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Dreamy Fella paced home for his fifth straight win Wednesday (January 27) in Northfield Park's 12th race. The four year-old stallion is owned by Tessa Roland of Lackawanna, New York and trained by John Perrin. Harness racing driver Aaron Merriman was aboard for the winning drive. Dreamy Fella started from post four and made every pole a winning one through fractional times of :28.1, :58.1, 1:28.2 and 1:58.2. He never experienced an anxious moment in the mile and was 1¼-lengths ahead of his competition at the wire. Wednesday's triumph was the tenth career start for Dreamy Fella (Artistic Fella-Cerulean Dream-Dream Away). He raced in New York and Canada and was beaten in all of his first five races. However, he has excelled under Perrin's tutelage and remains undefeated over the Flying Turns. Wednesday's triumph increased Dreamy Fella's lifetime earnings to $9,590. He was the overwhelming favorite and returned $2.40 to win. $2,829.90 Carryover Sparks $10,000 Guaranteed Pick-5 Total Pool Saturday at Northfield Park Northfield Park is announcing the addition of a $10,000 Pick-5 total pool guarantee to Saturday’s (January 30) program.  Beginning in Race 3, the $10,000 Pick-5 guaranteed total pool includes a carryover of $2,829.90. Northfield’s Pick 5, Pick 4 and the Pick 3’s offer a reduced takeout rate of just 14 percent.    Saturday’s post time is 6:00 p.m. Ayers Ratliff

Freehold, NJ --- There might be some debate about the origin of his name, but there is no arguing that Viewlander enjoys the brisk days of winter. An 8-year-old male trotter --- who didn’t make his harness racing career debut until November of his 4-year-old season --- Viewlander is 3-for-3 this year at Ohio’s Northfield Park and approaching $100,000 in lifetime purses. Bred and owned by Michael Patalan and trained by Patalan’s son, Eric, the gelded Viewlander has won 21 of 90 career races, but enjoyed much of his success during the months of December, January, and February. Going back to December 2014, Viewlander has raced 15 times during those months and produced 10 victories. Viewlander’s most recent win came on Jan. 18 by two lengths in the Open Handicap at Northfield’s half-mile oval. His next start is Monday in the Open Handicap at Northfield, where he will leave from post eight with driver Aaron Merriman and is the 4-1 second choice on the morning line behind S J Better Days, at 7-2. “If you look at his races, almost everybody is on Lasix but him,” Michael Patalan said. “That to me is a real special horse. You would think in the wintertime he wouldn’t be breathing as good, but he seems to thrive in the winter months. Last year he got hot about this time. We gave him the summer months off and he just enjoyed the sun and the grass and then we brought him back and he seems to be getting better with every start. “And I think he kind of likes the fact he can push horses around on the small tracks (like Northfield). I told my son after last week that Viewlander probably thinks he’s the best horse in the world right now.” Viewlander was unraced at ages 2 and 3, but Patalan liked the trotter from the beginning. “Eric doesn’t push them as 2-year-olds,” Patalan said. “If he can get them racing and sell them as 3- and 4-year-olds, we’re sort of happy to do that. But Viewlander was spectacular from birth. He’s just a nice horse. He eats well, loads well, ships well, and doesn’t need a veterinarian. What more could you ask for. “He gets turned out all the time. He’s got a couple of girlfriends in the field that he loves to yell at, even though he’s a gelding. We’re having a good time with him. When he retires, we’ll keep him as a fun horse in the field for the grandkids to play with. When you make this kind of money with a horse, we’re not a big stable or big breeders, that’s a lot of money for a breeder like us to make and it keeps the farm going for a while. So when he’s finished we’ll let the kids enjoy him.” Patalan got his start in harness racing in 1969 while living in the suburbs of Cleveland. He was an engineer for Ford and would go to the races with co-workers, but ventured into ownership after becoming friends with Burton “Bud” Jenne, who had a farm nearby. “I drove by his farm for like five months and all of a sudden one day my car turned in the driveway,” Patalan said with a laugh. “Six months later, we had a yearling.” Patalan now lives in Michigan, where he and his wife Christine have a farm and have bred more than 100 horses over the years. Patalan also has driven and trained horses during his career in harness racing. Viewlander, by the stallion Coventry, is the only offspring of Patalan’s Tagliabue mare Tagliaview --- at least for now. The 73-year-old Patalan has bred fewer horses in recent years as opportunities in Michigan diminished. But Viewlander’s success led Patalan to breed Tagliaview in 2015 to stallion Cash Hall, who is the fastest trotter in harness racing on a half-mile racetrack, with a time-trial mark of 1:51.1. “I thought that was really kind of cool,” Patalan said. “Viewlander has got a great conformation. He’s a big horse who gets around a half-mile track extremely well. With Cash Hall’s record, I just thought this was really something special. “Everybody always asks where Viewlander’s brothers and sisters are, and now I tell them one is coming.” As for the trotter’s name, Patalan recalls it being a combination of Tagliaview and Verlander --- the star pitcher for the Detroit Tigers. Others disagree, saying it was a combination of Tagliaview and the movie Zoolander. The Patalans have often named horses with references to movies or characters from movies. “We probably had a bottle of wine when we named him, one of those things,” Patalan said, laughing. “I don’t think we’re ever going to resolve it.” Patalan said Eric, who is assisted by his wife Cathy in running the training stable, has received calls inquiring whether Viewlander is for sale. Patalan said no. “We couldn’t get enough money for him to replace the fun we’re having with him,” Patalan said. “As good a care that Eric takes of horses, I think he’s got a career that’ll go a long time.” by Ken Weingartner, Harness Racing Communications

Elkton, MD - Post Time with Mike and Mike would like to remind everyone that the next few weeks, the show will be taking place at 1:00 PM on Thursday afternoons. Coming up this week we have the 2015 North America Dash Driving Champion Aaron Merriman on who will discuss how much 2015 has affected him and we will look ahead for things to come in 2016. Canadian Trainer Chantal Mitchell will be on this week after being affected by the devastating Classy Lane Farm fire just a couple weeks ago. Mitchell is the trainer of Rakin It In who won in his 1st start since the fire happened. He was the only horse to survive the fire as he was racing at Woodbine the night of the fire. We will talk to Brandon Valvo about some of the International Racing going on overseas as the horses continue to prepare for the Prix D'Amerique. Contenders for the race include Timoko and Bold Eagle both who have been very successful in recent weeks. Daily Racing Form's Derick Giwner will also be making a guest appearance on the show. Make sure to join Post Time with Mike and Mike on Thursday with a first post of 1:00 PM, for more information visit our website at www.blogtalkradio.com/ptmikeandmike or follow us on Social Media. By Michael Carter, for Post Time with Mike and Mike  

Harness racing driver Aaron Merriman focuses on one day at a time, which has led to some pretty good years. The 37-year-old Ohio native is coming off a career-best harness racing season in 2015, capturing his first North American driving title and earning a personal-high $7.40 million in purses. His 873 victories last year were the most for a dash-winning champion since Tony Morgan's 959 triumphs in 2008. Merriman is one of only three drivers --- joining Morgan and Tim Tetrick --- to win at least 800 races in back to back years. In 2014, Merriman won 841 times, but finished six victories behind Ronnie Wrenn Jr. for the No. 1 spot. Over the past 10 years, Merriman has won an average of 618 races per season. "I really take everything as a day-to-day thing," Merriman said as he reflected on his 2015 campaign. "I take pride in what I do each day and try to do the best for who I drive for. (Winning the dash title) just shows the overall body of work for what you've done during the year." Merriman was the leading driver in North America in June 2010 when he broke both wrists and his left elbow in a racing accident that sidelined him for much of the remainder of the year. In addition to finishing second in wins in 2014, he was sixth in 2013, with 568, and fifth in 2012, with 605. "It feels good to win the title because I've been close so many times," Merriman said. "There are a lot of guys who can win a lot of races. They're tough. If you go through just an average spell, or even if you're doing above average and other people are doing excellent, that's the way it goes. "I'm proud of the year I had and being able to participate in many of the Grand Circuit races. People maybe see I can win some races. It feels good. Working as hard as I have the last few years, it's something that you can say you did it for. I definitely appreciate it." Merriman, who frequently competes twice a day --- afternoons at The Meadows in western Pennsylvania and evenings at Northfield Park in northern Ohio, saw his Grand Circuit appearances in 2015 include the Breeders Crown, Hambletonian Oaks, Kentucky Filly Futurity, Tattersalls Pace, Hambletonian Maturity, Milstein Memorial, Elegantimage, Monument Circle, Carl Erskine Trot, and Allerage Open Pace. "I'd like to continue to pick up Grand Circuit drives," Merriman said. "Before, sometimes I wouldn't take those chances. If I had one (Grand Circuit drive), I'd rather drive 16 (races elsewhere). That was my mentality. But last year I took those one or two drives just to get my name out there and to participate in our sport's best events. "If I have a goal, it's to continue to compete on the Grand Circuit and hopefully do well. I really enjoyed traveling and going to those places. Just being around those kinds of events, with the owners and trainers, is special. I'm a people-person, so I like meeting new people and being around different people at times. I'm grateful for those opportunities." Merriman drove in 4,204 races in 2015, which was nearly 800 more than Corey Callahan, who was No. 2 on the list for driver starts. He drove in 4,646 races in 2014. He hopes to scale back a little bit this year, in part to enjoy more time with his family and travel. But he says this much will remain the same --- when he is committed to drive, he will be there. "Something has to happen for me not to show up," Merriman said. "I think that helps me. Maybe I'm not the best, maybe I'm not this or that, but people know I'm going to be there. I'm not a guy who is going to say that if it's inconvenient I'm not going to be there. I show up and I pride myself in that. "It's impossible for me to pick the highlight to any year. It's just having the opportunity each day to do something I love to do. I'm just as happy, it sounds nuts, winning any race. I'm just happy to win the next one. There's always a purse difference, I know, but winning never gets old. I'm happy just with the opportunity people give me to drive horses." He also is thankful for the support of his family and friends, particularly his father Lanny and longtime girlfriend Tessa. "They are instrumental in my everyday life," Merriman said. "My dad calls every day. I'm just like everyone else; I get down if I have a bad day or a few bad days. When you have people there to pick you up every single time, and knowing it's sincere, you can't beat it." Ken Weingartner

Harness racing driver Aaron Merriman, the 2015 North American Dash winner, has continued his winning ways into 2016. After posting three wins on Friday (January 1), Merriman had a monster night on Saturday (January 2) at Northfield Park by posting eight wins on the 15-race program. Merriman's triumphs were with Lady Ideal ($2.10) in race three, King Richard ($9.20) in race six, Talbotcreek Armani ($3.80) in race eight, Bob N Tony ($3.00) in race nine, Giddy Up Blackfly ($3.00) in race 10, Viewlander ($2.10) in race 11, Love You Bad ($11.20) in race 14 and Blessing Stone (2.40) in race 15. Merriman garnered 873 victories in 2015, which placed him 41 wins in front of any other driver in North America. Aaron is also the winningest driver in the history of Northfield Park, where he became the youngest inductee to the track's Wall of Fame in 2013 at age 36. Merriman has been driving since 1998. He is nearing 8,000 career wins and has over $45 million in purse earnings. Ayers Ratliff

Ronnie Wrenn Jr. again topped the local harness racing driving ranks in 2015, winning 653 races over the Flying Turns. His nearest competitor, Aaron Merriman, drove 579 winners. Jason Merriman (338), Ryan Stahl (210) and Kurt Sugg (199) completed the top five reinsmen. Wrenn, 29, resides in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio and now has four driving titles under his belt. He won the dash titles at Northfield Park in 2013 and 2014 and Northville Downs in 2013. Ronnie's 2015 total victory tally was 796, which ranked him third among all drivers in North America. Only Aaron Merriman (873) and George Napolitano Jr. (832) had more wins in 2015 than Wrenn Jr. Wrenn began driving in 2008 and has since won 2,968 races and purses of $13,731,914. Wrenn's fasted and richest win ever came in last year's $225,000 Jim Ewart Memorial at Scioto Downs aboard Doo Wop Hanover in 1:49.2. Northfield Park's 2015 leading trainer Brian Loney won 54 more races than any other local conditioner. He garnered 153 victories throughout last year. Sam Schillaci finished second with 99 wins. Michael Dowdall (86), Jessica Millner (70) and Andy Rickert (67) rounded out the top five Northfield Park trainers for 2015. Brian, originally from Hager Hill, Kentucky, has relocated to Northfield, Ohio. He and wife Harla Renae have three children: 15 year-old son Gannun, 11 year-old son Payton and six year-old daughter Polly. Loney, 37, has 1,330 career victories and purse earnings of $3,241,750. The 2015 Northfield title is the fourth local dash victory for Brian. He has also won titles at Bluegrass Downs, Fairmount Park, The Red Mile and Thunder Ridge. Brian recalled that his first training win was with the gelding pacer Stealth Fighter at Fairmount Park in 1996. Wrenn and Loney will each be presented with a plaque and dining gift certificate to the Hard Rock Rocksino Northfield Park in a winner's circle ceremony later in January. Ayers Ratliff      

Aaron Merriman wound up with 873 driving victories during 2015 to lead North American drivers for the first time. Fittingly, he won the last race of the harness racing season he competed in, the 15th at Northfield last night, rallying out of the pocket to win with Duke Uh Brava. He had four winners on Wednesday night.   Merriman's total of 873 wins in 2015 gives him the fifth-highest total ever among North American leaders, and seventh place overall among drivers' victories in one season:   2015 Aaron Merriman 873   2008 Anthony Morgan  961      (2nd in '08) Tim Tetrick 903   2007 Tim Tetrick           1189    (2nd in '07) Anthony Morgan 880   2006 Anthony Morgan 1004   1998 Walter Case Jr.    1076     (UNOFFICIAL research shows seven drivers with 3000 or more wins this decade, 2010-2015:   George Napolitano Jr. 3995   Dave Palone 3830   Aaron Merriman 3822   Tim Tetrick 3702   Corey Callahan 3396   George Brennan 3316   Bruce Aldrich Jr. 3085)

CLEVELAND, Ohio -- It's all over, but for the celebrating. And the purchase of yet another set of tires. Aaron Merriman, who five years ago literally broke his neck trying to become North America's champion harness racing driver, has finally accomplished his long sought-after goal of being sultan of the sulky. With just three days left on the racing calendar, Merriman, a regular at Northfield Park, has scored with 862 of his drives. It gives him a 30-winner lead over George Napolitano, Jr., who is done for the year. "It is something I've wanted for a long time," said Merriman, 37, who lives in Northfield, just minutes from the track where he is the all-time winningest driver. "I have pretty much made racing my life while I've been chasing the title." Merriman, a native of Cuyahoga Falls, finished second last year to two-time North American champion Ronnie Wrenn, another Northfield regular, 847 to 841 winners. But it's the 2010 campaign that he'll never forget. And Merriman has the scars to prove it. Leading the North American drivers' derby by more than 100 winners that year, Merriman suffered catastrophic injuries in a spill in a race at The Meadows in suburban Pittsburgh. It left him with a broken neck and fractures of both wrists and an elbow. "Horses were running over me," Merriman said. "At first, the doctors told me it would take me a year to get back. I returned to driving in four months. I love driving horses, not sitting on the sidelines." The game plan Merriman used to win this year's title is the same one he employed in 2010, driving at The Meadows in the daytime and Northfield Park at night. There are 135 miles and a two-hour drive between the two tracks. Merriman drives himself because he doesn't trust anybody else behind the wheel. He says he would be unable to rest as a passenger. "It has been a grind," he said. "I've probably put 80,000 miles on my car this year. I've replaced the tires, twice." Merriman has registered more than 4,000 winners at the Rt. 8 oval, making him the winningest driver in Northfield Park's 59-year history. It's an accomplishment that landed him on the track's Wall of Fame last year, its youngest member ever at 36. "I'm thinking of slowing down in 2016, maybe even taking a cruise," said Merriman. "But I'm not big on vacations. Owners and trainers count on me. I hate letting them down." By Bob Poberts Reprinted with permission of The Plain Dealer  

Aaron Merriman won three races yesterday, giving him a total of 836 sulkysitting victories for 2015 to increase his leading in this year's North American harness racing dash championship to four over George Napolitano Jr., who had the definitive reiteration of his season being finished given by himself and his wife Kathy.   There had been a brief flurry of interest yesterday when Napolitano's name was down on two Chris Oakes-trained horses at Pompano on Sunday, but harnessracing.com immediately contacted George, and both he and Kathy restated that George would not be back into the sulky into 2016. "Chris Oakes wanted me to fly down on Sunday, but our son (Kristopher) is in school until Friday, and we have things to do around here (Pennsylvania)," Napolitano told harnessracing.com.   Aaron Merriman began adding to his lead on Wednesday by posting a driving double at The Meadows during afternoon racing, reporting home first with the up-and-coming trotter Kirty Dream in the fifth, and then taking the 15th and final race by a head with another trotter, Bella Palazzo, who paid $16.20 after going first-over and then holding off the late charges of the two favorites.   Aaron's staying until the last at The Meadows meant that he did not get to Cleveland's Northfield Park until the fifth race and had only nine drives in all, but he did add another tally to his continent-leading total by sweeping his field in the last quarter with the pacer Card Dealer.   Thursday is a dark day for both tracks; on Friday, Northfield has its usual nighttime scheduled card, but The Meadows, with groups looking to hold holiday parties at the track, switched his normal afternoon racing to nighttime on Friday, and Merriman has decided to race at the Pittsburgh track that night.   After tomorrow, The Meadows has three cards left on its 2015 schedule, daylight sessions next Monday through Wednesday. Northfield has nine more nighttime cards planned: this Sunday through Wednesday, and then Saturday the 26th (making up the card that normally would fall on Christmas Day) through its closing on Wednesday, December 30.   This, then, should be the last report of its type. We leave Aaron Merriman with a lead of four, 13 more possible programs of participation to extend that lead ... and a clear path on the road leading to his first North American crown.   Jerry Connors

Harness racing driver Aaron Merriman finally made it back to the top of the 2015 North American driving win standings on Tuesday - but at Northfield last night, it was more a rollercoaster ride than a smooth progression to the top.   With the score starting the day at 832-830, Merriman two victories behind George Napolitano Jr. (who yesterday reiterated to the Daily Racing Form's Derick Giwner that he did not plan to drive again this year), Merriman first went to work in the afternoon at The Meadows, where he narrowed the lead to one with a victory with trotter Pathian in the day's fifth race. (Pathian would make quite a story herself, as she raced three times in four days at the State Fair of West Virginia in August - and set five track records, including lowering the half-miler's all-time standard to 2:01.1.) Merriman drove through the 13th at The Meadows, then headed to Northfield and his date with destiny.   Arriving at the Cleveland-area track in time for the sixth race, Merriman started his evening action with a third - and then the ride on the rollercoaster began. In the seventh, Aaron utilized the rail to work out a pocket trip with second-choice Sand India Blu, behind favored Dayplanner. Merriman ducked his horse into the Northfield passing lane, and went to the fore 100 feet from the finish - only to have his trotter go offstride within the shadow of the wire, finishing first, but being placed second for the lapped-on break.   The next dip in the ride would come in the ninth, when Merriman never saw the rail with Mustodian, circled a parked horse to challenge on the turn and go to the lead in the stretch - only to have another Merriman, Michigander Jason, follow his move with Stardust Memories, who just got by Mustodian in the final strides for a neck victory. Still 832-831 - but that was about to change.   In the tenth race Aaron gave a textbook drive to Howabout Hanover in a claiming race for non-winners of six races lifetime, tucking fifth and watching a wild early battle result in splits of 27.3 and 55.3 in 41-degree temperatures on the twicearound. Merriman moved his horse into position behind a limbed-the-mile horse, then swept three-deep off the third turn to engage frontstepping Arrow at the 1:24.3 ¾. Late on the last turn and through the stretch, there was no question which horse had more left in the tank, as Howabout Hanover strode off to a 4½ length victory in 1:53.4 - a time only 4/5 off his lifetime mark taken at the roomy Hoosier Park earlier this year, with the mercury at 78 degrees. Merriman was again tied for the driving lead at 832 - and the horse's scattered backers marveled at collecting $18.60 on a horse rated 5-2 on the morning line.   Merriman endured a breaker in the 11th and a horse mired by dull cover in the 12th, but when opportunity knocked in the lucky 13th, he opened the door, and went inside. Literally - again working out a pocket trip, here with 9-2 shot Lock Three, Merriman went to the passing lane, and while for a second it looked like his horse wouldn't kick in fast enough in the short Northfield stretch, Aaron got a late bit-grabbing burst from Lock Three to rally for a half-length tally - 2015 victory number 833, and a lead he does not seem likely to lose until the end of the season.   If you have a chance to watch the replays of the races concerned in the drama at Northfield last night, it's worth the effort to watch Aaron Merriman's body language, and how it progressed. After the seventh race, the camera follows Merriman after the race, and you can see him briefly shake his head as he was bringing his misbehaving trotter under control. In the ninth, the shot to watch is the tight-up stretch replay, as Aaron's face goes in the stretch from reflecting faint opportunity to a grimace of certain knowledge as Merriman edged past Merriman late. In the 10th, the stretch camera shows Aaron exhibit a tight-lipped half-grin as he draws away in the lane, and in the winners enclosure, he actually waves to a couple of people upon existing.   For the historic 13th, the stretch shot shows Merriman so intent on rallying his pacer up the inside that he is a study in concentration, and he shows little emotion in Victory Lane. But stay with that replay to the very end - Northfield shows a stock picture of the winning driver after the post-race ceremonies are over, and the very last shot you'll see is of a widely-grinning Aaron Merriman. ______________________   REPHIGURING THE PHINAL PHILLY NUMBERS - George Napolitano Jr. wound up with 399 wins and a UDR of .397 after the last day of racing at Harrah's Philadelphia this past Sunday; Gil Garcia-Herrera's final numbers were 153 victories and a .438 UTR. The totals were checked in the tallying system after the Philly card, but the numbers included in Monday's story did not include the Sunday results, which had not yet gone through the system as official. (The 832 seasonal figure for "GNap," verified again the next morning along with Merriman's, is official.) We apologize - but any way you look at the figures, the two horsemen had terrific seasons at Harrah's.   Jerry Connors    

Suppose this shaped up to be the first day of what should be one of the best weeks of your life - a week when you went to the lead in the North American harness racing drivers dashwinning derby.   And then you lost in your first 17 drives of the day.   But Aaron Merriman kept his cool. He won with his 18th steer of the day ...   ... and his 19th ...   ... and his 20th - and suddenly things had righted themselves.   That trio of victories in Northfield's 11th, 12th, and 13th races last night boosted Merriman's 2015 sulky success total to 830, leaving him just two behind current leader George Napolitano Jr.'s total, with Napolitano done for the year.   Merriman may not have won a race at The Meadows yesterday afternoon, but as racehorses often do, he "had excuses": for one, he did achieve four second-place finishes, and at 7-2, 9-1, 10-1, and 46-1. Another was that that 7-2 shot, along with another at 3½-1, were the only two horses in 11 drives where Merriman went off less than 7-1 - and he had four mounts who were 30-1 or more!   Also, the southwest Pennsylvania track has been going through a period where the opening card of the week has been "Meadows Manic Monday," with the last nine weeks generating nine horses paying $50 or more, three of them topping the $100 return line for a $2 win bet, and the average win bet paying off at $16.15. Yesterday it was the turn of Hall of Fame driver Dick Stillings to join in the fun, getting a 27.2 last quarter out of Purdy Sam in a "nw3" race, rallying him from seventh at the ¾ pole to win for trainer Doug Hamilton - and return $114.80 to win.   At Northfield, the hot driver was Chris Page, who had five wins on the night, including taking four of the first five races. But Merriman kept at his craft, and was eventually rewarded with the consecutive triple. In adding four seconds and five thirds in his 23 miles for the day, Aaron - despite that 0-for-17 start - managed to post a .300 UDR for Monday.   Merriman now has doubleheader action set for Tuesday and Wednesday. Both The Meadows and Northfield race Friday, but unusually The Meadows has a night card scheduled for Friday this week, so Aaron will have to make a choice.   But by then, the form would indicate that he will be King of the Driving Hill for 2015, and not likely to be looking down or back.   Jerry Connors

The traditional colors of the end-of-year holiday season are red and green. And red and green - as reflected in the harness racing "Results and Entries" listings under "Drivers" in the USTA website area - tells you about all you need to know about the 2015 North American drivers dashwinning title.   George Napolitano Jr. won three times on the final day of the 2015 season at Harrah's Philadelphia yesterday afternoon, giving him 832 victories this year. Aaron Merriman won four times at Northfield Park on Sunday evening, cutting Napolitano's edge to five, 832-827.   But you have to look at the "red and green" to know to not expect a nip-and-tuck battle for the remainder of the year, but a coronation to come, likely this week.   "Green" in the USTA system means results are in and posted; "red" denotes cards that the horseman is scheduled to participate in as far out as the draws have gone.   Merriman has six red squares - one for each of the two cards he will be driving each of the next three days, at The Meadows in the afternoon and at Northfield at night - on top of the "green" boxes indicating recent results.   Napolitano has no "red boxes." They all are green. George Napolitano Jr. has said all along that after the Philly meet closed, he would not again sulkysit in 2015, and to date he is keeping to that statement. He closes "his" year five ahead of Merriman - but now with nothing in the way of Aaron Merriman gaining the 2015 national title.   Napolitano won the second, third, and tenth races at Harrah's yesterday, bringing his final seasonal total to 396 victories, eclipsing Tim Tetrick's former local one-year mark of 380. His UDR landed at .398, also giving him the local crown in that category. This performance was a repeat of his campaign at his other base of operations, The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono, 100 miles due north of Harrah's on the Northeast Extension of the Pennsylvania turnpike, where he won 407 races (breaking his own record) and also had the leading UDR figure of .407. (UDR title figures are based on a driver having competed an average of at least once per card; UTR titles for trainers are generally figured for titles that have one starter for every two cards - a distinction that will become important a few lines below.)   One of Napolitano's winners yesterday came from the barn of Gilberto Garcia-Herrera, who visited Victory Lane 152 times during the meet for his first Philly dash title, beating out Ron Burke by 15 victories - a sizable accomplishment, seeing as Burke had won the last two training win titles here, and five of the last six. In the UTR category, Chris Oakes won the title, his 99 entrants letting him amass a UTR of .440 - vs. the .439 figure for Garcia-Herrera (who had won a UTR crown locally in 2012), even with Gil having a win and three seconds in seven starters on closing day.   Merriman visited the Northfield winners half-circle after the third, ninth, tenth, and fifteenth races last night to finish his week with 15 victories. Even half that number of wins this coming week would put Merriman in a lead he almost assuredly would retain until the end of the year - in third place is Merriman's fellow Northfield competitor Ron Wrenn Jr., two-time defending North American sulkysitting dash champ, and third this campaign at 752 wins.   Aaron Merriman has led this particular dance for a significant length of time twice before - in 2010, when an June accident put him on the sidelines for four months, and last year, where Wrenn mounted an unbelievable December rush of 100+ wins to snatch the title in the final days of the campaign.   This year, the road is straight and clear for Aaron Merriman - and he starts his march down this particular yellow-brick road this afternoon at The Meadows.   Jerry Connors  

Aaron Merriman outslugged George Napolitano Jr. in Friday's "round" of the ongoing 2015 North American harness racing drivers dashwinning title battle, posting six winners to Napolitano's five to narrow "Nap"'s lead to six, with the current score Napolitano 829, Merriman 823.   Napolitano got in a serious punch during Friday afternoon's racing at Harrah's Philadelphia, scoring five victories in 13 sulky turns. Four of the victories came from the barn of Gil Garcia-Herrera, who now has mathematically eliminated Ron Burke from winning the Philly trainers crown, with a 15-victory lead with 14 races to go. (Team Burke was digging to the end, though, also scoring four times on Friday, all with horses guided by Yannick Gingras.)   But with the action switching from The Meadows to Northfield Park Friday night, Merriman uncorked a "1-2 combination," following up on his earlier double at The Meadows with four victories at Northfield to "outpoint" his opponent for the day by one and thus making his deficit six.   Harrah's Philadelphia, The Meadows, and Northfield Park are all dark on Saturday, which means the next report in this series will come Monday, after Merriman races the Sunday night card at Northfield, and Napolitano winds up his 2015 season by driving on the last card of the Harrah's Philadelphia meet on Sunday afternoon. After that, Merriman has doubleheader action on Monday through Wednesday at The Meadows and Northfield, while Napolitano has said that he would end his 2015 campaigning after Philly on Sunday (and indeed has no drives listed anywhere after the Philly card) - and it's not hard to see "the changing of the guard" during that period or slightly thereafter.   FINISHING LINES - Napolitano will be completing a "grand slam" of eastern Pennsylvania racing on Sunday, winning the dash and UDR titles at both Philly and Pocono. At Pocono, "GNap" notched 407 winners, breaking his own record, while posting a UDR of .407; at Philly, Napolitano will likely be adding to his seasonal local record of 396, which eclipsed Tim Tetrick's 380 figure of 2011, and has a .398 UDR going into the final session....On the training side, Garcia-Herrera will be taking his first Philly dash title - Burke had worn the crown the last two years, and five of the last six - but the UTR title is still very much on the line, and that score entering the final card is Chris Oakes .440, Garcia-Herrera .439.   Jerry Connors

WASHINGTON, PA, Dec. 11, 2015 -- Tamarind waited patiently for the harness racing Lightning Lane, then poured through to capture Friday's $20,000 Winners Over $10,000 Life/Preferred Handicap Trot at The Meadows. Tamarind was away second for Aaron Merriman, stalking the leader, Lady's Dude, until mid-stretch. The 7-year-old son of Angus Hall-Spicegirl Kosmos surged inside and downed the rallying Rompaway Galaxy by 1-3/4 lengths in 1:53.2. Lady's Dude saved show. Bill Bercury owns and trains Tamarind, who now boasts $734,424 in career earnings. Jim Pantaleano piloted four winners on the 15-race card. The Meadows Racetrack & Casino

Well, if harness racing driver George Napolitano Jr. is ending his sulkysitting for 2015 on Sunday, he looks like he intends to go out a-blazin'.   Napolitano won four times at Harrah's Philadelphia Thursday afternoon, stretching his lead over Aaron Merriman in this year's North American dashwinning driving derby to seven - the current score is Napolitano 824, Merriman 817.   On a "Trottin' Thursday" card that featured 11 trots in 14 races, Napolitano won three times on the trot and once on the pace, extending his one-year Philly record to 387 victories after having broken Tim Tetrick's old mark of 380 this past Sunday. One victor on each gait was supplied by Gil Garcia-Herrera, who will win his first Harrah's conditioners crown, with a 146 victory total through the Thursday card.   Actually, Napolitano had a fifth horse cross the wire first, but the Garcia-Herrera trotter Czech It Out, known to be hard to handle, eased out of the pocket at and after headstretch rather than use an open passing lane, and in doing so caused first-over Jailhouse Juice to take up slightly, necessitating the placing of Czech It Out for interference. Ironically, the horse who was 2pl1, Schalom G, was a beaten favorite in this class last week -- with Nap up, but was overlooked Wednesay and returned $48.80 in being placed first - after coming quickly up the passing late late.   The action today (Friday) finds Napolitano with afternoon duties at Harrah's in the penultimate card of the year at the riverside oval in the south suburbs of the City of Brotherly Love, while Merriman will go day and night at The Meadows and Northfield, with two-time defending NoAm champion Ron Wrenn Jr., whose 2015 output of 750 wins has him third, joining Merriman at the Cleveland oval this evening.   All three drivers are scheduled to be out of action on Saturday; Napolitano is then scheduled to drive his last slate of races for the year at Harrah's Sunday, having said he intends to do no driving, "unless you count motorcross," for the remainder of 2015. This will leave the door open for Merriman, who is supposed to race at Northfield Sunday night and then in Meadows-Northfield doubleheaders on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday.   FINISHING LINES - George Napolitano Jr. is unfortunately not a stranger to potentially-historic achievements being lessened by a disqualification from first. Many people remember him tying Dave Palone's one-card single-dash pari-mutuel driving win record with 11 Victory Lanes visits at Pocono on June 10, 2011, but not too many remember that "GNap" crossed the wire first TWELVE times that night - but with one on the run, and disqualified for an LOB.   Jerry Connors

Wednesday was a very calm day in the very heated battle between harness racing drivers George Napolitano Jr. and Aaron Merriman for the 2015 North American dashwinning crown for drivers. Both recorded one winner on the day, bringing the current scoreline to Napolitano 820, Merriman 817.   It was an unremarkable day at Philly on Wednesday afternoon, as far as the range of winning prices - the average win price for the afternoon was $10.93, vs. the seasonal average of $10.88. But Napolitano did not have the "contending stock" he frequently handles there - seven of his 13 drives went off at 5-1 or more, which is practically "longshot status" on "George Nap" in eastern Pennsylvania, and Hall of Famer David Miller fashioned a fine afternoon with four wins.   At The Meadows, the Wednesday form was wild for the second consecutive week, as three horses paid $50 or more over the Lightning Limestone (with an 86-1 shot missing by a nose in a another heat); Merriman prevailed with one of the chalks that did reach the winners circle.   At Northfield, Merriman hit the board six times in 10 drives, but he couldn't make the winning breakthrough. Ron Wrenn Jr., two-time defending NoAm champion, Northfield's leader, and third behind George and Aaron in 2015, did get two victories , raising his 2015 total to 750. But he too often came away "close but with no cigar," as he had five other board finishes in his nine sulky steers.   Perhaps the race that best summarized the night for Merriman and Wrenn was Northfield's 11th, where Wrenn was second, beaten a neck, with Merriman another neck behind in third - to Rumors Havit and driver Jason Thompson, who blew up the tote board with a $222.60 mutuel.   Checking slated action, Napolitano is scheduled to drive on Thursday, Friday, and Sunday afternoons at Harrah's Philadelphia - the last three racing cards of the year at the suburban Philadelphia track, and likely the end of Napolitano's driving for 2015. Merriman has doubleheader action slated for The Meadows (afternoon) and Northfield (night) on Friday and Monday, and also work on Sunday night; Wrenn is scheduled to join him on the three Northfield cards.    

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