WASHINGTON, PA, Sept. 4, 2013 — Mike Wilder notched the 6,000th win of his career Wednesday at The Meadows when he piloted Foolish Attempt to victory in the 11th race . . . and got a jump start on the next milestone by winning with Waikiki Hanover later in the card.
“When you start as a driver, if someone were to throw the number 6,000 at you, you would say, ‘No way,’” Wilder said. “I’ve been blessed to drive enough good horses to get there. I’ve had a lot of help along the way.”
A native of Springfield, Ohio, William Mike Wilder, 41, developed an interest in horses through his stepfather, David Ritter, who trained Standardbreds at the Shelby County Fairgrounds. He was a phenomenon at Lebanon Raceway, where he won 13 driving titles, and he captured two driving championships at Scioto Downs before moving his tack to The Meadows in 2001.
“When I was still a teenager,” he recalled, “I groomed for a couple big barns, but I had my driver’s license. They let me drive one or two here or there, and it just kind of took off.”
Earlier this year, Wilder surpassed $40 million in career purses. One of his biggest days at The Meadows was Sept. 21, 2011, when he won seven races, including a Keystone Classic split. He was the regular driver of Spring Break, whose duels with Jans Luck — they met approximately 40 times in The Meadows’ top distaff paces — became the stuff of legend.
Among his important stake victories are the Hopefulette (Tap Hanover, 2001), the Breeders Filly Pace (Tap Hanover, 2002), the Pink Bonnet (Heather’s Western, 2002), the Jug Preview (Twenty Six Black, 2001; Santastic’s Pan, 2004), the Currier & Ives (Sand Vic, 2004), the Currier & Ives Filly Division (To Be Mz America, 2002), the Cleveland Classic (Michael’s Western, 2002), the Adios (Ready Cash, 2001, elimination), as well as multiple splits in the W.R. Reynolds Memorial and the Tompkins-Geers.
Many of those victories were for trainer Dan Altmeyer, the father of Wilder’s wife, Heather, who serves as public relations and marketing director for the Meadows Standardbred Owners Association. Wilder continues to drive for and assist Altmeyer, whom he calls an important factor in his success.
“To be Dan’s son-in-law is one thing, but it’s really something to be involved with him on the business side,” Wilder said. “He impresses everyone with his integrity. Everyone he deals with will tell you he’s strictly first class. I’m pretty proud to be part of his business.”
For the future, Wilder plans to continue focusing on driving and knows what he must do to keep the wins coming.
“Stay healthy — that’s the No. 1 thing,” he said. “There will be younger drivers come along, so you have to keep yourself on top of your game.”
by Evan Pattak