Ron Marsh joined Joe Marsh Junior on Saturday night (May 1) at Balmoral Park as harness racing’s only father and son driver tandem to attain 5000 winners each.
Like father, like son has to be the most appropriate cliché bestowed to the Marsh family.
My dad was a giant influence on me. Without him I probably wouldn’t be in business,” said Ron Marsh, who collected win number 5000 in Balmoral Park’s seventh race behind Cold Cold Heart.
“In my mind my father was one of the best in our sport—at one time he was tops as a driver and trainer. His horsemanship skills are just great. He taught me everything I know and then it was up to me to go out and refine my skills to be a successful driver.”
onnie did just that.
e arrived on the Chicago scene in 1977 when his father was competing the New York circuit as one of the nation’s leading drivers.
However, Joe Junior left quite a legacy in the Windy City for Ron to follow before he headed to the east coast.
The elder Marsh rattled off nine consecutive driving titles at every major Chicago track in the early to mid-70’s, including the Sportsman’s Park titles from 1971 through 1974.
Joe Junior, who will turn 70 in June, went in semi-retirement after the 2001 season with 5878 lifetime wins—though the Curtis, Ohio native still occasionally drives some horses from his younger son Robert’s stable on the Chicago circuit.
Ron Marsh’s breakout year came in 1980 when he piloted 169 winners.
For the next 14 seasons the now 50-year-old Buckeye native posted over 200 winners with a career high 410 coming in 1990.
Just like his dad, Ron also captured four Sportsman’s Park driving titles and two (1984 and ’85) Maywood Park crowns.
Who were some of Ron’s favourite horses to drive?
I have to say that Mohican Pride and Gold were among the best I ever drove,” he answered.
“Both were at the top of their game and I was driving them when they both progressed and continued to excel up the conditioning ladder. And Parklane Powerful is the best mare I've ever been behind.
“Some of the trotters that I really liked driving were Raceway Willie (I won the Dygert with him) and Incredible Child, a horse that won lots of Invitational for me. It's great to be associated with some hard-knocking racehorses.”
Through four decades as a driver, Ron has seen some notable changes in the standardbred industry.
“The driving is now much more aggressive than when I first began,” added Ron.
“The colony in Chicago is mostly made up of young drivers and it has gone to strictly a catch-driving sport, making for much more aggressive driving. I consider myself more of a ‘trip driver.’
“I prefer to drive a horse that way because it’ll keep a horse sounder for a longer period of time. However, I study the programme before each night and I’ll go the other way (to the front) if that’s the best strategy for a particular race.
“The standardbred breed keeps improving, too,” continued. Ron.
“Horses just keep getting stronger and going faster. I remember when 1.55 was a big mile. Now, there are times when that time doesn’t get you anything.
“It used to be that a 28 first quarter was fast and rare at Maywood Park. Not any more. Last month they had a night where 28 was the slowest opening quarter.”
While the industry has changed, Ron Marsh hasn’t.
He’s still the same congenial and amiable driver he was in the late 1970s when he was looking to follow in his father’s footsteps.
Courtesy Of Mike Paradise, Publicity Director, Maywood Park