Day At The Track

Marohn Jr. talks Matchmaker, Levy drives

01:56 AM 30 Mar 2019 NZDT
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Jim Marohn, Jr,Harness racing
Jim Marohn, Jr
Ken Weingartner photo

YONKERS, N.Y. – For the past several years, harness racing driver Jim Marohn, Jr. made a name for himself racing all over the east coast.

Logging many miles on the track and on the road, the reinsman’s work ethic paid dividends. Each year from 2010 to 2018, his purse earnings have increased; horses driven by Marohn earned $1,028,569 in 2010 and by last year, the annual haul increased to $5,282,697.

“I was a mainstay at the Meadowlands and during stakes season there, I really wouldn’t get a lot of play,” Marohn explained.

“I would go to the Poconos and race there. Then I became a regular over there for a couple years. I would run back and forth between the Meadowlands, Pocono, and Chester and it got me in the mix with a lot of trainers and helped me build a lot of relationships.”

But over the last couple seasons, Marohn made Yonkers Raceway his home.

Backed by powerful stables like Rob Harmon, Marohn made an impression. In 2017, Marohn finished 16th in the local driver standings with 24 wins and $475,633 earned. Last year, he was fourth on the list with 167 victories and $3.4 million.

“Things are going really good. I started driving at Yonkers last year and I decided to try to stick it out to be a regular here and it seems like it’s working out very well,” Marohn said.

“My big account is with Rob Harmon and he has no problem helping me out and he got me started over here and we’re still doing pretty good together. And I’m just trying to pick up drives. It’s a good place to be because a lot of people watch Yonkers and a lot of trainers go in and out of Yonkers. It’s a good place to get exposure.

“You can take any regular at Yonkers and put them at a lot of other tracks and they’re going to be leading driver, if not very close to it,” Marohn continued.

“All those guys on one racetrack every night, it’s very competitive and the talent there is limitless.”

While Marohn adjusted to racing at the Hilltop with little difficulty, the lifestyle change associated with racing at Yonkers full-time has been more challenging.

Accustomed to traveling all over the east coast, the 37-year-old is now more grounded due to Yonkers’ five-night per week schedule. 

“The past couple years, I’m not really running around as much as I was. Making the move over to Yonkers, it’s hard to run around as much because Yonkers races when pretty much every other track races except for Wednesdays and Sundays. It’s a little different, but it’s not a bad thing at all,” Marohn explained.

“I am still getting used to it and I don’t mean the racing style, I mean not running,” he continued.

“I live in New Jersey, so I was always on the road to the Poconos, I was always on the road to Tioga, Chester, Meadowlands, and now it’s just Yonkers. I go to Freehold on Fridays and Saturdays, but other than that, there’s no other place you can race and still race at Yonkers as a regular. You could do Chester and Yonkers, but you’ll wear yourself right out. That’s not a good combination to throw at yourself.”

Being a top driver in the standings, Marohn is getting plenty of opportunities in this year’s Matchmaker and Levy Series.

Marohn took the time to discuss his drives in this weekend’s series legs with the SOA of NY’s Brandon Valvo.

Friday, March 29, 4th Race - $40,000 Matchmaker Third Leg, First Division
#2 Medusa (12-1)
Ed Hart trainee and Yonkers stalwart Medusa returned off a winter layoff February 12 at the Meadows. Posted a win and two placings in three starts in the Preferred there before returning to Yonkers for the series. Marohn drove the 8-year-old Bettor’s Delight daughter to a sixth-place finish in leg one before she was an improved third last time out in leg two. Drew just outside Apple Bottom Jeans, who is 2-for-2 in the series.

“Medusa had a break before she came out here, she raced three starts at the Meadows. She’s old, classy, she’s an open mare wherever she goes. She gets around Yonkers and she raced a lot better in her last start than she did in her first start back at Yonkers. Ed Hart told me he got to train her a little more this past week, so that’s why she raced better. I think she’s in a good spot. Apple Bottom Jeans is right underneath her and it looks like she should get a really good trip in there. She’s a horse for the course; she gets around this track perfect and she’s very classy. She gets a little anxious behind the gate, but once she gets away from the gate, she’s two-fingers, she’s push-button. You can tell her to go on a little more and she will, and she won’t overexert herself and she’ll come right back to you. She can leave good and she can come right back to you, she won’t stay excited the whole mile.”

Friday, March 29, 6th Race – $40,000 Matchmaker Third Leg, Second Division
#5 Itty Bitty (8-1)
Came to the Allard stable early this year and despite being plagued by outside assignments in the local distaff opens, has a win and a second to her credit since the barn change with Marohn in the sulky. Dan Dube drove her in the first two legs of the Matchmaker, but Marohn is back in the bike this week. The 5-year-old mare likes to come from off the pace. 

“That’s another nice mare. She had a decent year last year in the Harris barn and Rene bought her early this year. She’s an open-level mare at this track, she deserves to be with those horses. She’s kind of a trippy horse, but she’s no slouch. There were a few weeks where they were assigning her the outside in the open, and it’s just so hard for horses to overcome that. She drew into the three-hole in the open one night and she won. She’s very anxious, she’s really nervous out there. She’s one that you kind of have to keep her by herself and keep her calmed down, you actually don’t want to stir her up much at the beginning of the mile. I think that’s why she races so much better off the pace. She doesn’t like to relax, you have to make her relax. You have to calm her down because she goes out there pretty keyed-up. It is a little tricky.

Friday, March 29, 7th Race – $40,000 Matchmaker Third Leg, Third Division
#5 Seaswift Joy (5-2)
New Zealand-bred daughter of Bettor’s Delight out of the Christian Cullen mare Swift Belle made her debut for trainer Tony Alagna at the Meadowlands in February. After a fourth and a second at the Swamp, she won three straight at Yonkers with Marohn in the sulky, including a division of the Matchmaker first leg March 15. Finished a strong third last week after a difficult trip and drew outside of major danger Don’t Think Twice tonight. 

“This is a very nice mare. Tony and his crew have done a great job with her so far bringing her over and getting her ready. I like this mare a lot. She’s raced good every start at Yonkers. Since she’s come here, she’s been right on her game. Last week with a rough trip, she fought and gutted it out right to the wire. She just missed second. She could have been a bad third, but she was still trying. A lot of horses just would have been third. And last week, it was really windy out there, so she had to overcome a lot. Last week was kind of a weird race because she had the seven and Shartin had the eight and we both left out of there, both jockeying for position. Then there was a little mix up going to the half and Shartin was three-wide then. It was a confusing race. I knew going into the first turn, we weren’t going to get the lead and I looked for a spot. As things unfolded, I just wanted to wait as long as I could because in the stretch last week, the wind was really strong. I really didn’t want to be first-up, but I knew I was going to have to be and Jason had moved his horse, I didn’t know at that time Shartin was already on the move. I had to move my horse because I couldn’t get trapped in third. When I moved her, I just wanted to sit and not put too much pressure on her into the wind and then I saw Shartin was three-wide trying to pace around everybody. I had to go on with my horse because you can’t just let someone pace around you going into the third turn and I just had to play along by then and reserve my horse for the top of the stretch. I would like to race her close to the lead this week. I think Jason is probably going to be pretty aggressive with his mare, Don’t Think Twice. I can see me and Jason being pretty aggressive early and see how it shakes out from there.”

Saturday, March 30, 4th Race – $50,000 Levy Third Leg, First Division 
#1 Beckhams Z Tam (3-1)
Breeders’ Crown winner at 3 and Prix d’Été winner at 4 for Macomber, the 5-year-old now races in the Bruce Saunders barn. Marohn qualified him at Yonkers February 15 and the pair finished second beaten only a nose the following week in his seasonal debut. Tim Tetrick drove in two series legs thus far, including a second-place finish in leg two, but Marohn gets the drive back Saturday night.

“He’s a really nice horse and last year, he raced in all the free-for-all races, all the top-class races. He’s a classy horse, he gives you what he’s got. He raced great last week. They were really mixing it up on the front and he closed up very nice from behind. I don’t know how this race is really going to shake out. I’m glad I have the inside. I’m looking to keep him close. He went to the Meadowlands to get more of a tightener and Timmy wound up winning with him. He got to keep the drive when he came over for the Levy, but now that he went with Endeavor, I got the drive back.”

Saturday, March 30, 11th Race – $50,000 Levy Third Leg, Fifth Division 
#2 Rockathon (15-1)
The 4-year-old Pet Rock son won a local Open Handicap February 2 and finished second in a $29,000 overnight March 9 for trainer Ricky Bucci. Hasn’t made an impression in the first two legs of the series, but gets post relief tonight. Marohn picks up the drive for the first time.

“That’s a horse I don’t know, I’ve never driven him. He’s a high-class Yonkers horse. My approach is always to get some input from the trainer. I always want to find out what the horse’s dislikes are and how he is on the gate. Is he bad with the gate, can he go up to the gate good, can he leave the gate good or not. After that, I’ll read the program and watch some replays beforehand, but I’ll just take it from there.”


By Brandon Valvo

for the SOA of NY

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