Day At The Track

Marcus Melander heads Dan Patch honorees

06:06 AM 29 Dec 2018 NZDT
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Marcus Melander, harness racing
Marcus Melander was voted USHWA's Dan Patch Rising Star Award winner
USTA photo

HARRISBURG, PA - Marcus Melander, "to the manor born" in terms of personal harness racing pedigree, went out in 2018 and made great accomplishments with a small but talented collection of trotters, including the two dominant two-year-old colts, in the process earning the Rising Star Award in voting conducted by the United States Harness Writers Association (USHWA).

Also honored by USHWA were Order By Stable (Stefan Balazsi) as Breeder of the Year, and two broodmares, trotter Southwind Serena and pacer Lady Ashlee Ann, as their gait's respective Broodmare of the Year.

Marcus Melander came from a rich trotting heritage in his native Sweden, with perhaps the best-known of his family being his uncle Stefan Melander, the Hambletonian, Prix d'Amerique, and International Trot winner, and also noted for his photography as "Foto Tarzan." Upon coming to the United States, Marcus worked for Jimmy Takter, as fine an addition to a resume as one could want, and then went out on his own.

2018 was the current peak of what is likely to be many more high points in Marcus's career. His 1-2 punch in the baby trotting colt ranks were Gimpanzee, the undefeated New York Sire Stakes champion who then won his Breeders Crown and divisional honors, and Green Manalishi S, second in the Crown and like his stablemate a winner of over $500,000 in his freshman campaign. (Other members in Melander's 2019 sophomore arsenal may be Demon On The Hill, who showed great potential, mostly in Pennsylvania, and Greenshoe, a $330,000 yearling who showed promise in a brief freshman campaign.)

It's not often that anybody wins a $1,000,000 race, especially a 26-year-old sending a horse out for the first time, but that's just what Melander did, getting expatriate Cruzado Dela Noche from uncle Stefan before the International Trot and then beating a group of the world's elite trotters. In another big FFA win, Crazy Wow, also recently added to the barn, turned in a 31-1 upset in the Maple Leaf Trot Final.

STEFAN BALAZSI'S ORDER BY STABLE IS BREEDER OF THE YEAR

Named as Breeder of the Year was the Order By Stable of Stefan Balazsi, which started in Sweden but now is one of the emerging major players on the North American breeding scene. The breeding operation produced only 30 starters "on this side" during 2018, but still ranked twelfth in terms of money won, with Order By's offspring earning $2.4 million in Canada and the U.S..

Hambletonian-winning, million-dollar earning sophomore filly Atlanta, her division's champion, certainly was the cream of the crop of Order By's produce in 2018. Not too far behind, though, was Gimpanzee, mentioned above in connection with trainer Marcus Melander, who also was a divisional champion and accounted for almost $600,000 in earnings himself.

LADY ASHLEE ANN, SOUTHWIND SERENA PICKED AS TOP BROODMARES

The winning broodmares shared producing a three-year-old colt who when at his best delivered blistering speed that left most of his generation behind. Lady Ashlee Ann, a daughter of Camtastic owned by Winbak Farms for more than twenty years, was the dam of pacer Courtly Choice, a son of Art Major who sped to a 1:47.1 record, emerged victorious in the Empire Breeders Classic Final, Meadowlands Pace and a thrilling Little Brown Jug, and earned over $900,000. Lady Ashlee Ann was declared a "walkover winner" by USHWA's Breeders / Broodmares Committee, so outstanding did they see the merit of her and her son.

On the trotting side, Southwind Serena, a Varenne mare owned by Steve Stewart, Black Creek Farm, and Andrea Lea Racing Stables Inc., was recognized because of the exploits of trotter Tactical Landing. This Muscle Hill colt, a full brother to the mercurial distaff Mission Brief, had been in the spotlight since his sale for $800,000 as a yearling, second-highest price ever, and for the better part of the next two years looked like a questionable investment.

But trainer Jimmy Takter (Stefan Melander's earlier mentor) exhibited tremendous developmental patience, and entering the Hambletonian with five races lifetime and $14,000 on his card, the colt showed he "belonged" by winning his elimination and finishing third in the final. This was the igniting of a late-season surge than saw him take a mark of 1:50.2 at Lexington, sweep his Breeders Crown races, and then defeat older horses handily in the TVG Championship - while winning nearly $800,000 after the first Saturday in August.

Marcus Melander, Order By Stable, Lady Ashlee Ann, Southwind Serena and their connections will be honored at USHWA's annual Dan Patch Awards Banquet, celebrating the best and brightest of harness racing in the past year. The banquet honoring the champions of 2018 will be held on Sunday, February 24, 2019 at the Rosen Shingle Creek Resort in Orlando FL, the climax of a weekend that also finds USHWA holding its annual national meetings.

Tickets for the Dan Patch Awards Banquet are $175, with a filet mignon dinner featured; "post times" on February 24 are cocktails at 6 p.m. and dinner at 7 p.m. Tickets, and other Banquet-related information, can be obtained through Dinner Planning Committee Chair Judy Davis-Wilson, at zoe8874@aol.com or 302 359 3630.

Hotel reservations for those attending can be made through USHWA's website, www.ushwa.org; a link to the hotel's computer is on the front page of the website. Those who would like to take out congratulatory ads for awardwinners in the always-popular Dan Patch Awards Journal can do so by contacting Kim Rinker at trotrink@aol.com (the 2018 journal is online at the writers' website).

From the United States Harness Writers Association

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