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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  

Talk about a battle right to the wire, harness drivers Ronnie Wrenn, Jr. and Aaron Merriman went at it neck and neck right down to the last of 16 races at Northfield Park Monday, but Wrenn emerged one win ahead of Merriman for the National Harness Racing Driving Title once the program was finished. Going into Monday’s card, Merriman held the national lead by one win, 834 to 833 over Wrenn. But Wrenn drew first blood and then some as he won three straight races, the 3rd, 4th and 5th races and then the tenth race to score a four-bagger on the night. Merriman still had some gas in the tank for the later races as he answered back with a driving double, winning the 13th and 15th races to close the margin to just one win in favor of Wrenn. Merriman had five second place finishes on the night to just one for Wrenn. Wrenn now has 837 victories to Merriman's 836 wins. Now the action resumes at Northfield Park on Tuesday night as both drivers will compete in all 16 races on the program. But it does not end there as Wrenn and Merriman will take it right down to the wire as both drivers will compete on the New Year’s Eve card at Sports Creek Raceway in Michigan with first post at 7 pm. The biggest winner on the card Monday at Northfield Park was Greg Grismore, who led all drivers with five winners. By Steve Wolf, for Harnesslink.com

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

Northfield, OH --- Aaron Merriman and Ronnie Wrenn Jr. continued their rockem sockem battle as each harness racing driver won four races on the Sunday night (Dec. 28) program at Northfield Park, which allowed Merriman to maintain his one victory lead in the North American dash standings. Wrenn had the hot hands early on Sunday night and briefly took over the top spot after winning the second, fourth, fifth and seventh races on the Sunday program, but Merriman came roaring back later on to win races nine, 10, 13 and 14. Merriman now has 834 victories on the campaign, while Wrenn has 833 wins. The two drivers will battle once again Monday night at Northfield Park. Each has a mount in all 16 of the races on the card. With files from the USTA

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

Northfield Park is announcing the addition of a $20,000 Pick-5 total pool guarantee to Friday's (December 26) program. Beginning in Race 3, the $20,000 Pick-5 guaranteed total pool includes a carryover of $4,263.17. Northfield's Pick 5, Pick 4 and the Pick 3's offer a reduced takeout rate of just 14 percent. Friday's post time is 6:00 p.m. by Ayers Ratliff, for Northfield Park

Northfield, OH --- After spending the weekend with their families in Michigan, Ron Wrenn Jr. and Jason Merriman hit the road back to Ohio at 4 a.m. to spread some good cheer Monday morning (Dec. 22). Joined by Kurt Sugg, his wife Becky and children Brandon, Kiersten and Kaitlyn, the trio of Northfield Park drivers suited up in their colors and dispersed nearly $3,000 worth of toys, electronics, movies, CDs and gift cards among those at the Cleveland Clinic Children’s Hospital. The gifts were all gathered within five days through donations from not only Northfield Park horsemen but of those in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Florida, plus individuals who called to give after simply reading of the fundraiser. Heather Miller, an employee of the clinic and longtime horsewoman, helped arrange the visit. The donations will be dispersed and used throughout the year at the hospital's many campuses. The hospital cares for children who range in age of a few months to 18 years old with various medical issues. Many were confined to ventilators, wheelchairs or their beds but none of them were hampered by the ability to smile as Merriman, Sugg and Wrenn entered the room. Spending a few minutes with each child and posing for pictures was an obvious honor for the men who more than willingly gave of their time and resources. “As much as it may have brought joy to the kids, it brings me much more,” said Sugg. Future charitable acts are being planned for horsemen and horsewomen, plus their families. Those under consideration are volunteering at the Akron Food Bank and Haven of Rest Ministries. by Amy Hollar

Trenton, NJ --- For Caleb Uhrig, Turtle Gone Wild was a project worth working on. Just 22, Uhrig watched his 2-year-old pace to victory at the Darke County Fair in Greenville, Ohio, on Aug. 21. It was the first win for Caleb and the first for Turtle Gone Wild. Uhrig has watched two other horses he trains visit the winner’s circle four times since then, but that first one will always have a distinctive joy to it. “That was a pretty special day,” Uhrig said. “I had broke that horse as a baby, he was kind of my little project. We bought him and we got him real cheap ($1,000) out of the (Blooded Horse) sale and he was super easy and automatic all through, from breaking him and training him down. “He had raced a couple times at the big tracks, and was racing really well, but never had much racing luck. We decided they were having a maiden pace (at Greenville) for 2-year-olds, we might as well try him there and it worked out great. That was my first training win and his first lifetime win. It’s kind of special taking my first real horse from square one to his first win and my first win.” Caleb got his second win two races later with Hoosier Shooter, and has added three more victories with Mantaculater. The most recent came Dec. 11 at Hollywood Gaming Dayton Raceway, but the pacer's Nov. 6 triumph at Northfield Park also had special meaning because it was Uhrig’s first pari-mutuel win. “It was exciting,” he said. “I guess you could call him another project. We got him pretty cheap, we worked hard with him.” The original plan was to race Mantaculater at Dayton, since it was only an hour away from Uhrig’s stable in Frankfort. But he was not quite ready for the speed at Dayton, so Caleb decided to make the three-hour trip to Northfield. “He fit with a lot of conditions at Northfield, so we took him up there and it worked out pretty well for him,” Uhrig said. “We raced him there three or four times. We got a check there every other time, it helped pay for the trip I guess. “It was an exciting win because we had worked pretty hard on him and that made the work worthwhile.” Uhrig is hoping there will be more wins in his future as he plans on making harness racing his career. In just 21 starts as a trainer, he has five wins, two seconds and four thirds, good for $7,030 in purses. He has no intentions of driving. “Nah,” he said. “I have all these good drivers to choose from. I might as well stick with what I’m good at.” Growing up in Chillicothe, Ohio, his family had Quarter horses and was big into barrel racing. There would be constant weekends of competition and, while in high school, Caleb met trainer Steve Carter and worked with him part-time. Once he graduated, the job went to full-time and things began to escalate. “I learned a lot from Steve; I’ve always tried to watch different trainers and what they do,” Uhrig said. “I was fortunate, I started out grooming horses for Steve and in a sense got promoted and the last year I was training. “I got to break a lot of babies and train down a lot of good racehorses and learned the things that didn’t work and did work.” Uhrig was a quick study, and now runs a stable with his dad, Todd. He also works during the day with trainer Dan Ater, who has a stable 10 miles away in Clarksburg. “I’ve known him for years,” Uhrig said. “I was always begging him to let me stop in and watch the horses.” The Uhrig father-son team owns Mantaculater, Turtle Gone Wild and one other horse, but only Mantaculater is racing in the winter. Turtle Gone Wild is resting for his upcoming 3-year-old season and Hoosier Shooter was sold a few months ago. “I think Turtle Gone Wild is going to be a pretty solid racehorse,” Uhrig said. “He’s got a lot of class to him, he takes good care of himself, he’s pretty good gaited. We’ll take him through the ranks and see where he gets us. “He’s got a pretty cool personality to him, he wants to please you. He works hard, always wants to be around you and he enjoys his job. I hope that good attitude pays off.” Caleb makes no bones about what he wants. He is looking to expand and have a large stable and said, “I guess you can say I’m kind of impatient, I want it all right now, of course.” He feels fortunate to have a strong support system that includes his friends, his family and girlfriend Kristin McQuiniff. Despite his impatience, he’s happy with where he is so far. “I’m sure there are people out there who have been training for years and still want what I want,” he said. “I’m just going to continue to work hard. I’m blessed to be able to make a living with something I’m so passionate about. I guess I’ll just keep working hard and keep my eye on the prize and keep reaching for my goals, and hopefully that gets me going.” Sounds like a man with plenty of projects in the works.  by Rich Fisher, USTA Web Newsroom Senior Correspondent Courtesy of the USTA web newsroom

North America's leading harness racing driver, Aaron Merriman, drove eight winners on Thursday (December 11) at Northfield Park, winning over half of the 15-race program. Merriman's eight scores included Vision Of Glory ($12.60) in race one, Snuff Box ($6.80) in race two, Wild Ride ($3.60) in race three, Noble Fitch ($3.40) in race four, Brown Titan ($2.40) in race seven, Chievous Dan ($3.80) in race 10, Loconotion ($12.00) in race 12 and Cause To Smile ($7.00) in race 15. Merriman, 36, began driving in 1997 and has since garnered 6,923 career victories. He is approaching $37.5M in total purse earnings. Merriman has posted 442 victories so far this year over Northfield's Flying Turns, placing him second in the local driving ranks behind Ronnie Wrenn Jr. (593). However, Merriman splits his time primarily between Northfield Park and The Meadows, as well as a multitude of other racing venues. He has amassed an impressive 799 total wins so far this year. That win tally is more than any other driver in North America. Becoming the 2014 National Dash Champion would be icing on the cake for the unbelievable year that Merriman 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. by Ayers Ratliff, for Northfield Park

Northfield Park's leading driver, Ronnie Wrenn Jr., drove eight winners on Tuesday (December 9) at Northfield Park, dominating the 15-race program. Wrenn's eight scores included Heeza Nordic ($2.40) in race one, Lou Lous Princess ($3.60) in race three, Action Aubree Rosa ($10.60) in race six, Best Dream Seeker ($3.40) in race nine, Feel The Heat ($2.10) in race 10, Get Packin ($4.00) in race 12, Rountuit Bluegrass ($2.20) in race 13 and Moreland Flash ($3.00) in race 15. Wrenn, 28, began driving in 2008 and has since garnered 2,089 career victories. He is approaching $8.5M in total purse earnings. Wrenn has posted 585 victories so far this year over Northfield's Flying Turns, placing him on top of the local driving ranks. Chasing in the Northfield standings are Aaron Merriman (431), Josh Sutton (282), Kurt Sugg (173) and Jason Merriman (158). Wrenn won the national driving title last year by posting 714 wins. He has more wins so far this year (764), but trails Aaron Merriman by 19 victories for this year's title. Ayers Ratliff

The 2014 Cleveland Classic scheduled for this Friday (December 12) has been cancelled due to a lack of entries. Only five sophomore pacers entered for the $150,000 guaranteed purse. Their ownerships will each receive a check in excess of $17,000 for entering. "The Cleveland Classic has hosted some memorable races and has been won by numerous great horses," said Dave Bianconi, Northfield Park Executive Vice President of Racing and Simulcasting. "We had 38 nominees for the event, but many of them were turned out for the season for one reason or another. It is an anomaly, but things just did not come together this year to continue with the race's rich tradition." Racing greats such as Bolt The Duer, Gallo Blue Chip, Life Sign, Precious Bunny, Western Dreamer and Won The West have all been crowned Cleveland Classic champions. Since its inception in 1990, the race has featured two Horse-of-the-Year honorees, four divisional champions, four Little Brown Jug winners and a Triple Crown winner. The Cleveland Classic will be replaced next year with an event for North America's best veteran trotters. The new Cleveland Trotting Classic carries an estimated purse of $200,000 and will be contested on Friday, July 3, 2015. The new trotting Classic will join the $500,000 (est.) Carl Milstein Memorial for three year-old-colt pacers, the $200,000 (est.) Battle of Lake Erie for veteran open pacers, and the $125,000 (est.) Courageous Lady for three year-old-filly pacers as Northfield Park's marquee events. by Ayers Ratliff, for Northfield Park

Northfield Park is announcing the addition of a $10,000 Pick-5 total pool guarantee to Tuesday's (December 2) program. Beginning in Race 3, the $10,000 Pick-5 guaranteed total pool includes a carryover of $2,120.03. Northfield's Pick 5, Pick 4 and the Pick 3's offer a reduced takeout rate of just 14 percent. Tuesday's post time is 6:00 p.m. by Ayers Ratliff, for Northfield Park

The Northern Dude was a repeat winner of the $12,500 Open Trot on Monday (December 1) at Northfield Park. Curran Racing, LLC of Red Hook, New York owns the five year-old. Trainer Jessica Millner enlisted the driving services of North America's leading driver Aaron Merriman. The Northern Dude (Ken Warkentin - LR Alleys Concern - King Conch) left alertly from post seven and led his competition at every call. He set fractions of :27.3, :57, 1:25.4 and 1:56.4 and was a full-length in front at the finish. Completing the race were Mythical Hall, Mama Made Me Blue, Jesse's Messenger, Catching Katie, Diamond Hunter, Mary's Darvin and Zorgwijk Heavenly. Monday's victory represents the third consecutive win for The Northern Dude, who now has seven wins in 26 starts this year, 15 career successes and a bankroll of $177,030. He was the heavy favorite and paid $3.60 to win. Major Belle was impressive in winning the evening's $12,500 Open Pace. Ron Burke trains the six year-old for Pennsylvania owners Burke Racing Stable and Weaver Bruscemi and New York connections of Cynthia Massari and Joseph Di Scala, Jr. Chris Page was aboard for the winning drive. Major Belle (Art Major - Meghan's Belle - No Nukes) started from the far outside and was content in the back of the pack while his competition carved stiff fractions of :26.3 and :54.4. Major Belle had moved into third at the 1:23.2 three-quarter pole and took the lead in the stretch and besting his competition by 2-lengths, in 1:53.2. Completing the race were Real Future, Top Of The Mark, Bettor's Choice, Midnight Dragon, Allamerican Pewter and Onhishonor Hanover. Mybrothergeorge was scratched. Monday's triumph was the seventh win in 28 starts this year for Major Belle. It increased his lifetime win tally to 22 and his earnings to $362,229. He returned $15.40 to win. Ayers Ratliff

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