Stellar efforts highlight various weekend cards

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Ted Black

August 8th, 2016

Saturday's Hambletonian Day card at the Meadowlands enabled standardbred racing fans of horses of both gaits and genders and all ages to have a chance to see the best of the best compete and the results were not as chalky or predictable as many had speculated.

Marion Marauder certainly deserves top billing for winning both the Hambo elim and $1 million final in gritty, first over fashion, while favored Southwind Frank settled for second in both. Bar Hopping, who led throughout to capture the weaker elim, wilted in the final as the even-money choice.

Marion Marauder scored for trainer Paula Wellwood, daughter of the late, great Canadian conditioner, William Wellwood. He benefited from patient handling from Scott Zeron, the track's leading driver and one of the genuine budding stars in the sport. Driver Yannick Gingras, however, suffered yet another narrow Hambo defeat as victory in the sport's premiere event continues to elude the talented reinsman and future Hall of Famer.

Zeron would also score with Shamballa, a gritty older pacer that his father, Rick Zeron trains, in the $275,000 U.S. Pacing Championship in 1:47.1, overhauling favored Always B Miki (David Miller) and reigning horse of the year, Wiggle It Jiggleit (Montrell Teague). Shamballa has always raced well on the bigger ovals and has regained his winning ways following a slow start to the campaign.

Older trotters Hannelore Hanover (Gingras) and Resolve (Ake Svandstedt) also prevailed in their respective lucrative events on Saturday afternoon to perhaps already secure divisional honors, but the talented Lady Shadow may have delivered the best performance of the afternoon when she prevailed in the $275,000 Lady Liberty Stakes at one-mile and one-eighth, arguably securing two postseason honors.

Three weeks after she established a world record for the distance by taking the $350,000 Golden Girls in 2:00.3, Lady Shadow was made the solid favorite despite being burdened with post 12 in the second tier, a more difficult task than it might appear. Away well to join the top group passing the finish line the first time, Lady Shadow raced three-wide entering the first turn and was gunned toward the lead entering the back lane.

While most driver look to get a breather at some point of any race, especially the rare, added-distance events in harness racing, Lady Shadow was hardly geared down when she cleared to command. She rolled by the half in 53 flat and by three-quarters in 1:20.3 and clicked off the mile in 1:48.3 and held sway through the lane to score in 2:03. Her winning time may not have been superb, but the manner in which she scored was stellar.

Lady Shadow looms a cinch to capture the divisional honors among older pacing mares and she appears a mortal lock to garner the Maryland-bred horse of the year title as well. Granted, Lady Shadow will likely get little consideration for pacer of the year - Always B Miki and one of the three-year-old colts will vie for that honor - but she continues to impress onlookers with her combination of raw speed and power and merits an ovation for her effort again on Saturday.

Then on Sunday evening at Ocean Downs, Hybird Henry continued the perfect start to his career when he simply crushed five rivals to capture a $20,000 Maryland Standardbred Race Fund event by 18 lengths in 2:00.1. His sire, Cam's Rocket, is a pacer, but Hybrid Henry has won all five of his starts for owner-trainer Richard Hans and appears to be the second coming of the talented Googoo Gaagaa. Had it not been for the exploits of Lady Shadow in open stakes company, Hybrid Henry might have been a cinch for Maryland-bred horse of the year honors this season.