Sweden Gets Up In Time

Cuzado Dela Noche wins the 40th International Trot

by John Furgele, Harness Racing 228

That’s why you race.  For all the talk of absolutes, in sports there really is no such thing and yesterday’s 40th International Trot at Yonkers Raceway proved this to us all once again.  Dismissed at 30-1, Cruzado Dela Noche scored the huge upset.  His time of 2:24.2 was well off  Twister Bi’s 2:22.1 set last year, but as Jerry Riordan told me after last year’s Trot, “Time only matters when you’re in jail.”

The race showed why harness racing is overlooked and underappreciated in today’s very crowded sports landscape.  It also proved that 1 ¼ mile races at Yonkers often have more action and drama than those that go one mile.

After a clean start, Pastore Bob and Ringostarr Treb made early breaks, but the other eight trotters were not affected as Arazi Boko took them through the quarter in 28.2.  Marion Marauder, the 2016 Trotting Triple Crown winner took them through the half with Lionel, who had a perfect trip, right there with him.  Those two kept at it through three-quarters, but by the mile Marion Maruader was showing signs of weakening while Lionel hung tough.  The eventual winner moved to the two path and eventually swung out three wide as they made the turn into the stretch.

In the stretch, it was two-horse race between the pesky and stubborn Lionel and the hard-charging Cruzado and in the end, the Swedish entrant was able to get there first with Brian Sears in the bike for trainer Marcus Melander.

Melander was surprised at the win and admitted that he wasn’t sure his horse, who hadn’t raced in over two months was ready to compete at such a high level.

“We had two qualifiers at Pocono, but those aren’t real races,” Melander said.  “I guess he was in real shape.”

And, even though he hadn’t raced and had to run 1 ¼ miles, that was the least of the trainer’s concerns.

“We train our horses a lot – long miles and intervals, Melander said,  he’s used to a mile and a quarter from Sweden, so the distance was actually the least of my concerns today.  That was never among my concerns, no.”

Had the race been a mile, Melander would have worried, but today, no horse was stronger in that extra quarter than the new champion.

The colt began his career in North America and it looks like the Breeders Crown will be next up.  After that, who knows?  The colt has qualified for stud duty, but could be racing again in 2019.

For those who think harness racing is boring and caters to favorites in single file racing, I implore you to watch the reply of this race and the Harry Harvey Invitational Trot (won in stirring fashion by Wawaroo Roo) as well.  The International Trot saw lots of excitement.  There were breakers, horses parked two and three wide and several lead changes.  Second place finisher Lionel ran the most consistently, but probably wished the race was one mile, or perhaps 1 1/8 miles.  That said, the colt ran a magnificent race and was, as they say, second best.  Still, that second place finish earned the 8-year old, $250,000.

The International Trot has now been run four times since being revived back in 2015 and this edition was its most dramatic in that time.  There wasn’t one horse who was able to run away and anytime you get a stirring stretch time, you can’t really ask for more.

This was also the last International Trot for Tim Rooney, who earlier this year, sold the track and the Empire City Casino to MGM Resorts.  Here’s hoping those from MGM took this race in and saw how exciting it was. The International Trot is set perfectly on the second Saturday in October.  The only thing we ask of MGM is more hype and promotion going forward, something that company excels at.

To do that, all they really have to do is show the last quarter mile of the 2018 edition.

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