Newest Inductees to the "Wall of Fame"

03:17 PM 05 Aug 2014 NZST
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Wall of Fame
Wall of Fame

Northfield Park has announced that Aaron Merriman, Bill Pocza, Dunkster, Myopia's Mop and Natural Ability will be the newest members of the Northfield Park Wall of Fame. Their formal inductions will highlight the Wall of Fame ceremonies at Northfield Park on Sunday, August 10. The banquet festivities begin at 5 p.m.

Aaron Merriman, 36, is the youngest Wall of Fame inductee since the awards were inaugurated in 1990. His perseverance, work ethic, talent and success have been on display at Northfield Park for over a decade. He captured the local dash title in 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2009. He has 6,577 career victories to his credit. 4,042 of those wins have come over the Flying Turns, the most by any driver in Northfield's 57-year history. He has won multiple stake races at Northfield, including the 2008 Cleveland Classic with Upfront Hannahsboy and the 2010 Courageous Lady with Sand Windsor. At a young age, Aaron has already stood the test of time. He is one of the most popular horsemen ever to reach the elite status of Wall membership.

Bill Pocza was a top trainer/driver at Northfield Park for many years, beginning with the track's opening year in 1957. His .416 UDRS led all local drivers at the 1965 Painesville meet, and he was famous in that decade for campaigning crack pacers Royal Black and Hope Time, as well as the standout trotter Guy Garrett. Although he drove until 1985, winning a total of 824 races, his reputation as a consummate horseman was established in the 60's and 70's when he presided over a powerful stable that competed not only in Ohio, but at top tracks in the mid-Atlantic and East Coast regions. For many years Pocza's main patron was noted Youngstown owner, Armour Lloyd.

Dunkster retired in 2011 as one of the greatest Ohio-bred trotters of all time. He won 89 times, including 35 victories at Northfield Park, and captured 45 Open/Invitational trots throughout his career. Dunkster bankrolled $894,320, ranking him as the fourth highest earner among all Ohio-bred trotters. He became a world champion on May 10, 2004 when he sizzled Northfield Park's Flying Turns in 1:54.2. At that time, it was the fastest mile ever trotted by a five year-old and up gelded trotter on a half-mile track. By virtue of that world record performance, Dunkster held Northfield's overall track record on the trot for over 10 years. The handsome chestnut also holds the trotting record at the Wayne County Fair (1:57.3) and Lebanon Raceway (1:57).

Myopia's Mop will be the first broodmare to join the Northfield Park Wall of Fame. Seven of her foals made it to training, six have raced, and five have been prominent names at Northfield Park. Her six starters -- Osborne's Trick, Cleaning Lady, Osborne's Bullet, Osborne's Gypsy, Osborne's Yankee and Shez Good Osborne -- have won purses totaling $1,422,341. None have earned less than $100,000, and their cumulative win tally is 159 races, with 92 of those paced over Northfield's ½-mile oval. Her offspring have five Ohio Sires Stakes Finals to their credit. Three of those championships were captured at Northfield Park, plus two Scarlet and Gray victories.

Natural Ability was an Open and Invitational pacing star from the mid-1970's to 1980. He won 28 of 92 races at Northfield Park, earning $141,657. Even though he never started in a stakes race, Natural Ability accumulated 80 wins and $322,446 in his career. He took his 1:58.4 lifetime mark at Northfield Park at the age of five. He competed against Rambling Willie several times and defeated top performers Nero, Momentum and Jilley, as well as previous Wall inductees Missouri Time, Osborne's Bret and Pickwick Baron. Natural Ability was a model of soundness and consistency for the Wilbur and Bill Zendt Stable throughout his racing days, scoring a career-high 19 wins in 30 starts at age 14.

Northfield Park's Wall of Fame Banquet is a triennial event. Other presentations on August 10 will be made to Dean Davis for the Distinguished Owner Award, Dr. Dan Wilson for the John Lee Good Fellowship Award, Nadine Hadbe for the Willie C. Banks Ideal Employee Award, Deb Sweney and Monica Drago for Outstanding Caretaker Awards, and Dan Noble and Ronnie Wrenn, Jr. for Outstanding Achievement Awards.

Ayers Ratliff

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