Marion Marauder survives, Racing Hill thrives – Harness Racing Update (press release)

Marion Marauder (4, Scott Zeron) barely held off Smalltownthrowdown (Dan Daley) in the $500,000 Yonkers Trot. | Mike Lizzi

Sunday, September 04, 2016

The Hambletonian winner just hung on to win the Yonkers Trot on the same card in which Racing Hill won the Messenger.

by Bill Finley

YONKERS, NY ? The surprise Saturday night at Yonkers was not that Marion Marauder won the $500,000 Yonkers Trot. It was that he was pushed to the limit in a race most thought would turn out to be an uncontested layup for the three-year-old trotter.

Marion Marauder, the 1-10 favorite, was fully extended by second choice Smalltownthrowdown to win by a head. With the victory, the Hambletonian winner has now won two-thirds of the Trotting Triple Crown but his connections reiterated afterward that it is unlikely he will be supplemented into the final leg, the Kentucky Futurity.

The co-feature on the Yonkers card, the $500,000 Messenger, was also won by the heavy favorite as 1-20 choice Racing Hill scored an easy win over Stonebridge Beach and five other rivals.

Following his win in the Hambletonian, Marion Marauder couldn?t handle Southwind Frank in the Colonial at Pocono, but with that rival bypassing the Yonkers Trot, Marion Marauder (Muscle Hill?Spellbound Hanover) didn?t appear to have much in the way of competition in the Yonkers race. That was indeed the case a week earlier when he was a handy winner in the elims over Smalltownthrowdown.

Either Marion Marauder regressed a step or Smalltownthrowdown turned in the race of his life as this one was too close for comfort for the favorite.

With Scott Zeron driving, Marion Marauder settled into third early before a quick brush down the backstretch for the first time got him the lead. With a :29.3 first quarter and a half in :58.3, Marion Marauder seemed to be in the perfect spot to pull off a comfortable win. But Smalltownthrowdown, driven by trainer Dan Daley, was up to the challenge. He stayed in the pocket before angling inside in the stretch and just missed.

?I thought (Marion Marauder got beat, from where I was standing,? trainer Paula Wellwood said. ?I had a bad angle. If he had lost I wouldn?t have been upset because there are going to be times when he gets beat. A lot of people were saying he got it, but I wasn?t going to move until his number went up on the board. I never count anything until it is absolute.?


Zeron said Marion Marauder ?did not bring his A game? but he was also quick to credit Smalltownthrowdown.

?(Daley) has to be happy with way the way his horse raced and he gave me a great run,? Zeron said. ?Two steps after the wire his horse went right on by. I was surprised to see his horse race that impressively, but, at the same time, he has a nice horse.?

Zeron, one of the bright young stars of the game, has now won the Little Brown Jug, the Hambletonian and the Yonkers Trot in his first try.

?That?s great because if you?ve been in those races 20 times and haven?t gotten it done it will be back in your head every time you go out there,? he said.

Marion Marauder paid $2.40 and his time for the mile was 1:56.1.

Afterward, Daley said he wasn?t the least bit disappointed that he had lost as he was elated with his horse?s effort.

?I am really happy with my horse,? he said. ?They were walking up front and he rushed at him the last eighth. That was a good horse that beat us and I thought I was going to get him halfway down the lane because he was driving and running out a little. We were just a step or two too late.?

Marion Marauder will head home to Ontario and race next Saturday at Mohawk in the elims for the Canadian Trotting Classic. For now, that?s the only race Wellwood and her husband and co-trainer Mike Keeling are focused on. They know what would be at stake if they decide to go in the Kentucky Futurity, but it doesn?t appear that they will go for the Triple Crown sweep.

?It?s all about managing the horse and we?ve had a plan since last November with this horse,? Keeling said. ?So far it?s all gone ?According to Hoyle.? So we?re not going to mess around a whole lot. I?m not ruling it out the Kentucky Futurity. But it is somethingthat is on the back burner.?

Racing Hill has battled the best in his division all year long and never puts in a bad effort. But he came into the Messenger with six losses from 10 starts, four of them coming against either Betting Line or Control The Moment. With neither of those horses in the Messenger field, trainer Tony Alagna could not have found an easier $500,000 race for the homebred by Roll With Joe?Chasing Ideals. Unlike Marion Marauder, the pacer never had an anxious moment. Driver Brett Miller made his move on the backstretch going around the first time, seized the lead and never looked back.

Racing Hill paid $2.10 and went the mile in 1:53. He won by one-and-a-quarter lengths.

?He earned this,? Alagna said. ?When horses races as hard as he has all year and when they get in race like this and are 1-9 they deserve a little respect because they have earned it. It?s nice to see him not get punished.?

Betting Line, a winner in Ontario Sire Stakes action last night in his 10th straight triumph, may still be on top of the three-year-old male pacing division, but Alagna believes his horse can match up with anyone.

?I think he?s as good as any of them,? the trainer said. ?In the Meadowlands Pace, Brett (Miller couldn?t get his ear plugs out and the horse came surging late and just missed. He was just misfortunate that night. Betting Line is very sharp right now, but I think at some point if this if this horse is on his game he has a shot to beat him.?

Luck turns for Corstens and Awesome Rock –

Only 14 horses can run in next month?s weight-for-age championship of Australasia, but the race for a cherished Cox Plate spot is over for Awesome Rock following his dominant win in the Dato? Tan Chin Nam Stakes at Moonee Valley.

?We?ve got a golden ticket and we?re in,? co-trainer Troy Corstens declared after Awesome Rock ran away with the group 2 race that ensures its winner is free from the Cox Plate ballot.

Corstens admitted he and his father Leon were having trouble finding a group 1 spring goal that could boost the profile of their luckless entire, but now they are locked into a Cox Plate.

?You don?t knock back a chance to run in one of the best weight-for-age races in the world and so Dad and I will sit down tonight or in the next couple of days and work out how we get there,? Corstens said.

With his win, at the odds of $31, Awesome Rock has managed to throw off the tag of being one of Australia?s unluckiest horses. It was only in March of this year that Awesome Rock was the first horse home in the group 1 Australian Cup, only to lose the race in a controversial protest to Preferment.

?I really didn?t want to dwell on what happened to him in the Australian Cup and although this is not a group 1 race, it has softened the blow a bit,? Corstens said.

?We?ve always known the ability was there and even on Tuesday when he came here and worked with Mr Individual, I think Mr Individual looked to work better than him, but Awesome Rock seems to just save it for race day.?

Sharing in the pain of the Australian Cup was rider Stephen Baster, who described his demotion that day to second place as ?one of the greatest heartbreaks? he?s had on a racetrack.

?I really had my fingers crossed that he would come back bigger and better and we can erase what happened last autumn and he did that today,? Baster said.

The jockey admitted however that he was concerned coming into the race that Awesome Rock might be a little off his game.

?He?s just been a bit flat in his work over the past week but I reckon his last run at Caulfield might have affected him.

?He tries so hard and he got really tired over the last 50 metres so that might have been the reason he was feeling a little flat.?

Away from the winner, there were some great runs in the race with a view to the longer races later in the spring. The runner-up Real Love motored home from the rear of the field to show that she has lifted her game this spring and could be a genuine Cups contender.

The third-placed Set Square showed some of her form that saw her win the VRC Oaks two seasons ago when she too hit the line hard for third, just in front of the former Japanese galloper Tosen Stardom, who also closed late after getting too far back in the race.

The race favourite was The United States although he was never a winning chance despite catching the eye late, coming from second last on the home turn to finish sixth.

WATCH: Awesome Rock qualify for the Cox Plate

Luck turns for Corstens and Awesome Rock –

Street Outlaws star Justin Shearer is racing at the U.S. Nationals –

The line snaking from the roped off pit area and across the pit entrance road told the story. While there are 34 entries in the J&A Performance NHRA Pro Modified division, none had an autograph line like the one standing behind Justin Shearer’s pit area during first-day qualifying for the GM Performance NHRA U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis.

Shearer, best known as Big Chief on the Discovery Channel’s Street Outlaws reality show, made his NHRA debut this weekend; another move to bring more peace between the parties who have resolved a once adversarial relationship. Now the two work together with PSA spots to discourage illegal street racing.

Even when the NHRA threatened to pull the competition licenses of Street Outlaws participants, Shearer never wavered in the desire to play on their stage.

“I have envisioned this my whole life,” said Shearer. “I didn’t care what they said. I didn’t care if they took away my license. I don’t care if they hated what I did. I didn’t care if they hated who I was. Eventually, one day, I was gonna be a race car driver for a living in the NHRA. I’ve always known that.”

Fans line up to see Justin Shearer at the U.S. Nationals.

Fans line up to see Justin Shearer at the U.S. Nationals.

Marc Gewertz / NHRA

For NHRA, Shearer’s presence brings a measure of relativity to a younger audience; one which the sanctioning body has targeted aggressively in the last three years.

Shearer fits the bill, and it was no more evident than when he prepared his turbocharged Firebird for Friday’s qualifying. Parents stood in line with their young children and teenagers.

The trailer they stood behind was no 18-wheeler or high-end hauler. Instead, it was a 32-foot enclosed trailer similar to those at their local tracks pulled by a pick-up truck. There were no high dollar crew uniforms on those turning the wrenches.

Instead, they wore flat billed ballcaps, shirts and knee-high socks. Together they didn’t miss a beat as gangster rap music blared in the background.

“I’ve noticed two things,” Shearer said. “I’m the only Pro Mod out here with a 53-year-old factory engine, and I’m the only Pro Mod out here with what seems like 7,500 people behind my trailer. I don’t know if those two are related or not but I have noticed that for sure. I have noticed that there are a lot of people coming to see me race and I think it’s awesome. It sucks that I’m not competitive with this engine and combination but it’s really cool they came out to support me.”

For Shearer, the opportunity to race as a professional fulfills a lifelong dream. Just playing the game trumps winning the race this weekend.

“It’s my World Series,” Shearer admitted. “Right now it’s Yankees versus the Dodgers in the World Series, and I get to throw the first pitch. I was the first car down in Pro Mod, in the left lane, first car and I’m not gonna strike anybody out, but I’m out there on the field, and I get to throw the first pitch and to me that’s amazing. Amazing.”

Shearer’s 7.127 at 160.27 mph fell well short of the strike zone. It’s just part of the learning experience for Shearer, who is filling his experience banks with every investment he can including his first drag racing press conference.

Shearer was an open book, revealing untold details including the hoops he had to jump through for the NHRA’s Technical Department before he could step on the field.

“To make it through tech, I did stuff to my car I never thought I would do to a race car,” Shearer said.

One of those chores was adding carbon fiber brakes, a 16K investment he admitted, “I really didn’t have.”

On Shearer’s very first quarter-mile run, the parachute on his Pontiac failed to deploy forcing him into an object lesson why the NHRA required him to add those expensive brakes to his non-descript, plain white racecar.

In one fell swoop, Shearer admitted the switch flipped revealing why NHRA required him to install those high-end specialty brakes.

Shearer understands there’s a time and a place to be an outlaw; and while one can have the edgy dress and tattoos from head to toe, there’s no margin when it comes to safety.

Shearer also understands he’s a guest at a party with different clientele, but when it comes to relating the diametrically different worlds there’s no real difference between the players in simulated street racing and big time championship drag racing.

“I can be respectful,” Shearer said. “I understand when things do mean something. I understand and know passion. That’s one thing I understand very well. When people come into my world, sometimes they don’t understand why I love it so much. When I come into their world, I understand the passion.

“I may not be able to change the way I look, but I can sure change the way I act. You have to flip the perception to the young people, that’s the hardest part. I just want to hang out with the kids all day. In doing so, I say things to kids like I would my crew. I relate to kids better. Sometimes I say stuff to kids and my guys remind me the kid’s dad is standing right there.”

Shearer knows his strengths and weaknesses.

“I don’t have much of an edge on anybody out here performance wise, but consider this, I’ve raced in front of more people than we will see out here,” Shearer explained. “I’ve raced on sketchy, sketchy roads in the middle of the dark. I’ve raced with the cops coming trying to take my stuff away from me. And I’ve raced for way more money than I’m racing for today. They’re not going to get me nervous out here. This ain’t nothing.

“To me, this is a good time.”

While Shearer gives the impression he’s been there and done that, racing quarter-mile in a fast doorslammer is uncharted territory.

“The only thing that’s nerve racking is speed,” Shearer said. “I’ve never been quarter-mile. To go the difference between 190 in the eighth, which is what I would consider fast in my car, to 240 or 250 in the quarter, a lot of stuff can happen out here.”

Shearer knows even a short distance can be treacherous, as he found out last season on Street Outlaws when he and co-star Brian “Chucky” Davis crashed while filming an episode. He suffered bruising to his lungs, back injuries and a broken collarbone.

“What I learned from the crash definitely steered me this direction because I could go any minute and I’m not gonna wait for the street stuff to be over before I went to try my hand at the NHRA,” Shearer said. “I may never get another shot.

“Ever since I was a little bitty kid I told everybody I want to be a race car driver and this is where the race car drivers are at.”


Bobby Bennett is the Publisher/Editor of, a leading independent online drag racing magazine, since 1999. For the latest in dragster news worldwide, visit or follow on Twitter @competitionplus

Street Outlaws star Justin Shearer is racing at the U.S. Nationals –

Taking time out from racing a "dream" for Button –, Edition: Global

Jenson Button says he couldn’t be happier after announcing his new two-year deal with McLaren, stressing that he has had little time to relax having been an F1 race driver for the last 17 years.

The 2009 world champion will be an ambassador for the team next year, but will also be a part of the simulator programme and will on stand-by as a reserve driver if needed.

The intriguing twist to the deal is that McLaren has an option on his services as a race driver or 2018 ? so if Fernando Alonso leaves at the end of his current three-year deal, in theory Button will be the first choice to step back.

That’s assuming that, having taken a year out, he still wants to return to the cockpit.

Button said that it was over the course of August ? when he had a rare chance to relax ? that he realised how much he would benefit if he takes some time off.

It was after the break that he began to discuss options with Ron Dennis.

“During the summer break, where I had a pretty awesome time with friends and family, living on my schedule, which is something I haven’t done for 17 years,” said Button?as he explained how he came to the decision.

“I’ve lived and breathed F1 since I was 19 years old, and I’m 36 now. You go to grands prix on the weekend and everything else is either recovery or preparation for a grand prix. I came to a decision that I wanted to initiate talks with Ron in Spa, which we did.

“Next year I will be an ambassador for this team. I will work with this team in every way I can to make it a better team for the future.

“I will do sim work, I will stay current, I will train my arse off like you’ve never seen before, and I’ll also be doing a lot of races, making sure that everything is on the right track, and giving as much input as I can.

“I’ll also be doing a lot of stuff that I haven’t done for 17 years. I’ll be living, as I said, on my schedule. I’ll get up when I want, I’ll do what I want, for a lot of the days of the year. I’ll spend more time with my friends, and more importantly my family, who I haven’t properly seen for 17 years!

“That’s something that I am really excited about. I’m also an avid fan and lover of triathlons, as you probably know. There are many things that I have not been able to do because of the F1 schedule.

“As we all know, you’re not just a racing driver when you drive in F1, this is your life. And I definitely need a break from that after 2017.”

Button made it clear that he was excited about the prospect of racing again in 2018, should circumstances dictate that it happens.

“So, ’17 will be that, and in 2018 the team have an option on me to race for McLaren Honda. Which is pretty awesome. Obviously it’s a long way in the future.

“This has been a very interesting week for me with Ron, talking on the phone, discussing obviously in Spa, and this is something that really works for me, and I’m so, so happy with, that we’ve come to this agreement to work together over the next two years.

“I’ll do everything that I can to make sure that this team is as good as it possibly can be in 2017.

“For a driver that’s been in the sport for so long, achieving what I’ve achieved, winning a world championship, winning many grands prix and podiums, it really is a dream to have that rest, and the possibility of racing in the future.

“This is something I am very, very happy about.”

Button indicated that he may race outside F1 in 2017, but insisted that nothing has been planned as yet.

“There is a possibility of me racing next year, but at the moment I’m not thinking of anything beyond, first of all, the rest of this year. There’s many things I want to do.

“Trying to list them here is impossible really. I’m really excited about this. Wherever it takes us in the future, and I don’t really know where it’s going to take us in the future, this is exciting as I said, and it gives me the opportunity like I said to live my like like I haven’t as an adult, ever.

“My family is forever growing as well, so it’s nice to be able to spend time with them and not see them every year and see they’ve grown another six inches, all the kids in my family.

“So that is very important to me. But also I love my fitness, I love my triathlons, I love my cycling. Of course I love racing and I always will for the rest of my life. And F1 will always be close to my heart, because it has been my life for so many years. But yes, there is the possibility that I could race next year.”

Taking time out from racing a "dream" for Button –, Edition: Global

Joey Logano on Dale Jr. announcement: ‘Life is more than racing’ –

Joey Logano was among many of those in the NASCAR community who reacted with empathy when he heard the news on Friday that Dale Earnhardt Jr. would miss the rest of this NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season.

Earnhardt, who already was slated to miss his seventh consecutive race at Darlington Raceway this weekend, announced through Hendrick Motorsports that he will sit out the remaining 12 Cup races on the 2016 schedule. He has been attempting to recover from concussion-like symptoms that first appeared after Earnhardt was involved in a wreck at Michigan in June, and then worsened after he was involved in another accident at Daytona on July 1.?

Doctors have not medically cleared Earnhardt, so after consulting with them and team owner Rick Hendrick, among others, it was decided that it would be best for him not to attempt to drive again this season.

“Obviously, I was sad to hear it,” Logano said. “Any time one of your fellow competitors makes news like that, it’s not what we all wanted to hear. But it’s also pretty admirable that he’s been doing the right things and taking his health as Priority One.”

Logano said that’s not as easy as it might sound for your typical race-car driver.

“I think that’s a challenge to do because I can imagine as a race-car driver all you want to do it get back in the race car,” he said. “When you’re sitting out watching TV and watching your car go around the race track without you in it is not the best therapy probably, but I look up to him for what he’s doing.

“I know how hard that is to be out and wanting to be inside that race car, but your life and your health is not worth risking that for this sport.?He’s got a long (time) to live and I’d hate for him to make the wrong decision and, God forbid, something happened on the race track and that ruins the rest of his life.?Life is more than racing and I think he understands that.”

The 41-year-old Earnhardt made it clear on Friday that he does not see this the end of his driving career. He said that he hopes to be medically cleared in time to climb back into his No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevy for the 2017 season-opening Daytona 500 next February.

“We want to see him back in the race car as soon as possible,” Logano said. “Everybody wants to see that — his competitors and obviously the fans.?It’s good to have him out there, but it’s also better to have him healthy.

“He’s doing the right things.?As far as your head jarring around inside the car, that always happens.?It’s the hit when you hit the wall … that is obviously what jars your brain around a little bit.”

Logano said it’s way too soon to tell if Earnhardt will drive again.

“All I can say is he’s in our thoughts and our prayers and either way God’s got a plan for him and it will work out,” Logano said. “But a lot of the time you don’t know God’s plan until it happens.”

Joey Logano on Dale Jr. announcement: ‘Life is more than racing’ –