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WASHINGTON, PA, Feb. 15, 2017 -- The only harness racing mare in the field, Barn Girl stalked TSM Photo Bugger from the pocket, then blew by in the lane to capture Wednesday's $18,000 Preferred Handicap Trot at The Meadows. Aaron Merriman kept Barn Girl under wraps until the top of the stretch, when she brushed past the tiring leader and scored in 1:54.3. Valley Of Sin followed cover well for second, a neck back, while Trustworthy Kid, the 1-2 favorite, rallied for show. Bill Bercury trains Barn Girl, a 5-year-old daughter of Cash Hall-Turquoise Sweetie who extended her career bankroll to $394,196, for Renee Bercury. It was one of three wins for Merriman on the 13-race card.   The Meadows Racetrack & Casino

WASHINGTON, PA, Jan. 18, 2017 -- Trailing by 7-1/2 lengths at the half, Barn Girl unleashed a sustained bid for Aaron Merriman that carried her to an impressive harness racing victory -- her third straight and sixth in her last seven starts -- in Wednesday's $20,000 Filly & Mare Preferred Handicap Trot at The Meadows. A determined Whata Donato, who was parked to the three-eighths before getting the lead, appeared to have the field put away heading into the stretch. But Barn Girl rocketed by her, drawing off to defeat her by 2-1/2 lengths in 1:56.4 over a "good" surface. Early leader Unefoisdansmavie earned show. Bill Bercury trains Barn Girl, a 5-year-old daughter of Cash Hall-Turquoise Sweetie who triumphed for the 29th time in 58 career outings (50 percent) and extended her lifetime bankroll to $377,796, for Renee Bercury. Wilbur Yoder and trainer Norm Parker teamed for a pair of wins on the 13-race card while Dave Palone, Dan Rawlings and Merriman also enjoyed two-baggers. The Meadows Racetrack & Casino

Aaron Merriman led all harness racing drivers in wins for the second consecutive year, setting career highs for victories and purses in the process, but his favorite sports-related moment of 2016 came away from the track. It came when Merriman's beloved Cleveland Cavaliers won their first NBA title and brought the city of Cleveland its first championship in 52 years. "It's not even a contest," said the 38-year-old Merriman, a northern Ohio native and lifelong Cleveland sports fan. "It was phenomenal, for the city and our state and the franchise. Cleveland is actually on a big resurgence; it's getting to be a place to go and to travel to. "Everybody in my family likes sports," he continued. "This is something I grew up with. It's just like racing to me. Sports are something to bring people together. That's one of the main reasons I think I like it. There's some rivalry involved, and there are friendly arguments and friendly competition. It's just enjoyable to be a part of it." Merriman is a Browns season-ticket holder and gets ticket packages for the Cavaliers. He also is a big fan of the Indians and manager Terry Francona (who spent his early childhood in Cleveland while his father Tito played for the Indians) and was proud of the team's run to the World Series, even though it ended with a seven-game loss to the Chicago Cubs. "One thing about me, I bleed my city," Merriman said. "I love the Browns, as bad as we are, it doesn't even bother me too much. I don't give up on my teams. That's for sure." He doesn't give up on much. In 2016 Merriman led all drivers in starts for the third consecutive year - he was the only driver to surpass 4,000 in any of those seasons - and he joined Tony Morgan as the only other driver in history to win at least 800 races in three consecutive years. Merriman won a career-best 891 races last year, on the heels of posting 874 victories in 2015 and 841 in 2014. Horses driven by Merriman earned $7.67 million in purses, topping his previous high of $7.42 million set in 2015. Not that Merriman would know, unless told. "I know it's hard to believe, and no one wants to believe it, but I don't look," Merriman said. "If you start thinking you have to be at (a certain number) you start psyching yourself out for no reason. There becomes this imaginary pressure and sometimes it can get to you. I don't care who you are, you begin to press. "I try to take it, not even day by day, but card by card. Even race by race, if possible, but that's sometimes tough when you have a bad day. I just try to maximize my performance by race card." Merriman drives regularly at Northfield Park, near Cleveland, and at The Meadows, near Pittsburgh. Three times a week, he drives at both tracks --- The Meadows in the afternoon and Northfield in the evening. "Physically it's tough," Merriman said. "But mentally, to me, it's a lot easier to turn the page when I don't have to wait three days for another race. If I have a couple days off, I'm happy, but a lot of times I've got 20 horses to drive. I've got the opportunity to put a bad day behind me and fix it immediately." On Jan. 21, Merriman will be honored by the Ohio chapter of the U.S. Harness Writers Association with the Winner's Circle Award, given for outstanding accomplishments in the previous year. In February, Merriman will be honored in Las Vegas by the national USHWA organization for leading all drivers in North America in wins. While Merriman can easily identify his favorite sports moments away from the racetrack, he has difficulty picking favorite accomplishments resulting from his work. Each day at the track produces its own moments. "Just being able to stay healthy and race all year, to me, is an accomplishment," said Merriman, who missed several months of action in 2010 after an accident in which he broke both wrists and an elbow. "To stay at a high level and stay as fresh as possible throughout the year. "I don't pride myself on what I've won. I'd rather just be known as a guy that works hard, stays focused, and is determined to do the best I can. I have more pride in showing up and giving maximum effort every day." Merriman got 2017 off to a fast start, winning eight races at Northfield Park on New Year's Day. He leads North America in wins with 41. "New Year's Day, a few guys didn't show up and I had the opportunity to drive some good horses," said Merriman, who has won 8,771 races in his career, which is good for 21st place among all drivers in history. "When you have the opportunity to drive nice horses in good spots, you're going to win races. It's opportunity, opportunity, opportunity." And while Merriman focuses his energy on racing at The Meadows and Northfield, he also has picked up Grand Circuit stakes drives at tracks around the country. He would like to possibly expand his Grand Circuit schedule this year, but it's not a priority. "We'll see what opportunities come along," Merriman said. "Everybody wants to follow a great horse. But I've driven a lot of good horses. I've never had 'The One,' but I'm blessed to drive any horse in any race that has desire to do good. Hopefully I do, but if I don't, I'll take advantage of every other opportunity I get. "It's not necessary for me to be at any certain place at any certain time --- except the winner's circle, ideally." Ken Weingartner

Lebanon, OH. - Miami Valley Raceway launches its fourth season on Friday night (Jan. 6) with the highest projected purses in its brief history, plus an abundance of horse supply, a newly reconditioned racetrack surface and a number of new promotions on its "Winter Racing Festival" calendar. Following a pair of full-field 14-race programs on Friday and Saturday (Jan. 7) nights, Miami Valley will introduce the first-ever $25,000 North American Drivers Challenge on a trio of consecutive matinees from Sunday (Jan. 8) through Tuesday (Jan. 10). Thirty of the continent's winningest drivers will compete in a dozen races on the first two programs with the top ten point-getters advancing to the championship round on the third day. Included in the field are two-time defending national dash champion Aaron Merriman and Grand Circuit stalwart Brett Miller, who is also the hottest current driver at The Meadowlands. They will be joined by a host of track dash champions from throughout the United States and five Canadian reinsmen, including Bob McClure and Alfie Carroll, the two winningest north-of-the-border drivers in 2016. The opening night feature on Friday is a $22,000 Fillies and Mares Open Pace featuring a trio of $100,000-plus 2016 winners. All three took 1:50.3 seasonal speed badges while racking up double digit win totals. Safe From Terror notched 13 victories including four of the last six distaff Opens at Pompano Park. Rock The Look won two of the final four Opens at Dayton Raceway on her way to a ten win campaign. American Girl also copped ten triumphs, including several at both Hoosier Park and Dayton. The nine horse field has accumulated 165 lifetime wins and over $2.5 million in earnings. The male Open pacers will take center stage on Saturday in a slugfest that also features three $100,000 winners last season. Mykindachip will be the likely favorite after capturing the final feature at Dayton a week ago. My Buddy Ninkster, who won the two previous Saturday night features in the area will surely provide a stern test, as will E R Rudy, who finished second in his last open attempt, beaten a half-length and clocked in 1:51. The featured field has totaled 133 winner's circle visits and earned just shy of $1.7 million to date. The random draw for drivers assignments for the first two days of the North American Drivers Challenge was completed by the judges on Wednesday afternoon. Using a formula that assigns equal value to both a five-hole and a ten-hole (second tier) start, Jim Pantaleano got the best of the post positions draw with an average post position starting position of 3.25. Others with fortuitous starting slots will be Bob McClure (3.62), Josh Sutton (3.75), and Aaron Merriman, Simon Allard and Marcus Miller (all with 4.0). On the other end of the spectrum, John Cummings Jr. didn't fare as well at the draw, with the highest average starting post position of 6.62 over the course of his eight preliminary drives. The quartet of Brett Miller, Randy Tharps, Alfie Carroll and Nick Roland also will have a steeper hill to climb, with an average starting slot of 6.12. Eight late closing events dubbed the "Claim To Fame Series" will be featured during the final three weeks of January at Miami Valley. Multiple divisions of each is expected for $8000, $12,500 and $20,000 claiming pacers divided by gender. A new $30,000 claiming series for horses and geldings should provide some extremely spirited competition as well. Trotters will be the focus of series for $8000 claimers. Track Superintendent Jimmy Shelton and team have completely reconditioned the racing surface in recent weeks ready to welcome some swift miles as well as hold up to whatever winter weather is thrown its way over the next couple months. Post time for the Friday and Saturday cards is 6:05 p.m. Post time for the three matinee programs that contain the North American Drivers Challenge is 2:05 p.m. From the Miami Valley Media Department

WASHINGTON, PA, Jan. 4, 2017 -- Barn Girl continued to dominate The Meadows' distaff trotting elite, defeating them for the fifth time in her last six starts by capturing Wednesday's $20,000 Filly & Mare Preferred Handicap Trot. Aaron Merriman hustled Barn Girl from post 8 to the lead, where she faced a menacing backside challenge from Wendy's Girl. But the 5-year-old daughter of Cash Hall-Turquoise Sweetie refused to yield, reasserting in the lane and scoring in 1:56.3. Unefoisdansmavie rallied from last for second, 1-1/4 lengths lengths back, while Wendy's Girl saved show. Bill Bercury trains Barn Girl, who pushed her career bankroll to $367,796, for Renee Bercury. Dave Palone continued his strong start to the 2017 season, piloting five winners that pushed his total to 15 for the year's first three programs. Dan Rawlings enjoyed a triple on the 13-race card. by Evan Pattak, for the Meadows

Aaron Merriman is harness racing's dash winning driver for both 2015 and 2016. Flipping the calendar to 2017 has not changed his winning ways. In fact, Merriman won eight races on Sunday (January 1) at Northfield Park. Aaron's triumphs were with King Muscles ($2.40) in race 1, Jude Hall ($2.60) in race three, Ewald Hanover ($3.60) in race five, Beauty Chip ($2.20) in race six, Stevie Diamonds ($3.20) in race eight, Doc Betts' Buckeye ($2.40) in race 10, SR Radar ($3.00) in race 12 and Avanza ($2.60) in race 14. Merriman won his first race in 1998, a $2,200 condition event in 1:58.3, at the former Raceway Park in Toledo, Ohio aboard Albert's Filly. Since breaking his maiden, Aaron has scored 8,737 more times with purse earnings approaching $53 million. Ayers Ratliff

WASHINGTON, PA, Dec. 27, 2016 -- Barn Girl quarter-poled to the lead, then held off the menacing challenge of Princess Pablano to capture Tuesday's $18,000 harness racing filly & mare Preferred Trot at The Meadows. Barn Girl was on a seemingly easy lead at the three-quarters when she was confronted by the first-over Princess Pablano, who drew even into the final turn. Barn Girl dug deep for Aaron Merriman and prevailed in 1:56.2, a neck better than the game Princess Pablano. Unefoisdansmavie shot the Lightning Lane for show. Bill Bercury trains Barn Girl, a 4-year-old daughter of Cash Hall-Turquoise Sweetie who won for the fourth time in her last five starts and extended her lifetime bankroll to $357,796, for Renee Bercury. Dave Palone piloted three winners on the 14-race card, including a pair for trainer Ron Burke. Because Wednesday's program at The Meadows closes the current meeting and the 2016 live racing schedule -- no carryovers are permitted. Therefore, the Pick 4 (races 4-7 with a $5,000 total-pool guarantee), Pick 5 (races 9-13 with a $2,483.89 carryover from Tuesday) and the final superfecta on the card are all "must pay." In addition, the day's first superfecta features a $3,886.26 carryover, as Tuesday's final superfecta was uncovered.   The Meadows Racetrack & Casino

WASHINGTON, PA, Dec. 26, 2016 -- Tipitina stalked Shady Caroline from the pocket, then rolled by her in the lane to capture Monday's $13,500 harness racing filly & mare Not Listed Preferred Pace at The Meadows. Shady Caroline cut honest fractions of 27.1/56.2/1:24.4 over a "good" surface but couldn't shake Tipitina, who pulled the pocket out of the final turn for Aaron Merriman. The 6-year-old daughter of Rocknroll Hanover-Hi Ho Molly scored in 1:52.4, 2 lengths better than Shady Caroline. Classic Carpet rallied for show. Mark Goldberg trains Tipitina, who won her second straight and extended her career bankroll to $351,549, for Rags To Riches Of PA. Merriman collected four wins on the 14-race card while Dan Rawlings and Goldberg each enjoyed a triple.   The Meadows Racetrack & Casino

AARON MERRIMAN TAKES TOP DRIVING HONORS

WASHINGTON, PA, Dec. 6, 2016 -- After a challenging first quarter, Barn Girl glided effortlessly through the slop en route to her third straight harness racing victory in Tuesday's $20,000 Filly & Mare Preferred Handicap Trot at The Meadows. Leaving from post 8, the 1-2 favorite won a three-ply battle for the lead for Aaron Merriman. She easily parried the first-over thrust of Manhattan Miss and scored in 1:57.1. Bessie split horses to finish second, 1-1/2 lengths back, while Unefoisdansmavie rallied for show. Bill Bercury trains Barn Girl, a 4-year-old daughter of Cash Hall-Turquoise Sweetie who now has won 26 of 54 lifetime starts (48.1 percent) and earned $344,296, for Renee Bercury. It was one of four wins for Merriman on the 13-race card. The Meadows Racetrack & Casino

Spreester won for the 13th time this year Monday at The Meadows when she turned back two determined harness racing challengers and captured the $20,000 Filly & Mare Not Listed Preferred/Preferred Handicap Pace. Spreester retook the lead at the quarter pole for Aaron Merriman, then had to withstand the first-over bid of Shady Caroline. That accomplished, the 5-year-old daughter of American Ideal-Rodeo Spree blunted the charge of Medusa and prevailed in 1:53.2 over a "good" surface. Dime A Dance finished second, 1/2 length back, while Classic Carpet rallied for show. Bill Bercury trains Spreester, who now boasts $553,176 in career earnings, for Renee Bercury. Tony Hall collected three wins on the 14-race card. The Meadows Racetrack & Casino

WASHINGTON, PA, Dec. 3, 2016 -- Kingofthejungle moved smartly first over for Aaron Merriman and went on to capture Saturday's $20,000 Preferred Pace at The Meadows. It was one of five wins on the harness racing card for Merriman, including a pair for trainer Mike Dowdall. Kingofthejungle was third near the three-quarters when Merriman sent him after the leader, Atta Boy Dan. The 5-year-old Well Said-Allamerican Calico gelding overtook Atta Boy Dan around the final turn and held off the rallying Doctor RJ by a neck to prevail in 1:52.2. Atta Boy Dan saved show. Jack Smith trains Kingofthejungle, who extended his career bankroll to $359,316, for Fox Racing Inc. and Darius Oshidar. Rags To Riches Of PA enjoyed an ownership triple on the 13-race card. The Meadows Racetrack & Casino

WASHINGTON, PA, Nov. 29, 2016 -- Barn Girl made it two straight Tuesday at The Meadows when she quarter-poled to the lead and jogged off to a comfortable harness racing victory in the $18,000 Filly & Mare Preferred Handicap Trot. Barn Girl was away second when Aaron Merriman sent her after the leader, Mistress Valentine. The 4-year-old daughter of Cash Hall-Turquoise Sweetie never let Mistress Valentine get close, defeating her by 2 lengths in 1:54.1. Elin shot the Lightning Lane for show. Bill Bercury trains Barn Girl, who now boasts $334,296 in career earnings, for Renee Bercury. Mike Wilder continued his torrid streak, collecting four more wins to give him 19 over the last four programs. Jim Pantaleano enjoyed a triple on the 13-race card. The Meadows Racetrack & Casino

WASHINGTON, PA, Nov. 22, 2016 -- Barn Girl pulled the pocket into the final turn and wore down the leader, Mistress Valentine, in the harness racing lane to capture Tuesday's $15,500 Filly & Mare Winners Over $10,000 Life Handicap Trot at The Meadows. The 6-5 favorite, Barn Girl took the early lead for Aaron Merriman but released Mistress Valentine past the quarter to stalk from the pocket. She was the stronger mare in the stretch, downing Mistress Valentine by 1-1/2 lengths in 1:54.2. Manhattan Miss shot the Lightning Lane for show. Bill Bercury trains Barn Girl, a 4-year-old daughter of Cash Hall-Turquoise Sweetie who now boasts $325,396 in career earnings, for Renee Bercury. Tony Hall, Jim Pantaleano and trainer Dirk Simpson each enjoyed a triple on the 13-race card. The Meadows Racetrack & Casino

WASHINGTON, PA, Nov. 14, 2016 -- Spreester retook the lead at the quarter and coasted home from there in Monday's $20,000 harness racing filly & mare not listed Preferred/Preferred Handicap Pace at The Meadows. Hammered down to 2-5, Spreester zipped to the front for Aaron Merriman but briefly released Aniston Seelster. Back on top, the 5-year-old daughter of American Ideal-Rodeo Spree scorched the back half in 55.4 en route to victory in 1:52.1. Aniston Seelster was second, 2-1/4 lengths back, with Best Of Jenna third. Bill Bercury trains Spreester, who now boasts $539,576 in career earnings, for Renee Bercury. It was one of three wins for Merriman on the 14-race card. The Meadows Racetrack & Casino

WASHINGTON, PA, Nov. 12, 2016 -- Dapper Dude made it three straight when he zipped to the front, thwarted one serious challenger and captured Saturday's harness racing $18,000 Winners Over $10,000 Life/Preferred Handicap Pace at The Meadows. Dapper Dude took the field through a 1:24 three-quarters when he was confronted by the first-over Kingofthejungle, who appeared to poke his nose in front. But the 7-year-old son of The Panderosa-Dress To Suggest reasserted through the final turn for Aaron Merriman and downed Kingofthejungle by a length in 1:51.4. Atta Boy Dan rallied for show. Bill Bercury trains Dapper Dude, who extended his career bankroll to $1,013,110, for Renee Bercury. Tony Hall, Dave Palone, Dan Rawlings and trainer Ron Burke each enjoyed a double on the 13-race card. The Meadows Racetrack & Casino

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