Day At The Track

Ronnie Wrenn, Jr. on the road to stardom!

11:10 PM 20 Feb 2012 NZDT
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Ronnie Wrenn, Jr.
Ronnie Wrenn, Jr.

To find the name 'Wrenn' among the leading harness racing drivers in North America is not a surprise. Peter Wrenn has won more than 300 races each of the last six years and is approaching 8,800 for his career.

But this is not Peter sitting among harness racing's top 20 as the season moves toward the end of February. It is his nephew, Ronnie Wrenn, Jr., who entered Monday with 47 victories. Last year marked Wrenn's first full campaign as a driver and he won 150 times, earning $499,035. He was named the Rising Star of the Year by the Michigan Harness Horsemen's Association.

"I had a pretty good year," the 25-year-old Wrenn said. "It got better toward the end of the year; I had the opportunity to drive better horses. This year has started off a little better. Hopefully I can keep it going. I have a goal to at least bat .300; I'd consider that a really good year."

Wrenn entered the week "batting" .293, which is his driver's rating based on in-the-money finishes. He is second in the driver standings at Michigan's Northville Downs, one triumph behind Brad Kramer, and was tied for fourth at Windsor Raceway in Ontario.

"I just want to win as many races as I can," Wrenn said. "In a couple weeks I'll be going to Indiana. I'm going to move there for the spring and stable at the racetrack. Hopefully there are opportunities for me to drive because I'd really like to drive on a bigger circuit like that. Last year was mostly Michigan, Canada and Raceway Park.

"My dad will be there and my uncle. On the days I'm not driving there I'll continue to drive in Michigan. I'd rather stay here, but it's necessary to move."

Wrenn's father, Ron, has nearly 2,000 wins as a driver and also trains horses. Peter Wrenn was the top driver at Indiana Downs and Hoosier Park last season. Another of Wrenn's uncles, Gary, also trains and drives.

"With my dad and my two uncles, they've all influenced me quite a bit," Wrenn said. "Anytime I have questions I can go to any of them for advice."

In addition to driving, Wrenn is training five horses and going to school part time for a degree in criminal justice. He is one semester from completing his studies and earning a bachelor of science degree.

"I'm pretty busy right now," Wrenn said. "I like training, but catch driving would probably be No. 1 for me. I really like to drive. There's not always time for both if you're driving at one track in the afternoon and one at night."

Wrenn's season in 2011 began to take off in September. Over the course of the final four months of the year, he picked up 60 percent of his victories (90 wins). So far this year, he is on pace to more than double his win total from last season.

"That would be cool, at least to double it," Wrenn said. "To triple it would be a really good year. It just depends on how many drives I get.

"Anytime you win with a couple longshots, people notice and give you chances to drive their horses. I just started to do well and got the opportunity to drive for some nice trainers around here and did well with those horses. Just working hard, showing up at the tracks, never calling in no matter what; I think that really pays off. You just have to be dedicated to what you're doing.

"It never hurts to have my (family's name), but you still have to make a name for yourself. Like anything, you really need that break."

Wrenn was a standout football and baseball player in high school, playing running back and safety on the gridiron and center field on the diamond. In both sports, he took advantage of his speed. Now, he is happy making speed on the racetrack. His highlight of last year was setting a track record at Hazel Park with pacer Quick Step, who won in a lifetime-best 1:52.1.

"I love being around the track and doing everything with the horses," Wrenn said. "I'm hard on myself because I don't like to just settle for anything; I always want to do better.

"Just being comfortable and being able to relax is probably one of the keys to doing well. If you're not comfortable, you're going to make a lot of decisions that are mistakes. Now I'm driving almost a full card a night rather than driving one or two (horses) a week. You just get a lot more comfortable out there and everything comes a lot easier."

by Ken Weingartner, Harness Racing Communications

Courtesy of the US Trotting Association's Web Newsroom

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