In only his third full season as a trainer, Marcus Melander enjoyed a memorable year that culminated with Fourth Dimension being named the Dan Patch Award winner for best 2-year-old male trotter.
Melander, who turned 26 in January, came to the U.S. from Sweden less than five years ago and worked for trainer Jimmy Takter before starting his own stable in late 2014. He is based in New Egypt, N.J., at a farm that was home previously to each the legendary Stanley Dancer and Continental Farms stables.
Last year, Melander’s horses won 38 races and $1.31 million in purses, nearly tripling his earnings from the previous season. His victories in 2017 included the Valley Victory Stakes with Fourth Dimension, a division of the Stanley Dancer Memorial with Long Tom, and an elimination of the Hambletonian Stakes with Enterprise, who later was fourth-placed-third in the final.
Melander’s stable this year numbers 40 horses, with the majority being 2-year-olds. He recently took time to talk with Ken Weingartner, the U.S. Trotting Association’s media relations manager.
KW: First of all, congratulations on Fourth Dimension receiving the Dan Patch Award. What does that mean to you, especially at such a young age?
MM: That meant a lot. There are so many good horses and so many good trainers. To have the best one, it means a lot, especially in my third year as a trainer. Like you said, I’m young, and it’s not easy to get those awards. I’m very happy with it.
KW: What’s it been like getting settled here in the States and how have you seen your stable change?
MM: The first year when I was here, we only had about six babies (2-year-olds). We had a couple that were OK. But after that, I got a horse (Clifton Beach) from (owner) Courant. He was a 3-year-old gelding that made breaks, but I did good with him. After that, I got some more horses from them and we did well. That’s when I started to pick owners up. You need to have good owners to have good horses. I’m very thankful to all my owners.
KW: What have you learned over the first couple years?
MM: First of all, I learned a lot when I worked for Jimmy Takter my first year here. Then I went on my own. You’ve got to put horses in the right condition, you have to figure out travel, there is always stuff you look at and maybe change. Last year with Enterprise for the Goodtimes we went back and forth (to Canada) and he was no good in the final because he had a problem with ulcers. Maybe we should have stayed up there. You’re always learning things. I’m only 26. I’ve got a lot to learn still. But I’m feeling more comfortable every season.
KW: Have you done anything different training wise? Changed your approach?
MM: Maybe a little bit. Last year we had a really good year with both the 2- and 3-year-olds. But you always look to improve things. You think about things as you’re out there driving.
KW: With the experience you gained last year does that help you going forward?
MM: Oh yeah absolutely. With Long Tom and Enterprise, they started early very good and I think maybe I topped them a little too early. They raced great until the (Hambletonian) and after that they flattened out a little bit and we had some bad racing luck. That’s stuff you learn too. Maybe we won’t qualify as early. But it was a little different because Enterprise only made one start as a 2-year-old so you had to be going a little earlier.
KW: How are your 2-year-olds coming along?
MM: They’re good. I’m very happy with all of them. It’s a good group. I can’t pick anyone out right now, but I’m looking forward to seeing them race.
KW: Are they all trotters?
MM: I’ve got three pacers. I’ve got 25 trotters and three pacers. It’s fun. They’re really nice. I’ve got one Captaintreacherous colt (Sundown Showdown) and one Sweet Lou filly (Sweet Body) and a Roll With Joe colt (Quickcallblue Chip). They pace very good. I’m happy with them. We’ll see how they do.
KW: Do you see much difference with the pacers?
MM: No, like I said, I learned a lot the first year I was here working with Jimmy. We had a lot of pacers there. You maybe do some things differently, but it’s not much different.
KW: Has it been an adjustment living in the States?
MM: I’ve loved it here from the day I got here. This will be my fifth year here. I’m happy. My whole family is here and there are a lot of Swedes around, friends and stuff, so it’s good.
KW: What do you most like about living here?
MM: I like the racing here. In Sweden it’s very good too, but it’s a little bit different here. I just like it here.
KW: What do you most enjoy about working with the horses?
MM: We have really good horses this year. I’m looking forward to the season. Hopefully we can have a great year again. Hopefully everything goes well and we have a good year.
KW: Do you feel more pressure because of last year?
MM: Not really. It’s not pressure. I have good owners that stand behind me. I’m feeling confident in what I do and I think that’s the most important thing. You can’t feel nervous about it. You have to train the horses the way you want and if it doesn’t go well, maybe because of sickness or something else, then that is it. But you can’t go around and feel pressure. I feel more excited and looking forward to the racing season getting started. It will be fun.
KW: This is the position you want to be in, with stakes horses.
MM: Oh yeah, absolutely. Thirty-seven of 40 (horses) are 2- and 3-year-olds. That’s what we’re looking for, for sure.
KW: What do you like to do when you’re not working?
MM: I like to be on the farm. There is always work on a farm when you own it. I like to be on the farm. I never leave the farm much if I’m not going racing.
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