On Monday morning (June 16), Marshall followed in the tire tracks of his father -- literally -- as he made his first start as a driver in a qualifier at Gaitway Farm. Marshall, driving Doc Simon’s Dream, a 2-year-old filly trotter he trains with his mother, Donna, finished behind dad Jim III and Tuscanellie.
“That was awesome,” Marshall said after driving Doc Simon’s Dream to a 2:01.3 time for the mile. “It was perfect. I would have liked to catch him in the stretch, but next time.
|USTA/Ken Weingartner photo|
Jim Marshall IV drove Doc Simon's Dream to a second place finish on June 16 at Gaitway Farm.
“I was pretty nervous at first, but it seems like as soon as we got behind the gate everything just fell into place. The nerves kind of went away. It turned out to be just like a training mile.”
More than an hour later in the barn, the Marshalls remained smiling.
“It was the biggest thrill for me,” said Donna, who has won more than 400 races as a trainer. “I had tears rolling down my cheeks watching the two of them. It couldn't have worked out nicer.”
Until a few years ago, it would have seemed unlikely to find “Young Jim” in the barn or on the track. He worked in the family’s harness racing stable only occasionally while growing up and just became more interested after a four-year stint in the Navy.
“If my mom and dad needed an extra hand they could count on me to help out a little bit, but that was the extent of it,” Marshall said. “I just never really got involved with it. You really have to love it if you want to do this for a job. If it’s not something you’re 100 percent about, it’s not for you. It’s a lot of hard work.”
After Marshall returned from the Navy, where he was an aviation electrician, he attended Montclair State and studied computer science. He got a job -- and then got a horse.
Marshall owned pieces of trotters Stone Cold Cash and Coin Collector before going to the Standardbred Horse Sale last November and buying Doc Simon’s Dream for $12,000.
“I went there with my uncle Mike (O’Sullivan) and my dad was there too,” Marshall said. “We had picked out a couple that we liked -- she wasn’t one of them -- but we hadn’t gotten anything yet. My dad and uncle had to leave, so it was just me and my buddy there.
“I saw (Doc Simon’s Dream) and I thought, well, she had four legs and a tail, so I gave my friend the go-ahead and he put his hand up. That was our only bid we made that day.”
Donna was apprehensive about the purchase until she heard the filly’s name. The horse was named in honor of the late Dr. M. Paul Simon, a family physician and longtime horseman who had been stabled at Gaitway Farm. Doc Simon’s Dream is by Muscle Massive out of Simon’s former mare Lady Valla Hanover.
“I felt like it was good karma right from the beginning,” Donna said. “I felt like he directed Jim to get that horse.”
In February, the 29-year-old Marshall was laid off from his job, so he focused on his horse.
“That gave me the opportunity to be here a lot more often,” he said. “I just tried to take advantage of it.”
Marshall hopes to see Doc Simon’s Dream enjoy a good season of racing. She is eligible to the Pennsylvania Sire Stakes and other events in Pennsylvania.
“She’s been great to train down,” Marshall said. “Nothing really has been too difficult for her up to this point. If she stays sound, she should have plenty of races for the summer. She’s done everything I’ve asked her to do. It’s definitely been great; a lot better than my cubicle job.”
As for his career as a driver, Marshall might not be ready to challenge dad’s total of nearly 3,300 wins, but that’s not important at the moment.
“I don’t know what’s going to happen from here on out,” Marshall said. “I’ll just take it day to day and keep having fun.”