07/08/2017 9:33PM

Meadowlands: Big first-over performance for Marion Marauder in Graduate Trot final

Lisa Photo
Marion Marauder returned to the site of his Hambletonian triumph and won again, this time in the Graduate final

Marion Marauder was fortunate to get into the Graduate Trot final, having raced in just one leg, and last year's Triple Crown winner took advantage in a big way, scoring in 1:51 2/5 in the $240,000 event at the Meadowlands on Saturday night.

With regular pilot Scott Zeron in the bike, Marion Marauder needed to overcome eight others from post nine, and the driver deftly put him in fifth in the early stages as Dayson and Trolley exchanged the lead past the 27 4/5 first quarter. Trolley, the 5-2 second choice with Marcus Miller, controlled the action, with others simply waiting for the 4-5 Marion Marauder to get into gear.

Zeron pulled at the 55 2/5 half and methodically moved up to engage Trolley in the third quarter that was trotted in a rated 28 1/5 to put three-quarters on the board in 1:23 1/5. Any thought that a full-length stretch duel would take place with the two favorites was quickly dashed, as Zeron spoke to Marion Marauder, and the son of Muscle Hill took his cue and easily disposed of the pacemaker.

There was a furious rally late by Warrawee Roo to get the place at 55-1, but Marion Marauder cruised to the wire, appearing well in-hand. Dayson found clearance to the inside and nipped Dia Monde for the third spot.

"He's come back better than we expected," said Mike Keeling, who co-trains with Paula Wellwood. Keeling's son Devin owns Marion Marauder along with his mother-in-law Marion Wellwood.

"He was pretty impressive," added Keeling.

The victory was the 13th of Marion Marauder's career, with career earnings edging towards the $2 million mark.