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Donald “Don” McKirgan, one of the top trainers in the state of Ohio, has been elected as the newest member of the Ohio Harness Racing Hall of Fame. He was elected by a vote of the Ohio chapter of the U.S. Harness Writers Association. Known as “Ohio’s Trotmaster,” McKirgan has enjoyed success with both gaits, including the 2015 Ohio Horse of the Year, Like Old Times and is credited with 3,640 career driving wins. McKirgan, 77, came to Northfield Park when it opened in 1957 and remains stabled there today. He was the leading driver at the Cleveland oval in 1977 and 1981 and led all Northfield drivers in the Universal Drivers Rating in 1980, 1982, 1983 and 1985. He was elected to the Northfield Park Wall of Fame in 1992. McKirgan has won at least one race at Northfield Park every year before being sidelined for the entire 2004 season. In November 2003, McKirgan suffered what would have been a career ending illness for most people. He was diagnosed with Guillain-Barré disease, an inflammatory disorder that paralyzed McKirgan for nearly half a year. McKirgan will be honored at the Ohio Harness Horsemen’s Association banquet in Worthington, Ohio, on Saturday, January 13. Jay Wolf

Like Old Times went to post on Saturday (November 7) at Northfield Park as both the 2015 Ohio horse of the year and the fastest harness racing four year-old trotting mare in the history of the Flying Turns. When she crossed the finish, she proved herself even faster when she lowered her own track record in the $14,000 Open Handicap Trot to 1:54.4. Her former record was 1:55 trotted earlier this year. Keith Ross of Bellefontaine, Ohio owns Like Old Times. Don McKirgan is her conditioner and Ronnie Wrenn, Jr. was in the sulky for the winning drive. Like Old Times (Chip Chip Hooray-Royal Two-Royal Troubador) started from post five. She fired off the gate and led her competition through fractions of :27.4, :57.2, 1:26.1 and 1:54.4, besting her competition by 1¾-lengths. Like Old Times now has eight wins in 24 starts this year. Monday's victory represents her 22nd career score and bolstered her bankroll to $492,430. She returned $9.40 to win. Ayers Ratlif

Northeast Ohio's premier trotting race, the Cleveland Trotting Classic, will go to post Saturday (July 2) at Northfield Park. This will be the second edition of the Classic and it carries a purse of $180,000. The Grand Circuit event has attracted some of the best veteran trotters in North America. It has been slated as the 11th event on a 15-race harness racing program. First race post time is 6:00 p.m.   Shake It Cerry drew post three and has been named the 2-1 morning line favorite by Northfield Park Executive Vice President of Racing and Simulcasting Dave Bianconi. Although winless so far in 2016, the five year-old mare has 28 lifetime successes and earnings over $2.5 million.   Obrigado drew the rail and has been assigned a 3-1 morning line. He was the runner-up in last year's Classic and has three wins in six starts this season, most recently a 1:53.3 score in the $210,000 Charlie Hill Memorial at Scioto Downs on June 11.   Local favorite Like Old Times enters this event off two straight wins over the Flying Turns. She was the 2015 Ohio Horse of the Year and is conditioned by Northfield Park Wall of Famer and Ohio Trotmaster, Don McKirgan. Although programmed as a 25-1 longshot, she broke the track record for four year-old trotting mares just two weeks ago.   The 2016 Cleveland Trotting Classic field: Post Horse Driver Trainer M/L 1 Obrigado - Mark MacDonald Paul Kelley 3-1 2 Homicide Hunter - Dave Palone Chris Oakes 4-1 3 Shake It Cerry - Aaron Merriman Jimmy Takter 2-1   4 Il Sogno Dream - Trevor Henry Christopher Beaver 10-1   5 Muscle Up The Goal - Aaron Merriman Christopher Beaver 8-1   6 Maestro Blue Chip - Victory Kirby Jo Ann Looney-King 6-1   7 Like Old Times -  Don McKirgan - Ronnie Wrenn Jr. 25-1   8 Boffin - Jason Merriman -  Anette Lorentzon 25-1   *Driver selections will be finalized by 9 p.m. Tuesday evening.   This year's Classic program undercard is highlighted by three $20,000 Open events. One features Foiled Again, the richest horse in the history of harness racing and a three-time Battle of Lake Erie winner. The Opens and the Trotting Classic comprise the evening's Pick-4, which carries a $10,000 guaranteed pool.   In addition to superior racing action, the night will also offer guests a buffet in Lady Luck's clubhouse dining room. The buffet is just $19.95. Reservations are preferred and can be made by calling 330.467.4101.   Guests who want to be close to all of the racing action can stop by the grandstand apron for an array of FREE fanfare activities. These attractions include a FREE Northfield Park ball cap for the first 1,500 patrons, a t-shirt toss from the winner's circle by the successful driver of each race, country band Six String Cowboy performing on the apron from 6-10 p.m., spinning of the Northfield Park Prize Wheel for FREE cash and prizes from 8-9 p.m., and some of Northeast Ohio's favorite food trucks on the grandstand apron from 6-10 p.m.   Ayers Ratliff

Like Old Times crossed the finish line faster than any other four year-old female trotter in the history of Northfield Park when she won the $13,500 Open Trot in 1:55 on Monday (June 20). The clocking formally broke the 1:55.2 harness racing record by Barn Girl (Joe Bongiorno) set earlier this year. Keith Ross owns Like Old Times. Don McKirgan is her conditioner and Ronnie Wrenn, Jr. was in the sulky for the winning drive. Like Old Times (Chip Chip Hooray-Royal Two-Royal Troubador) started from post three. She led her competition through fractions of :27.4, :57.1, 1:26.2 and 1:55. Like Old Times now has two wins in eight starts this year. Monday's victory represents her 16th career score and bolstered her bankroll to $336,600. She returned $4.40 to win. Ayers Ratliff

Louisville, KY --- For two Ohio gentlemen rapidly approaching octogenarian status, it appears that harness racing owners Don McKirgan and Keith Ross have discovered the ever elusive Fountain of Youth. Contrary to popular belief, the “Water of Life” is not a liquid and is not presented in a golden chalice. The key to eternal vitality presents itself in many different forms and in this case, it just happens to be a horse. In what is a certainly not a twist of fate, this equine vessel’s name is Like Old Times and she is the Buckeye State’s 2015 Horse of the Year. “(Driver) Ronnie (Wrenn Jr.) has done a terrific job with her,” said Ross when he accepted his homebred’s divisional hardware. “He told me good horses improve his talent, but I think he is being modest. “There was one occasion where Ronnie could not drive her and Donnie asked me who I wanted to put up on her. I told him to put himself up and he said, ‘What should I do?’ I told him to just ask Ronnie who said, ‘Just drive her like I do and she will win.’ When Don said that to me it was right before the race and I just walked away. When we were in the winner’s circle he asked me why I did that and my response was, ‘Don, we have been together more than 40 years and you have never done anything that anyone told you to do.’ “I know it shows how old I am, but I am old (79). “That win probably makes Don the oldest trainer and driver (at age 75) to win a race here in Ohio, but age is just a number because it has been one of the best years of my life. I think this filly has added on at least another four years for both of us.” Like Old Times is a daughter of Chip Chip Hooray and the Royal Troubadour mare Royal Two. She has performed on 25 occasions in her two-year career under McKirgan’s watchful eye and compiled a record of 14-6-2 with a bankroll just under $315,000. She served notice she was a force to be reckoned with on Aug. 22, 2014 at Scioto Downs. After competing in a mile where she never even caught a glimpse of the fence, Like Old Times hit the wire first in 1:57.1, which was a track record. She completed the season with a slate of 10-3-2-2 and just over $64,000 in purse money. “We always knew she was a very nice filly,” Ross said. “Her dam is a 100 percent producer and she has thrown two other horses that made over $200,000 (Cool Colby and Lucky Colby, both by Jailhouse Jesse). “Royal Two only raced once as a 2-year-old and she won a Pennsylvania Sire Stake race in that start. Unfortunately, she broke a bone so we had to retire her, but she has been nothing but good to us and Like Old Times is definitely the best horse from the 11 foals she has produced. “In nearly all of her races as a 2-year-old she was parked out wide, but when Dan Noble drove her in the Ohio Sire Stakes final he said if she had not been so far back she would have won. She was third by a head and we were happy with that. We just wanted to protect her and still do.” In 2016, Like Old Times amassed just under $251,000 and did capture the $225,000 Sire Stakes final in a romp. In 15 trips to the gate, her picture was taken on 11 occasions and the other four appearances were second place finishes. “How can you ever think to even complain about that kind of year?” Ross said. “I think her total margin of defeat in those races was by a total of three lengths. We were so lucky to have her and Ronnie always drove her just enough to win. He took care of her and we are so grateful for that. “For example, look at what she did at Delaware (County Fairgrounds in the Ohio Breeders Championship). She was second by a nose and her and Ronnie both thought they won. She came back to the barn not ever knowing she was beaten. Also, the one we lost to was Dan Ater’s horse (Honey B) and if we are ever going to lose to somebody, I would rather it be him.” McKirgan heartily concurs with Ross’ assessment of this filly, but adds an additional component to why Like Old Times is so successful. “She is the best horse I have ever had in my barn,” he said. “She has perfect manners on and off the track. She is also very intelligent and enjoys her work. When it comes to trotting fillies they can be difficult and have a lot of bumps in the road. This one has never had an issue. She is beautifully gaited and although I put headpoles and a hood on her ears as a 2-year-old, I don’t think she needs them. I just never wanted to change anything since she has done so well. If it’s not broken, don’t try to fix it. That is one thing I’ve learned over the years.” Although all her appearances were within the confines of Ohio’s state lines, Like Old Times will be venturing into new territory in 2016. “I had her eligible for a late closer race at Lexington last year,” Ross said. “I’m glad we did not end up racing her there because all it did was rain. We really think she will like a big track, but we also think she adapts herself to any kind of environment just because of how much she loves to race. Her personality is like no other horse I’ve ever had and I’ve had several that made it to the Hambo. Our goal was to just take care of her. “She is in training now and we are putting her in some of the bigger races this year. The first one we are pointing to is at Miami Valley on May 8. She will compete primarily in Ohio and at The Meadows. We look forward to seeing how she does this year and I will be there to watch her every time she races. “I may be old, but this one makes me look forward to putting my head on the pillow so I can wake up in the morning and I think she has done the same for Donnie. “Also, I never expected her to win Horse of the Year. I was just tickled she won 3-year-old filly trotting champion. I was amazed and humbled by the fact people voted for her. I can’t thank them enough. Especially with all the tremendous Ohio horses that raced this year.” McKirgan clearly has the same confidence in this state champion that Ross possesses. “She is training well and we just hope she can come back this year in the same form,” he said. “She seems to be, but you never know until it happens. Also, this a year where she will take on older mares, so you have to take that into account, but if anyone can do it, this one can. She just loves being out there, is easy on herself and does everything on her own. It has been a pleasure to watch Mr. Ross enjoy here and she has probably added at least another four years on to my life. She makes you want to get up and come to the barn each morning to see her.” by Kimberly French, USTA Web Newsroom Senior Correspondent 

Like Old Times was much the best in Northfield's harness racing feature race on Wednesday (May 27). She romped in the $17,500 Gin Blossom Series Final. The sophomore filly is trained by Don McKirgan for owner Keith Ross of Bellefontaine, Ohio. Ronnie Wrenn Jr. was aboard for the winning drive. Like Old Times (Chip Chip Hooray-Royal Two-Royal Troubador) began from post seven. She was parked through the initial :28.3 and :58.4 fractions. She took the lead in the third panel and remained on top through times of 1:28.2 and 1:58.1. She was an uncontested four lengths in front at the wire. Completing the race were Es Mucho, Sammy De Vie, Guth, Lu's Neely, Northern Cone, Mr Fix It Elwood, Treasure Volo and Sammy Sammy Sammy. Wednesday's win was Like Old Times' fourth victory this season in five starts. It bolstered her career win tally to seven and her lifetime earnings to $91,105. She was heavily favored and returned $2.80 to win. Ayers Ratliff          

Victory Is Coming and Ronnie Wrenn Jr.stole the spotlight with their world and new track record performance of 1:51 at Scioto Downs Friday. The previous world record of 1:51.4 for an aged trotting mare on a 5/8 mile track was set by Beatgoeson Hanover and In Your Room, both in 2013.  The previous track record of 1:52.2 was held by Unefoisdanmavie and Modern Family. The 7-year old mare by Victory Sam out of Norse Comer is trained by Ammon Hershberger for Betty and John Shaw. Victory Is Coming has now earned over $520,000 in her 107 starts and has made 47 trips the winners circle. The mare started from post five in the full field of 10 and went off at odds of 8-5. Wrenn got away an early fifth behind the battle of Its Complicated and Creatine. Clicking the opener quarter in a hot, :26.2. The pace didn't slow much when Lachance grabbed leather with Creatine to drop in third. They clocked the half mile in :54 and it was shortly after that Wrenn pulled the right line and made a quick brush to the front. Victory Is Coming quickly opened up 3-lengths on the field as she hit the three quarters in 1:22.2. Wrenn had the talented mare well in hand as the cruised to a 1-1/4 lengths victory over Southwind Pepino. The other lone mare in the field, Daylon Miracle was a closing third. Freshman fillies dominate in $40,000 Ohio Sires Stakes at Scioto Downs on Friday night. Like Old Times and Josh Sutton set a new track record of 1:57.2 for 2-year trotting fillies at Scioto Downs. The previous record of 1:57.2 was held by Rose Run Keepsake. Like Old Times is a daughter of Chip Chip Hooray out of Royal Two. She's trained by Don McKirgan for Keith Ross of Bellefontaine, Ohio. She started from post four in the field of eight and was in good company. The 9-5 morning line favorite, Dark Roast started from post five. Dark Roast and Kurt Sugg left out for command and landed In The Pocket spot, but were out to take command just passed the 1/4 that was trotted in :28.3. Sutton and Like Old Times were parked the entire way and still were charging for command after the half that was trotted in :59. Dark Roast and Like Old Times went toe to toe and stride for stride down the three quarters that was clocked on 1:27.4. Sutton finally asked the filly for more and she responded by opening up on the field by 5-3/4 lengths. Sammy Star and Aaron Merriman came on late for second and Dark roast held on for third. Bettys Sam and trainer, driver Ammon Hershberger upset their division in 1:57.4. Bettys Sam is owned by John "Red" and Betty Shaw of Mt. Vernon, Ohio. She's by Victory Sam out of Norse Comer. She was out to prove that she wanted to be just like her sister, Victory Is Coming and her point was made. The filly started from the rail, but still had hard work ahead of her. The undefeated Sunrise Nibbles had post four in the field of eight. Page sent Sunrise Nibbles to her normal spot and clocked the opening quarter in :29. Ammon had Bettys Sam sitting third and after the :30 second quarter decided it was time to move. She started her first over grind and hit the three quarters in 1:28.2. Sunrise Nibbles and Bettys Sam battled down the stretch, a small neck separated the fillies. Bettys Sam earned the victory and paid $71.40 to win. Chip Girl and Ronnie Wrenn Jr.completed the trifecta. Lisa Jane takes the final division for trotting fillies in a career best, 1:57.2. Lisa Jane started from post five and Ryan Stahl had the lines for trainer, Scott Cox. She's a daughter of Neely Dunn out of Vanilla B and is owned by Parent Racing Stable LLC and G.Peters. Stahl wasted no time to gain control of the fractions. After the opening quarter was trotted in :28.4 by Tt'scaramelcream, Ryan made the move to the front. The trotted to the half in a moderate :59.1 and passed the three quarters in 1:28.2. Lisa Jane was well in hand and won by 3-1/2 lengths over Student Of Life and Dolly Dunn was third. Bell Flower and Chris Page dominate their $40,000 Ohio Sires Stakes division in 1:55. Bell Flower never made her connections anxious as the heavy favorite. She started from post six in the field of eight. Page steered the perfect filly to the top and never looked back. She clocked fractions of :28.1,:57.1 and 1:25.4 before drawing clear by 7 lengths. Crosswinds Cupcake and Dan Noble rallied for second and Ut Oh Spakiddio grabbed the show spot. Sectionlinefriskie breaks her maiden with a win in her division of Ohio Sires Stakes in 1:56. Sectionlinefriskie is a daughter of Feelin Friskie out of Aquatic Yankee. She's trained by Steve Bauder for Harold Bauder, Michael Dixon and Harold Lee Bauder. Dan Noble had the assignment from post seven and was overlooked at 22-1. Noble ended up an early seventh in the field of eight. The heavy 1-5 choice, Friskie Lil Devil was the pace setter and cut fractions of :28.2, :57.4 and 1:27. Aaron Merriman and Zoey's Lemon Tart sat the pocket trip and waited to pounce in the stretch. Neither one could hold off the late charge from Sectionlinefriskie. She paced her final quarter in :28.3 Friskie Lil Devil settled for the place spot and Zoey's Lemon Tart was third. From Scioto Downs Racino

Eight local legends will do battle in a race that will turn back the clock for many harness racing fans at Northfield Park on Friday night, August 15. The "Legends Driver Challenge" will pit Northfield leading drivers of days gone by in a trotting event that will serve as a warm-up for the inaugural $400,000 (est.) Carl Milstein Memorial, a Grand Circuit event for three-year-old colt pacers later in the card. Gerry Bookmyer, Doug Hamilton, Don Irvine, Jr., William Irvine, Keith Kash, Dan Ross, Don McKirgan and Bill Zendt will battle in a conditioned trot that will be part of the Milstein undercard. The eight veteran reinsmen have combined to win driving titles at Northfield from a span that covered the 70's, 80's and 90's. Also on Milstein night, freshman Ohio Sires Stakes pacers and trotters will square off for purses of $40,000 per division. Northfield's V.P. of Racing and Simulcasting Dave Bianconi is also attempting to fill an Open Pace, a Filiies and Mares Open Pace and and Open Trot, each with an improved purse of $20,000, on Milstein Memorial Night. Entries for all of the races to be contested on Friday night, August 15 at Northfield are due by 9 AM (Eastern) on Tuesday morning, August 12. Ayers Ratliff

Dean Davis, Monica Drago, Nadine Habke, Deb Sweney and Dr. Dan Wilson will be recognized as part of the Wall of Fame ceremonies at Northfield Park on Sunday, August 10, 2014. The banquet festivities begin at 5:00 p.m. Dean Davis is the newest recipient of Northfield Park's Distinguished Owner Award. Davis has had success in harness racing on and off the racetrack. He has made tremendous contributions to the sport, earning respect as a loyal and encouraging owner with a keen eye for young racing prospects. His racing stock has been extremely successful. Davis has owned such prominent horses as Lisa Mac, Blastaway Sahbra, Gramma Gordie and his pride and joy, Dunkster. Davis convinced Northwestern Ohio trainer Ivan Sugg's son, Kurt, to go out on his own and helped the younger Sugg throughout his career launch. The two have been an owner/trainer team since 1995. "He's treated me like a son," described Kurt of their relationship. Monica Drago and Deb Sweney will be recognized with the Outstanding Caretaker Awards. They are very important to their stables' operations, and both exude passion and dedication toward their craft. Drago, a native of Stockholm Sweden, works for 2004 Wall of Fame Inductee Clair Umholtz. At the barn each morning by 5:15 a.m., she is responsible for the same five horses every day. Monica can be found in the Umholtz barn seven days a week, usually leaving by 2:00 p.m. She often returns at night to groom one of her horses or catch-paddock. Her cooperative nature and knowledge of horses makes her an asset to Umholtz and to the entire horse scene at Northfield Park. "Everyone on the backstretch knows that Monica is the best," Clair Umholtz flatly stated. Outstanding Caretaker Deb Sweney has been a groom at Northfield for 22 years. She has worked for Kathy Shermak, John Lee, Don McKirgan, Ray Crawford, Mike Weller, Mark Deaton and, since 2007, Tye Loy, a 2010 Wall of Fame Inductee. Deb is at the Loy barn by 7:00 a.m., usually six days a week, and stated she is done by 2:00 or 3:00 p.m. She gets Sundays off. Sweney, consistent with her quiet and unassuming nature, is known as a caring groom with a soft touch. She goes the extra mile and truly loves horses. "She can work anybody under the table," stated Loy, echoing the sentiments of co-workers and former employers who extol her work ethic. Nadine Habke will be the recipient of the Willie C. Banks Ideal Employee Award. Loyalty, dedication, ability and desire are sought-after qualities in an ideal employee, and Nadine embodies them all. Her ability is unquestioned, and when one talks to Nadine, it becomes very clear how much she likes outriding and how strong her dedication is to the sport of racing and to Northfield Park. The outrider at Northfield since 2001, Habke's proven competence has earned the respect and confidence of the driver-trainer colony. Summed up Aaron Merriman, the nation's leading dash driver: "She is completely awesome. I cannot say enough good things about her." Dr. Dan Wilson will receive the John Lee Good Fellowship Award. He has been a fixture on the Northfield backstretch for nearly 40 years. Wilson is known as an extremely honest and skilled veterinarian who cares deeply about horses and horsemen. "There is no nicer person than Doc. He comes to the barns every day with a smile on his face, always asking how he can help," said Amy Hollar, Northfield Park Track Representative for the Ohio Harness Horsemen's Association. "In the 14 years he has been our vet, I have never seen him have a bad day." Northfield Park's Wall of Fame Banquet is a triennial event. Candidates are nominated and considered by the Wall of Fame Trustees. Once a consensus is reached among the trustees, additional input and final approval is sought from the track's Wall of Fame Advisory Committee. Ronnie Wrenn Jr. and Dan Noble also will be recognized for their National Dash Driving Championships at the August 10th banquet. The highlight of the evening will be the induction of five new members into the Northfield Park Wall of Fame. by Ayers Ratliff, for Northfield Park

Hello Carlo and Kahoku dead heated in the $10,000 Open Trot in Northfield Park’s sixth race on Monday (March 3).  Hello Carlo is owned by Mario Caponi of Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio and trained by Larry Clabaugh.  Josh Sutton was aboard for the winning drive.  Margaret Mancini of Colts Neck, New Jersey owns Kahoku.  Crist Hershberger trains and drove.   Both trotters came from the back as the fractions were perfect for closers.  The first half was :58 and the back half was trotted in 1:00.  Finishing behind the pair of winners were Sure Thing, Julians Caesar, Saintfrancis, Pembroke Snapshot, Mythical Hall and Talladega Hanover.    Monday’s triumph increased Hello Carlo’s (Carry The Message-Last Turn-Supergill) lifetime win tally to 54 and Kahoku’s (SJ’s Caviar-Tags Goal-Tagliabue) to 11.  Hello Carlo has now earned $264,868 and Kahoku has bankrolled $75,513.  Neither totter was the race favorite, Hello Carlo paid $5.80 to win and Kahoku returned $21.00.  In the evening’s ninth race, Rose Run Logan trotted home for his fourth straight win over Northfield’s Flying Turns.  The seven year-old gelding is owned and trained by Jeff Hochstetler of Urichsville, Ohio.  Aaron Merriman was the winning driver.              Rose Run Logan started from post six and led at every call through fractions of :29.1, :58.1, 1:27.1 and 1:56.2.  He was well in hand the entire mile and bested his closest competitor (Al Brown, Don McKirgan) by four lengths.             Monday’s triumph was the 10 career success for Rose Run Logan (Armbro Laser-How Miraculous-Baltic Speed) and increased his lifetime earnings to $24,598.  He was heavily favored and returned $2.40 to win. Western Churchill was an upset winner in the evenings $10,000 Open Pace for owner New York Thunder Stable of Washington, Pennsylvania.  Northfield Park’s leading trainer, Calvin Hollar is his conditioner and listed Greg Grismore to drive. Western Churchill (Western Ideal-The Mattican-Matt’s Scooter) started from the rail and sat the pocket through fractions of :28, :57.2 and 1:25.3.  Grismore pulled Western Churchill at the head of the stretch and was ¾-length in front at the finish in 1:54.2.  Completing the race were Shark Dressed Man, Man He Can Skoot, Forever Good, Nathan Feelsgood, Curator, Lucky Jet and Stevie Diamonds.         Western Churchill now has 15 career successes. Monday’s victory pushed his bankroll to $208,478. He paid $28.40 to win. by Ayers Ratliff, for Northfield Park

An unexpected plus from the revitalization of harness racing in the state of Ohio: sharp Buckeye-based trainers, realizing that there is now money to be made, start advertising, looking for new owners – thereby giving the coffers of the trade press a little extra jingle! Dee Hotton, who is based at the Wooster OH fairgrounds, recently advertised that she is looking for new owners for whom to train their horses for campaigning in the state – but she has always been a bit “ahead of the curve,” though. (How many trainers do you know who have had their own website for years, and who use the word “behooves” – and before noon, no less?) Hotton was born on Long Island (or “Lon Gisland,” as the natives pronounce it) to a father who was a rabid fan of the trotters and pacers at Roosevelt and Yonkers. When her father was transferred by his business to Ohio when Dee was two, the family went along, and in the newly-adopted state the father undoubtedly found plenty of choices to scratch his harness racing itch – while his daughter “had decided by junior high that she was going to work with horses for her livelihood.” Graduating early from high school and from the Wooster branch campus of Ohio State University’s program for learning all ends of standardbred care, Hotton went into the care of the sulky set at a young age.  Dee was a harness “natural” across the board, too, driving in matinees at 15 and fair purse races at 16, and she carries a lifetime .292 UDR despite fewer than 500 career trips behind the gate! And August 9 of this year will mark the TENTH ANNIVERSARY of Dee last losing a purse race while in the sulky – OK, be a spoilsport and point out that she’s only driven once since 8-9-04. “And I wasn’t even supposed to drive that one,” Hotton recalled with a chuckle. “Don McKirgan had been driving my horse for me, but he decided he had a chance to make more money with the horses he was listed on at another fair, and mine didn’t look like much, so I decided I’d just drive him myself.” 6-1 in a 3-horse field, Hotton sent her charge right to the top and held on by ¾ of a length in her first drive in eight years. (Note: Any good story about Ohio fair racing is 50-50 to have McKirgan somewhere in it.) Despite this sulky success, Hotton is now devoting herself strictly to the training side, though she says, “I’m glad I did do some driving, because now I know exactly the sort of things to tell my drivers, and I might also have a little more credibility to them, having been a driver myself.” There is no doubting Hotton’s credibility on the training side, with a career UTR of .322 (she’s been over .300 in 14 of the last 17 years), and many talented horses benefitting from her tutelage. One star, however, might have taught Hotton, now the master conditioner, more about training than anyone else. Magnificent Mel, a 1976 son of Little Brown Jug winner Melvin’s Woe, raced when he was two, and was still on the track when he was 14, accumulating 81 wins and over $200,000 in earnings. If you know of Melvin’s Woe, you know how hard the Joe O’Brien stable had to work to keep the big-hearted racehorse something close to racehorse sound, and he passed on this last-named trait – plus his speed and huge heart -- to his son. “With Magnificent Mel, we had to do a little of almost everything over the course of his career – I worked him back from bowed tendons, had him stand in ice boots, used all kinds of therapy, and even used interval training back what it was an innovation,” Hotton remembers. “Working with that horse was the best education I could have, and he was a great horse – he went a 2:00 mile at Northfield in 1988, when he was 12, the first time a horse that old had broken 2:00 there.” Focusing on the Ohio Sire Stakes program in recent years, Hotton’s best horses have been a duo who were nice horses that unfortunately raced in a two-year period where there was a dominant OhSS performer in their class: “Glory Bound always had to go up against Dunkster, and Buckeye Man was in the same year as Sing Jesse Sing.”  Seeing as Dunkster and Sing Jesse Sing won about $1.400,000 between them, Hotton did some good schoolin’ to have horses who were second to the others’ caliber. “I’m looking for owners who want to race in Ohio, because I think with the slots money it’s a very good time to maximize the possible upside of horse ownership,” Dee continue. “I’ve been partners with owners on horses, and if I had a new owner who would have a little more confidence if the trainer owned a part of the horse, I’d certainly consider that option depending on the situation. “I’ve raced overnight horses, but right now I’m focusing on stakes horses, two- and three-year-olds, with the improvement in money that is coming to the Ohio Sire Stakes,” she added, and indeed Hotton was contacted for this piece in her winter training headquarters of Pinehurst NC, preparing, she hopes, some of 2014’s Ohio stakes stars. If Dee Hotton’s abilities and focus sound right for you and your horses, visit her website at www.deehottonstable.com. by Jerry Connors for Harnesslink.com

Soul Train Cruises In $56,576 Ohio Breeders Championship for 2 Year-Old Colt Trotters With a patient drive from Chris Page, Soul Train cruised to a 7 1/2 length victory in the opening division of the 2 year-old colt trot during Tuesday action at the Delaware County Fair. As the Greg Coon starting gate released the field of six, Mark Headworth sent Happy Go Jamie out of post 2 and went after the early lead. The eventual winner was content to sit fourth through the opening half in 1:01 3/5. When Soul Train was given his orders he quickly took command down the backstretch and never looked back, stopping the timer in 2:00 3/5. Star Chip (Don McKirgan) was second and Fiftyshades Of Nay (David Miller) was third. Soul Train is owned by Parent Racing Stable, R. S. Crynick and J. E. Novak and trained by Scott Cox. In the second division Hooray For Willie went gate to wire to score in 1:58 3/5, a new lifetime mark. The freshman son of Master Lavec is owned by Winchester Baye Acres, Inc. of Ocala, FL and trained by the winning driver Kurt Sugg. Can'tcutthatchip (Dan Noble) and Mainstreet Willy (Chip Noble) rounded out the top three finishers. Millers Team Up To Win OBC 2FT Hall of Fame driver David Miller teamed up with his daughter trainer Devan Miller to score a victory with Rose Run Princess in the second division of Ohio Breeders Championship for 2 year-old filly trotters. The daughter of Trainforthefuture was sent after the early lead set the fractions of :29 4/5, 1:01 2/5 and 1:31 3/5 and cruised home to score a five length victory over Emilene's Future (Ray Paver) in 2:00 3/5. The winner is owned by James E. Keller of New Carlisle, OH and Jerry Allen Bell of Tipp City, OH. The heavily favored In The Grippers (Chris Page) broke at the start and was never a factor. In the first $25,388 division Hush Hush Chip (Chris Page) defeated Emery Jean (Chip Noble) in 2:02 4/5. The freshman daughter of Chip Chip Hooray won for the first time this season for trainer Danny Collins and the ownership team of Lewis, Taylor, Gold and Lombardo.   Jay Wolf

ML Cupcake was dead game in wearing down pacesetting Fire In The Cell to win the $53,100 Pride Of Ohio Trot for harness racing sophomore trotting fillies on Friday night (August 5) at Scioto Downs.

MOUNT VERNON - It may have already been a hot day, but Ammon Hershberger managed to set the racetrack on fire. The area harness racing driver, who lives just outside of Mount Vernon, was a three-time winner in the Home Talent Colt Stakes at the Knox County Fairgrounds on Sunday afternoon.

Ryan Stahl steered Kelly Lancaster's Dontgetintheway ($9.20) to a solid 1:54.1 win in Saturday's $5,500 Open Pace at Northfield when the pacesetter, 1:49-pacer Whatanartist tired on the lead. Stahl moved to the outside as the field approached the 56.1 half mile mark and had pretty much put away the leader by the 1:24.4 three-quarter mark.

Harness Racing Saturday at Northfield, Ryan Stahl steered his own Dan Chaz ($6.60) to victory in the $6,000 Open Pace, while Wall of Famer Don McKirgan took the $7,000 Open Trot with Master Wheels ($16.80), owned in partnership with by his wife Sandi, Dee Ann Carter and restaurateur Egidioo Dipaola.

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