by Frank Carulli
February 5, 2019
Marcus Melander always had the pedigree to become a top trainer with trotters. Now he has the resume to back it.
Melander, 26, was named winner of the Rising Star Award by the U.S. Harness Writers Association for a remarkable 2018 season in which he handled two $500,000 freshman earners and a $1 million race winner.
Gimpanzee not only swept through the New York Sire Stakes championships without a loss, he won the $600,000 Breeders Crown 2-Year-Old Trot, defeating multiple stakes-winning stablemate Green Manalishi S in the $600,000 final at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono.
Melander’s first Breeders Crown triumph came on the heels of Crazy Wow’s 31-1 upset win in the C$651,000 Maple Leaf Trot at Woodbine and Cruzado Dela Noche’s 35-1 shocker in the $1 million International Trot at Yonkers Raceway. Cruzado Dela Noche wore the colors of Anders Strom’s Courant Inc. in becoming Sweden’s sixth International winner. Melander took over the training of Cruzado Dela Noche in the summer and ran him off a four-month layoff with two qualifying victories.
Cruzado Dela Noche raced in Sweden for Melander’s uncle, Stephan Melander, himself a winner of the International, Hambletonian and Prix d’Amerique in his illustrious career. Marcus Melander also worked for Hall of Famer Jimmy Takter before going out on his own.
HENNESSEY REACHES 10,000-WIN MILESTONE
Wally Hennessey became the 17th driver in North America history to win 10,000 races when Prince Of Fame won Jan. 23 at Pompano Park.
Hennessey, 62, launched his career in 1975 and led all North America drivers with a .440 UDRS rating last year. He won seven New York Sire Stakes championships on June 13, 1992, at Buffalo Raceway, the same year he guided America’s Pastime to victory in the $778,800 Woodrow Wilson Pace at the Meadowlands. He also won the 1996 Hambletonian Oaks and 1998 Breeders Crown with Moni Maker, one of the best trotters of all time.
Hennessey was inducted into the U.S. Racing Hall of Fame in 2007 and the Canadian Hall of Fame in 2014.
Hennessey joins Dave Palone, Tony Morgan, Herve Filion, Cat Manzi, David Miller, Dave Magee, Billy Parker Jr., Walter Case Jr., Aaron Merriman, Tim Tetrick, John Campbell, Mike Lachance, Kevin Wallis, Peter Wrenn, George Brennan and Brian Sears in the 10,000 win club.
SUPER WEEKEND FOR BURKE BRIGADE
Maybe next year New Jersey will have a Super Bowl prop with the number of points scored in the game versus number of wins by trainer Ron Burke and driver Yannick Gingras at the Meadowlands.
The dynamic duo teamed for 11 wins covering the Friday at Saturday cards at the Big M, and Gingras won seven races Friday, one short of the track record.
Burke, the perennial leader in North America, sent out 14 starters last weekend and 11 won, all with Gingras in the bike. Eight were odds-on favorites, Bettim Jackie ($7.80) was part of an entry, and Fireball ($11.80) and Ginger Tree Marty ($8.60) won back-to-back to give bettors some value if they rode the streak.