Log In

Harness Highlights: Sweden's 'Cruzado' Conquers International Trot

by Frank Carulli

October 16, 2018

Cruzado Dela Noche, who launched his racing career in the U.S. four years ago, had a big surprise in store for his return visit last Saturday. The 6-year-old gelding arrived from his new home in Sweden and shocked nine rivals to win the $1 million International Trot at Yonkers Raceway.

He rallied from second-over position and caught the rival he followed, Norway’s Lionel, in the final strides to win the 1-1/4-mile test by a head in 2:24.3. He paid $62.50 to win and triggered a $698 exacta, $14,069 trifiecta with France’s Up and Quick (Jason Bartlett) splitting rivals late for third, and a $67,948 superfecta for a $2 ticket.

Cruzado Dela Noche wore the colors of Anders Strom’s Courant Inc. in becoming Sweden’s sixth winner in 40 runnings of the International. Hall of Famer Brian Sears drove the winner for trainer Marcus Melander, who was as surprised as the bettors at Cruzado Dela Noche’s return from a four-month layoff after two qualifying victories at Pocono Downs.

“We weren’t really sure if he was 100 percent in form for this race,” said Melander. “Even if he was good in those two qualifiers, he didn’t have a real race in almost four months. He’s used to the mile and a quarter in Sweden, so distance was never my concern.”

The raced shape took a sudden and dramatic turn early when Italy’s Ringostarr Treb (Wim Paal), the 7-to-5 favorite, and Sweden’s Pastore Bob (John Untersteiner) both made breaks trying to leave. Within the opening half mile, Italy’s Arazi Boko (Alessandro Gocciadoro), U.S. representative Ariana G (Yannick Gingras) and Canada’s Marion Marauder (Scott Zeron) made moves for the lead.

Marion Marauder, a $3 million earner and 2016 Trotting Triple Crown winner, moved earlier than usual and cleared to the top through a :57.1 half. “I didn’t want to get into the race that early, but when (Ringostarr Treb) broke, it forced my hand,” Zeron said.

It also forced Lionel (Goran Antonsen) into a grinding, first-over position, which he handled well. Lionel wore down Marion Marauder, spurted to command in early stretch and appeared headed to an 11-1 upset.

But Cruzado Dela Noche remained hot on his heels and surged late to give Sears his first International victory. “The horse raced super,” he said. “I was just hoping for a cover trip. … That’s what happened.”