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Graceful Beauty captured the $17,500 final of the harness racing Wallflower Series on Thursday (May 21) at Northfield Park. She is owned and trained by Adam Short of Archbold, Ohio. Ronnie Wrenn Jr. was in the sulky. The five year-old pacing mare had competed in three legs of the Wallflower Series leading up to Thursday's final. She proved herself to be a true force for her competition by posting two victories and a third place finish in those legs. Graceful Beauty (Rocknroll Hanover-Mango Hanover-Big Towner) started from post two. She led her competition at every call through fractions of :27.2, :56.4, 1:27.3 and 1:57.1, besting her competition by 1 ¾-lengths. Completing the race were Winemen Dine Me, Yourplaceormine, APP Panda, Feelin Outragous, Lucky L and Dream Roll. Thursday's win was the fourth victory this year in seven starts. That quintuplet of wins this season also represents her career. Her lifetime earnings now stand at $34,432. She was heavily favored and returned $2.80 to win. Ayers Ratliff

Jason Thompson scored the 1,000th win of his driving career while driving Miss Riley in Northfield Park's opening race on Monday (May 18). They returned $14.60 to win after sitting the pocket and using a stretch kick to win, stopping the clock at 1:57. The time represents a new lifetime mark for the five year-old harness racing trotting mare. Thompson became interested in racing at an early age. He often rode with his grandfather John Dyer to various tracks to watch harness racing. Jason's first job in the industry was cleaning stalls for Sophie Zubkoff (Twaddle). Jason drove his first race in 1996 and finished seventh at the Paulding County Fair behind Pleasant Jerry in a $2,000 claiming race. 36-year-old Thompson remembers his first win as being aboard Mr Morris in 1997 at the Van Wert County Fair in a $1,000 overnight event. Mike Wolfe was the largest mentor to Thompson when he began driving regularly. "Mike gave me a lot of good advice and pointers," said Thompson. "He helped me and taught me a lot." Thompson credits the best horse he has ever driven as being Midnight Jewel. His fastest win was aboard Tug River Claude at Colonial Downs in 1:51.2. To date, Jason Thompson has not only won 1,000 races but has earned purses totaling over $3.5M. In addition to driving on a nightly basis, Thompson trains a stable of three horses with his long-time girlfriend Kerry Merriman. Ayers Ratliff

Northfield Park has announced the dates of four Iron Maiden Late Closing Series. These series offer increased racing opportunities for younger horses to start their seasons. All of the late closers carry a condition of: Non-winners of One Pari-Mutuel Race (Ohio Breds N/W Two) or Non-Winners of $7,500 Lifetime (Through 4/30/2015). The series are divided into filly and mare pacers, colt and gelding pacers, filly and mare trotters, and colt and gelding trotters. However, the trotters will be combined if at least 10 horses do not pay into each event. A one-time $200 payment will be required of each entrant to be eligible. Payments are due by May 15. Conditions for the series can be found at www.northfieldpark.com. The link is under the "For Horsemen" tab located on Northfield's homepage. Ayers Ratliff

Harness racing driver Sam Schillaci scored the 3,000th win of his driving career aboard Pay The Winner in Northfield Park's opening race on Monday evening (May 4). They boldly loomed from far back to pass their rivals, besting the competition by eight and ¼-lengths in 1:58 over a sloppy surface. Sam grew up in the horse business. His father owned harness horses and his uncle and cousin were trainers. Schillaci, 52, drove his first race in in 1979 behind the pacing mare Jenny Roe Gill. She was not only his first drive, but was also the first horse that returned to the winner's circle sporting Schilliaci's maroon and gold colors. Schillaci's richest win was aboard Memphis Flash in the 1998 edition of the $215,300 Cleveland Classic at Northfield Park. Sam credits Memphis Flash as being the best horse he has ever driven. Teeth Of The Dog posted Schillaci's fastest win in August, 2000 when he won the $11,000 Invitational Pace in 1:51.3. Sam's drives have amassed over $11 million in purse earnings. Having been involved with harness racing all his life, Sam does a lot more than just catch drive at Northfield Park. The Macedonia, Ohio resident works very hard and has turned the sport into a way of life. He trains a stable of 32 horses with Jodi, his wife of 15 years. "I have not driven a whole lot for most of the last decade," stated Schillaci. "I had lost most of my interest in driving for the most part, but with racing coming back like it has and the nice purses here at Northfield I have regained my interest and passion. I am now looking forward to my 4,000th win." Ayers Ratliff

Ronnie Wrenn Jr., winner of more races than any other harness racing driver in North America in both 2013 and 2014 was at it again on Monday (April 20) at Northfield Park. He won four races on the 15-race program including both the $13,000 Open Pace and $13,000 Open Trot. Rockin Finish was impressive in winning the evening's Open Pace. Virgil Morgan Jr. trains the six year-old gelding for Canadian owner Gerrie Tucker. Rockin Finish (Rocknroll Hanover - Please Me Please - Camluck) started from the far outside and was parked every step while his competition carved stiff fractions of :26.2, :55.1 and 1:23.4. Rockin Finish struck the lead in the stretch and bested his competition by a half-length, in 1:53.4. Completing the race were Fancy Creek Elusive, Hotunderthecollar, Action Metro Max, Solar Surprise and Artist Night. Espen De Vie did not finish. Monday's triumph was the fourth win in 13 starts this year for Rockin Finish. It increased his lifetime win tally to 25 and his earnings to $376,947. He returned $17.60 to win. Victory Is Coming was the winner of the weekly Open Trot. Betty and John Shaw own the eight year-old. Ammon Hershberger conditions the buckeye-bred trotting mare. Victory Is Coming (Victory Sam - Norse Comer - Overcomer) left alertly from post four and led her competition at every call. She set well-rated fractions of :28.1, :58, 1:27.1 and 1:55.4 and was 2 1/2-lengths in front at the finish. Completing the race were Edit, Julians Caesar, Easy Strength, Zorgwijk Mercedes, Viewlander, Kirty Dream and Mama Made Me Blue. Victory Is Coming now has three wins in seven starts this year, 53 career successes and a bankroll of $584,595. She was the heavy favorite and paid $2.80 to win. Ayers Ratliff  

Northfield Park has a limited number of open stalls on the backstretch that are available for harness racing stables with qualified racehorses. Northfield's backstretch offers access to training on the main track, plus an additional jogging track, an equine swimming pool and grooms dormitories. Stall rent is free for stables that average two starts per stall per month at Northfield. Northfield offers year-round racing with ever-increasing purses that currently average $90,000 per program. Interested parties should contact Northfield's race office at 330-467-4101 ext. 2300 or e-mail Exec. V.P. of Racing & Simulcasting Dave Bianconi at dbianconi@northfieldpark.com. Stall applications are available at www.northfieldpark.com under the "horsemen" tab. Ayers Ratliff

Northfield Park is announcing the addition of a $10,000 Pick-5 total pool guarantee to Wednesday's (March 18) harness program. Beginning in Race 3, the $10,000 Pick-5 guaranteed total pool includes a carryover of $2,088.50. Northfield's Pick 5, Pick 4 and the Pick 3's offer a reduced takeout rate of just 14 percent. Wednesday's post time is 6:00 p.m. Ayers Ratliff

Despite driving in arctic temperatures, Ronnie Wrenn Jr. kept hot hands throughout Northfield Park's 15-race harness racing program on Thursday (February 26). Wrenn piloted seven winners on the card. Wrenn's scores included South Beach Babe ($4.80) in race two, Rosy Fire ($3.80) in race five, Kayleigh's Future ($5.80) in race six, Bella Knight ($3.20) in race seven, Eyewitness Account ($6.20) in race nine, Sweetheart Dance ($3.20) in race 11 and Machnazetrois ($13.20) in race 12. Wrenn, 28, began driving in 2008 and has since garnered over 2,300 career victories. He is approaching $9.3M in total purse earnings. Wrenn has posted 84 victories so far this year over Northfield's Flying Turns, placing him second in the local driving ranks behind Aaron Meriman (104). Ryan Stahl (35), Jason Merriman (34) and Kurt Sugg (30) complete Northfield's top-five drivers. Northfield Park Adds $20,000 Pick-4 Total Pool Guarantee to Monday's Card Northfield Park is announcing the addition of a $20,000 Pick-4 total pool guarantee to Monday's (March 2) program. Beginning in Race 8, the $20,000 Pick-4 guaranteed total pool includes a carryover of $4,070.84. Northfield's Pick 5, Pick 4 and the Pick 3's offer a reduced takeout rate of just 14 percent. Monday's post time is 6:00 p.m. Ayers Ratliff

Activator paced home for his 50th harness racing career victory, winning the 4th race at Northfield Park on Tuesday (February 17). The 14 year-old veteran has 351 career starts, winning 50, and finishing second and third 50 and 58 times respectively. Activator (Western Hanover - Something Electric - Artsplace) has impressive career earnings of $871,328 and a lifetime mark of 1:49.4 at Meadowlands Racetrack at age four. The pacer's richest win was for a purse of $44,180 in an Open Pace at Mohawk Raceway in 2008. Activator is a well-traveled campaigner -- his 50 wins have been spread across 16 different racing surfaces. Activator started from post nine and rode the rail while his competition set fractions of :28.1, :57.3 and 1:27.3. He found room in the stretch and bested his competition by a quarter-length in 1:57.3. Activator was the race favorite and returned $3.20 to win. Preston Kinsey of Clayton, Delaware owns Activator. His trainer Scot Davidson called upon Ronnie Wrenn Jr. for the winning drive. Davidson currently holds the highest UTRS (.611) of all conditioners in North America so far in 2015. Ayers Ratliff

Patricia (Pat) Simmons, 82, of Stow, Ohio, died from complications associated with Alzheimer's disease on Wednesday, February 11, 2015. Standardbred racing was a passion in Ms. Simmons' life. She and her husband, Earl, were heavily involved in harness racing -- which sparked a job offer from former Northfield Park General Manager John Phillips. Ms. Simmons was a faithful Northfield Park employee for over forty years. She eventually became the Assistant Race Secretary and worked under the tutelage of Herman Brickel, Dennis Haskell and Gregg Keidel. After working in the Race Office, Pat did double duty at night, working as a beloved mutuel teller for over a decade under the supervision of current Northfield Park Assistant General Manager Mike Colacarro. "You don't find people like Pat every day. People like her are rare," said Gregg Keidel, her boss for over 20 years. "She was a very gracious lady who never said a cross word about anyone." In her youth, Ms. Simmons was crowned Miss Goodyear Tire. She was also the grandmother of Aaron Merriman and former mother-in-law of Lanny Merriman. Funeral arrangements are still being made. However, it has been determined that in lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to the National Alzheimer's Association. Ayers Ratliff

Aaron Merriman scored the 7,000th win of his driving career while driving Ali Rush in Northfield Park's 9th race on Thursday (January 15). Ali Rush boldly left from the gate and led her competition from start to finish, winning by three-quarters of a length in 1:56.3. Merriman, 36, keeps a torrid schedule, regularly competing at Northfield Park and The Meadows. However, he also races at various other venues throughout the year. In 2014 Merriman competed in 4,646 races, more than any other driver in North America. Merriman's talents have been noticed on the national stage and he has competed against the best of the best in harness racing. In 2014 Merriman found himself behind the starting gate of the Hambletonian, an elimination of the Little Brown Jug, the Kentucky Futurity, the Canadian Trotting Classic as well as a host of other Grand Circuit and major stake races. In August, Merriman became the youngest inductee into the Northfield Park Wall of Fame. Merriman's richest win came in a $300,000 Kentucky Sire Stakes Final aboard Palazzo Princess. Aaron's fastest win was race timed in 1:48.3 aboard Kanaris at Scioto Downs in September, 2014. Merriman remembers his first win as being aboard a pacing mare named Albert's Filly at Raceway Park in Toledo, Ohio. Although there are 7,000 to choose from, Merriman says that he has no favorite win, "It always feels great to win a race," explained Merriman, "I really don't have a favorite. I have had the same elated feeling every time I have been to the winner's circle." Merriman started driving at the age of 21 and appreciates the successful 15-year career he has experienced so far; accomplishing the 7,000-win milestone and purse earnings approaching $40,000,000. "I've had a great run for a long time," said Merriman. "There are so many owners and trainers that have given me opportunities and I will be forever grateful to them. The horses deserve credit too -- they are the ones who carry us around the track and deserve the real credit for my 7,000 wins." Northfield Park is announcing the addition of a $25,000 Pick-4 total pool guarantee to Monday’s (January 19) program.  Beginning in Race 8, the $25,000 Pick-4 guaranteed total pool includes a carryover of $4,684.66. Northfield’s Pick 5, Pick 4 and the Pick 3’s offer a reduced takeout rate of just 14 percent.    Monday’s post time is 6:00 p.m. by Ayers Ratliff, for Northfield Park

Longshot players were ecstatic as the horses crossed the finish of Northfield Park's fifth race on Wednesday (January 14) when #7 Bethann swooped up from the back to win at odds of 62-1. Robert Slowey of Mentor, Ohio owns the five year-old trotter. Trainer James Criss Jr. enlisted the driving services of Ryan Stahl. Wednesday's win was Bethann's first lifetime score and second career start. Bethann was followed across the wire by #5 Chipsswingingstar (57-1) and #4 Parris Island (35-1). Bethann returned $125.00 to win; the 7-5 Exacta paid $734.80 and the 7-5-4 Trifecta returned a whopping $12,349.20. Although Bethann's score sparked massive returns, it is not even close to being the highest win payoff in Northfield Park's history. That record remains with Jet's Appearance and driver Sheri Hersman. They paid $579 to win on August 22, 1988. by Ayers Ratliff, for Northfield Park

Longshot players' year started with a bang in the ninth race at Northfield Park on Thursday (January 1) when #8 Sky Lav powered up from the back to win at odds of 134-1. Wooster, Ohio's Henry Beachy trains and co-owns the six year-old trotter with Mark Scheibe of Lakeville, Ohio. Tyler St Louis was aboard for the winning drive. Thursday's win was Sky Lav's seventh lifetime score. Sky Lav was followed across the wire by #9 Cabo (3-5) and #4 Tallerthanwoody (31-1). Sky Lav returned $269.80 to win; the 8-9 Exacta paid $698.20 and the 8-9-4 Trifecta returned a whopping $6,568.80. Although Sky Lav's score sparked massive returns, it is not even close to being the highest win payoff in Northfield Park's history. That record remains with Jet's Appearance and driver Sheri Hersman. They paid $579 to win on August 22, 1988. by Ayers Ratliff, for Northfield Park

Ronnie Wrenn Jr. has found his mojo at the right time -- putting some distance between himself and Aaron Merriman with only one night of racing left to determine the 2014 National Dash Driving Title. Wrenn entered Northfield Park's Tuesday (December 30) program with a slim 837 - 836 lead over Aaron Merriman. He exited the card with a five win lead,  843 - 838. Wrenn's six wins included Mantaculater in race two, Romantic Play Date in race four, Credit Report in race five, Heeza Nordic in race nine, Mr Apollo in race 11 and Detroiter in race 12. Merriman's driving double consisted of Jojo In The Sky in race 14 and Movin' N Shakin' in race 15. The two are scheduled to square off again one final time in 2014 on Wednesday night at Sports Creek Raceway in Michigan. The Wednesday action is set to begin at 7:00 p.m. by Ayers Ratliff, for Northfield Park  

Ohio's leading racetrack by total handle, both on-track and export, is offering live harness racing four nights a week to start the 2015 racing year. January through May racing is Monday through Thursday with one Friday (January 2). Beginning June 12 Northfield swaps Thursdays for Friday evenings. Thursday evening racing returns on October 8 as well as our traditional Monday through Friday schedule which will be raced until the end of the year (except Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Year's Eve). Northfield Park's four marquee racing events are as follows: the $200,000 (est.) Battle of Lake Erie Friday, June 12; the $200,000 (est.) Cleveland Trotting Classic Friday, July 3; the $500, 000 (est.) Carl Milstein Memorial Friday, August 14; and the $125,000 (est.) Courageous Lady Friday, November 27. Each live racing night carries a first race post time of 6:00 p.m. Northfield Park is announcing the addition of a $20,000 Pick-5 total pool guarantee to Tuesday’s (December 30) program.  Beginning in Race 3, the $20,000 Pick-5 guaranteed total pool includes a carryover of $4,007.24. Northfield’s Pick 5, Pick 4 and the Pick 3’s offer a reduced takeout rate of just 14 percent.   by Ayers Ratliff, for Northfield Park

Ronnie Wrenn Jr. posted 714 wins in 2013, 69 more than any other driver in North America. In his quest to repeat as the winningest driver again this year, only one driver stands in his way, his friend and nightly competitor, Aaron Merriman. Wrenn started Friday (December 26) with 816 wins this year, which trailed Merriman's win tally by 10. Throughout Northfield Park's 16-race program, he whittled that lead to five. While Merriman posted three solid wins on the night, Wrenn made eight trips to the Winner's Circle. With five days left in 2014, both Merriman and Wrenn are chasing the driving title. "I have to continue getting horses in the right spots and winning races. "We race horses to win, that is what I like to do and that is why I'm in this sport," explained Wrenn. "A couple of weeks ago I did not like my chances at all. I just wanted the race between Aaron and I to go away, but things have really come together and I have been able to have some really big nights in the last week or so, putting me with a shot to win again." Meanwhile, Merriman states that becoming the 2014 National Dash Champion would be icing on the cake for the unbelievable year that he has experienced. "I have worked hard and hustled for a long time," explained Merriman. "Winning races is great and that it what racing is about, but the experiences I have had this year are indescribable." This year has put Aaron Merriman behind the starting gate of the Hambletonian, an elimination of the Little Brown Jug, the Kentucky Futurity, the Canadian Trotting Classic as well as a host of other Grand Circuit and major stake races. In August, Merriman became the youngest inductee into the Northfield Park Wall of Fame. Merriman has taken Saturday off, while Wrenn has a full slate of drives in the 13-race program at Sports Creek Raceway. Both drivers will be back at the Flying Turns on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday. Neither driver has fully committed, but are both keeping the option open of driving at Sports Creek on Wednesday (December 31), depending on how the numbers stack up between now and then. by Ayers Ratliff, for Northfield Park

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