Yonkers Raceway hosts $1 million International Trot
by John Furgele, Harness Racing 228
The Kentucky Derby is perhaps the most well-known race in the United States, if not the world. It’s the first Saturday in May; it gets attention and also gets very good TV ratings. But, it is a restricted race, for 3-year olds and because of that, a horse and its connections get one shot at immortality and the glory that goes with that.
On Saturday, a different race takes place at fabled Yonkers Raceway as the International Trot prepares for its annual renewal. The only thing this race has in common with the Derby—-both are run at 1 ¼ miles. Yonkers Raceway will never be confused with Churchill Downs and there won’t be 150,000 in attendance either. But, unlike the Derby, there will be a unique atmosphere come Saturday afternoon at Old Hilltop.
The International Trot is truly that as trotters from seven countries will be represented. Canada, USA, Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Italy and France all have horses entered in the $1 million race. Twister Bi (Italy) won last year’s edition and set a world record for 1 ¼ miles on a half mile track, when he ran 2:22.1. Marion Marauder, the 2016 Trotting Triple Crown winner finished second and unlike Twister Bi, “MM” is back to race in 2018.
That’s another quirk of the Trot. Yonkers Raceway is a half-mile oval, meaning the horses will tour it 2.5 times. Yes, that’s a lot of turns and for many North American horses, it’s a distance that’s rarely run. But, because trotters jog daily, most will have no trouble going that extra quarter-mile. And just because the race is long, don’t think it is set up for closers. Last year, Twister Bi was right near the front and ran the last ¾ mile all alone. In 2016, Oasis Bi wired the field to win in 2:23.1, which was the world record until his Italian counterpart shattered it.
This will also be the last International Trot under Rooney family ownership. Earlier this year, the family sold the track and Empire City Casino to MGM Resorts, and while the soon-to-be new owners have said all the right things, who knows if the International Trot will continue to be run. Will MGM Resorts come in and eliminate the high stakes races or will they continue to show the commitment that the Rooneys have? This is the same group that owns Northfield Park in suburban Cleveland and that’s a track that runs 220 days per year and has several high stakes races each year. Based on that, one would think that the International Trot should be around for years to come.
Ariana G will represent the United States. She was better in 2017 than she has been this year, but she still has 5 wins in 11 starts and has banked over $500,000 in earnings. Marion Marauder (Canada) brings his never-say-die attitude into the race. The ’16 Triple Crown winner is 4 for 6 this year with over $544,000 in earnings. And, unlike some, the added distance likely helps him.
The other Canadian entry is Will Take Charge. He has 9 wins in 21 starts and seems to be in top form. As for the others, I must be honest, they are unknown, but Italy has won the last two and foreign horses seem to take well to this event. The complete field:
- Marion Marauder Canada
- Up and Quick France
- Ariana G USA
- Ringostarr Treb Italy
- Pastore Bob Sweden
- Cruzado Dela Noche Sweden
- Will Take Charge Canada
- Arazi Boko Italy
- Lionel Norway
- Slide So Easy Denmark
In addition to this race, there are two $250,000 races; one for pacers, one for trotters. The Harry Harvey Invitational Trot features 10 horses going 1 ¼ miles with the headliner being Homicide Hunter and his $354,000 plus in earnings.
The Dan Rooney Pace is a one mile event with many of the Yonkers regulars in the field. These include Bit of Legend; Evenin of Pleasure, who won the Joe Gerrity Memorial at Saratoga in July; Always at My Place and Mach it So. They will be joined by two very interesting newbies. The first is the so-called “Wonder from Down Under,” the New Zealand bred Lazarus. Before coming stateside, he won over $289,000 and in five starts here has two wins and three seconds. The other horse of intrigue is McWicked. Arguably the best older pacer in training, he has done all his damage on longer tracks and based on past comments, I’m surprised he is trying things on a half-mile track. But, with the Breeders Crown just two weeks away at Pocono Downs’s 5/8 mile surface the connections might be using the Rooney to prepare him for the tighter turns that is short-track racing.
The 12-race card offers $1,796,400 in total purses, certainly nothing to sneeze at. It should be a good day for racing as the 2018 International Trot readies for another running.