McMaster student’s horse is a Marauder
It’s often been said that the best horses all have great names but it remains to be seen if that is actually true.
Is Marion Marauder a great name for one of the best three-yearold trotting colts in the world? Certainly to trainer Mike Keeling it is and this year he can show $226,929 reasons why.
“I get credit for the name. When we bought him as a yearling his name was Marion Monopoly which none of the family liked,” relates Keeling from his summer base of operations at Shamrock Training Centre near Cambridge.
“We were fine with Marion because that is my mother-in-law Jean’s given name. It was on the ride back from the Harrisburg, Pa., sale that we talked about it and it just popped into my head the name Marauder because the our son Devin is at McMaster University and of course that is the name of their athletic teams. It had a nice ring to it so everyone agreed.”
Last year the colt honoured his namesake by winning $350,000 despite winning just one race. But he proved he had a nose for money. Son Devin and his grandmother Jean Wellwood share ownership.
“The difference in him this year is that he has learned how to win and that is a dangerous thing in a horse,” declared Keeling.
“Mentally and physically makes me feel as good about him as I can. He has grown up as a horse — really thickened up and looks a bit like a linebacker.”
Keeling well knows that the colt will need all of his talents next Saturday when he contests the $1 million Hambletonian at the Meadowlands in New Jersey.
This is the biggest prize in harness racing and the horse goes into the race with a formidable challenge in rival Southwind Frank who has lost just two races in 17 lifetime starts.
“Given his record he deserves to be the favourite while we have to prove ourselves. But pound for pound I think our horse has the same kind of ability,” explains Keeling.
“In his last start in the Stanley distance which was at a distance of more than a mile, he was great. Scott (Zeron) his driver said that he was a gorilla and came the last eighth of a mile in 13 seconds which is not surprising because he always has been strongest at the end of his races. The Hambletonian will require him to race in the elimination and the final the same day which is something new for him but everybody else as well. I think he’s up for it so we’ll see.”
To prepare for the event, Marion Marauder and Keeling’s wife Paula are based at Magical Acres in New Jersey. Mike flew there Friday to train the horse Saturday.
“Over the years the Hambletonian has shown to be a race that everything has to come together on the day for the win. But some of that is out of one’s control. It’s kind of similar to golfers who show up for a major and things just are not clicking so they finish well down the pack. We will do all we can do to give him his shot and then it’s up to him.”
Regardless, the name Marion Marauder does have a nice ring to it.