07/16/2016 8:20PM

Meadowlands: Added distance no problem for favorites Southwind Frank, Marion Marauder

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Nikki Sherman
An extra eighth of a mile proved no problem for Southwind Frank in his Stanley Dancer division

Southwind Frank had to go an extra eighth of a mile, but that didn't seem to have an impact on the Hambletonian favorite as he roared off cover to an easy victory in the first of two divisions of the Stanley Dancer Memorial at the Meadowlands on Saturday night.

A son of Muscle Hill, Southwind Frank was sent off as a 1-10 favorite in the 11-horse field going a mile and one eighth, and driver Yannick Gingras moved him out slightly to find position as longshots Dominion Beach and Waitlifter K exchanged the early lead through a 26 3/5 opening quarter.

Dog Gone Lucky and driver Corey Callahan made a move to the lead past the 55 2/5 half, and he was put under pressure before the 1:24 three-quarters by Hollywood Highway. Gingras enjoyed the live cover of Hollywood Highway and vaulted off that cover with authority to collar the leaders with the favorite.  The added distance was covered in 2:06 4/5 with the mile individually timed in 1:52 4/5.  Sutton was second, Love Matters finished third, and Dominion Beach, an 89-1 shot, came in fourth.

"I wasn't thrilled," said winning trainer Ron Burke. "He was all right."

Southwind Frank Partners own the winner in 15 of 17 career starts.

Marion Marauder and Scott Zeron completed the chalk Dancer double, taking a different route to the winner's circle in the second $153,250 division. Previously a closer, Zeron used the even-money favorite in the early stages and secured the lead from Iron Mine Bucky before the 27 1/5 opening quarter.  Zeron cleverly saw no competition and guided Marion Marauder through a soft middle half of 59 4/5 as Desert Runner slowly ground up without cover and second choice Bar Hopping tracked that cover.

Once in the homestretch Zeron allowed his horse to go, and the son of Muscle Hill, trained by Paula Wellwood, drew clear, posting a 1:54 4/5 mile and finishing the added distance in 2:08 1/5 while well in-hand.  Bar Hopping narrowly grabbed the place spot away from Iron Mine Bucky, with Blenheim finishing fourth.

"I talked it over with Scotty (Zeron) before the race and talked about leaving," said Mike Keeling, whose wife Paula trains the colt co-owned by his son Devin Keeling along his mother-in-law Jean Wellwood.

Marion Marauder has won four of five starts this year and is pointing towards the Hambletonian in three weeks. The colt has obviously grown up from two to three years of age, having won just once as a juvenile.