pepsi North America Cup in Canada at Mohawk. It’s a spectacular night of racing with several six figure purse races in addition to the Cup. The big one is for 3-year-old pacers and should attract a nice crowd at venerable Mohawk.
The Woodbine Entertainment Group, owners of Mohawk and Woodbine Racetracks made a major announcement today; they will move all harness racing to Mohawk. The track will undergo a $10 million refurbishment to winterize operations to accommodate year-round racing and will be re-branded as Woodbine at Mohawk Park. This is a good move for all; Mohawk becomes the “harness racing place,” and Woodbine can focus entirely on the thoroughbreds. The Woodbine name is a significant one in horse racing and attaching it to Mohawk looks like a winner to me.