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The Conscience of Thoroughbred Racing

MARVIN LUNA’S RAPID RISE

By Ken Weingartner, USTA — Marvin Luna is enjoying a rapid rise as a driver thanks to taking it slowly.

The 22-year-old Luna began driving in 2020, but never topped 48 starts in a season until breaking out with 594 last year. He won 83 times in 2023, a nearly 14-percent clip, and guided his horses to $1.11 million in purses.

Now he is in position to shatter those numbers.

Luna has won 64 of 407 starts this season and earned $711,282 in purses. He is the leading driver at Harrah’s Hoosier Park, where his 48 victories have already surpassed his 2023 total (46) at the Indiana oval, and he is No. 2 in the standings at Oak Grove Racing & Gaming with 16 wins.

“It’s been good; I’m very happy,” Luna said. “I’m just grateful for everything that’s happened. I hope it keeps going well.”

Luna, a New Jersey native, was introduced to harness racing by his father, Angel. When he was a teenager, Luna worked for trainer Trent Stohler and later spent four years with Tony Alagna. It was during his time with Alagna that Luna began to cultivate an outlook and style that he credits with his success.

“I’ve worked hard to get where I am, but I think the reason I’m doing so well is all because I was patient,” Luna said. “When I was 16 or 17, I wanted things to happen right away. I wanted drives. Tony is the man that taught me patience. He always made sure I had a level head, made sure I thought things through in a race.

“I drive patient, my mindset is being patient. That is what’s led me to where I am today.”

Luna had 17 career wins entering 2023. Last year’s season began slowly, with him getting 50 drives and three wins through the first six months, but he got rolling from there. Luna won 80 of 544 drives the rest of the year.

Helping ignite his season was a horse named Topville Ohsolucky, a 2-year-old female pacer owned by Luna’s father. Luna had not yet driven at Hoosier Park in 2023 when he arrived to sit behind the filly in the first round of the Indiana Sire Stakes on July 12. He guided Topville Ohsolucky to a second-place finish, added another second in the next round, and things began to snowball from there.

“She was the only reason I went to Hoosier,” Luna said. “I was driving three hours from Lexington to drive one horse. She was finishing second and I think people started to notice me. It was because of that filly and my father that I got my foot in the door.”

This year, Luna has posted a 16.5-percent win rate at Hoosier, best of any driver there with at least 34 starts. He is enjoying his success, but not letting it consume him.

“I don’t let it get too much to me because I know they can take that leading driver title from me at any time,” Luna said. “I try not to worry about it. I just try to go out there and do the best I can. If I’m leading driver at the end of the day, that’s great.”

Driving more frequently has helped Luna accelerate his comfort level in the sulky.

“Every time I get on the racetrack, I learn something new, and I make less mistakes,” Luna said. “I’m a lot more confident in myself now. I still make mistakes, I just try not to make them twice.”

In addition to his success at Hoosier Park, Luna has been winning at a better than 15-percent clip at Oak Grove. His most lucrative triumph so far this year has come at the Kentucky track, when he guided 4-year-old female trotter Mambacita to victory in a leg of the Kentucky Sire Stakes.

Although it was the first time Luna drove Mambacita in a race, he was familiar with the Alagna trainee from having helped prep the horse for her career, which has resulted in nearly $900,000 in earnings so far.

“I worked for Tony when we bought her as a yearling,” Luna said. “I trained her down at 2 and 3. That was a special win for me.”

Of course, all wins are meaningful, and that’s what drives Luna.

“The thrill of crossing the wire first is like no other,” he said. “The adrenaline is amazing. That’s what I love.”

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