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
After driving a winner in the first leg of the seven-month C.K.G. Billings Harness Driving Series at Pompano Park last Saturday, Steve "You're Never Too" Oldford was back in the winners circle at Northfield Park on Thursday (April 23) after the completion of the second leg of the seven month series. Up behind his own Bold Strike, Oldford took no prisoners and used the front-end route to score an easy three-length victory in a time of 1:59.2. For the Croswell, Michigan automotive manufacturer rep marked his 103rd career win. He (Bold Strike) was full of trot and when the gate sprung he was in high gear so I just let him ramble,"Oldford said via phone after the race. "We had an easy lead and were never seriously challenged throughout the mile." Perhaps no serious challenges arose because after the :28.2 first quarter Oldford kept the pedal to the metal as Bold Strike trotted the next three quarters in :30 and a piece to lead Pembroke Snapshot and driver "Hot-Handed Hannah" Miller to the finish wire. Third place went to Good Friend driven by "Lawbook Larry" Farley. Although Oldford was pleased with his driving victory he couldn't say enough nice things about Hannah Miller who is beginning to make a name for herself as an excellent harness driver. "She's won quite a few races lately against some veteran amateur drivers and wherever she races she's usually the one to beat," he said. "She did a masterful job tonight with her trotter despite having to start from the eight hole. She gunned him out of there and found the two hole and got a good journey. However, my horse was strong on the lead... but she was second best." For Oldford, USHWA's Amateur Driver of the Year in 2013, it was his second consecutive driving victory and third in his last five starts. Already Oldford has six winners this season and has his sights on winning more than19 races which is his most prolific output since he started amateur driving in earnest in 2006. John Manzi
Harness racing longshot players were celebrating after the horses crossed the finish of Northfield Park’s seventh race on Wednesday (April 22) when #3 Follow A Dream bested his rivals at odds of 60-1. Robert Corbin of Ashland, Ohio owns the five year-old pacer. Trainer Renee Houska enlisted the driving services of Luke Ebersole. Wednesday’s win was Follow A Dream’s first race this year and represents his third lifetime score. Follow A Dream was chased across the wire by #8 Here Comes Whitey (8-1), #9 Tidbit (10-1) and #6 Coin Of The Realm (45-1). Follow A Dream returned $122.80 to win; the 3-8 Exacta paid $1,465.80; the 3-8-9 $1 Trifecta returned $9,427.90; and the 3-8-9-6 10¢ Superfecta paid $9,905.43. The remainder of the 15-race Wednesday program was dominated by Ronnie Wrenn Jr. who won five races on the card. Wrenn’s scores included UF Cashnmychips ($4.20) in race two, Worldofsunnytimes ($3.80) in race three, Activator ($3.20) in race four, Nino Marino ($9.40) in race five and Like Old Times ($17.20) in race nine. Wrenn, 28, began driving in 2008 and is approaching 2,500 career victories and $10M in total purse earnings. Wrenn was the leading driver in North America in 2013 and 2014. He is third so far in 2015 and trails the leader (Aaron Merriman) by less than 30 wins. Ayres 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
Champagne Tonight ended her harness racing career the same way it began - with a win. She was victorious in her final trip around a racing oval when she crossed the wire a winner in the 10th race at Northfield Park on Thursday (April 9). Ronnie Wrenn Jr. piloted the five year-old mare from the second tier and let her competition carve out the :27.2, :55.4 and 1:25.2 ambitious fractions. Wrenn swooped Champagne Tonight three-deep in the final turn, struck the lead in the stretch and stopped the timer in 1:56. Northfield Park Wall of Famer, Clair Umholtz trains the pacer for Umholtz Racing Inc. and Kennedy Sports Corporation. Champagne Tonight (Western Terror-Lake Shore Drive-Real Desire) leaves the track after winning 14 times and making the ticket a total of 29 of her 56 starts. She bankrolled $330,521 and took a 1:51.3 mark at the age of two at Pocono Downs. Since day one after purchasing Champagne Tonight as a yearling for $10,000 the Umholtz/Kennedy partnership could not have been happier with her. "She trained down beautifully and been a dream to race," said Umholtz. "She is definitely the best horse I have ever had." Her connections have decided to breed her to Somebeachsomewhere (PA) and hope to have a healthy foal in 2016 that will possess Champagne Tonight's heart, talent and passion for racing. Champagne Tonight was one of six wins on the Thursday card for Ronnie Wrenn Jr. Ayers Ratliff
As the Ohio weather changes for the better, harness racing fans can start focusing on some exciting racing events slated this year at Northfield Park. The $200,000 (est.) Battle Of Lake Erie is set for Friday, June 12 and has 22 nominees. The nominated list includes two-time Battle of Late Erie champion and the richest standardbred of all-time, Foiled Again (1:48 f, $6,921,281) and the defending Battle champion Clear Vision (148.2 f, $2,312,132). Battle nominees also include a host of other millionaire performers: Michael's Power (1:48.1 s, $1,748,161), All Bets Off (1:48.3 f, $1,098,092) and Twilight Bonfire (1:50.1 f, $1,003,070). The $200,000 (est.) Cleveland Trotting Classic will go to post on Friday, July 3. This will be the inaugural event for this newly formed race for veteran trotters. Among the 28 trotters nominated to the Cleveland Trotting Classic are millionaires: Market Share (1:50.2 f, $3,683,960), Daylon Magician (1:51.1 s, $1,786,104) and Celebrity Secret (1:52.3 m, $1,099,663). The connections of top three year-olds in the country have shown great interest in the $500,000 (est.) Carl Milstein Memorial. This race is for three-year-old pacers and has been slated for Friday, August 14. Included in the 35 nominees are last year's stand-outs: In The Arsenal (1:49.4 m, $396,318, Go Daddy Go (1:51.1 m, $365,567), Lyons Levi Lewis (1:52.1 s, $362,078) and Lost For Words (1:50.4 m, $200,286). Three sophomores have staked into the Milstein who are still unbeaten. These include: Roland N Rock (14 wins), Wiggle It Jiggleit (6 wins) and Allbeef N Nobull (4 wins). The $125,000 (est.) Courageous Lady is the final marque event on Northfield's calendar. North America's top three year-old pacing fillies will take the stage to compete on Friday, November 27. There are 47 fillies nominated to the Courageous Lady, including last year's top-performers: Sassa Hanover (1:50.1 m, $485,591), Southwind Roulette (1:51.4 f, $300,595), Sports Chic (154.2 f, $220,779) and Well Hello There (1:53 f, $214,132). Northfield Park's Stakes Calendar for 2015: Friday, June 12 Battle Of Lake Erie, Ohio Sires Stakes (three year-old filly pace and trot) Friday, July 3 Cleveland Trotting Classic, Ohio Sires Stakes (two year-old filly pace and trot) Friday, July 17 Ohio Sires Stakes (three year-old colt pace and trot) Friday, July 24 Ohio Sires Stakes (two year-old colt pace and trot) Saturday, August 1 Summit County Fair Stakes Friday, August 14 Carl Milstein Memorial, Ohio Sires Stakes (three year-old filly pace and trot) Friday, August 21 Ohio Sires Stakes (two year-old colt and filly pace and trot) Friday, November 27 Courageous Lady Ayers Ratliff
Harness racing longshot players were cashing in after the horses crossed the finish of Northfield Park's fourth race on Thursday (April 2) when #8 Juliana's Director swooped from the back to win at odds of 68-1. New York Thunder Stable of Washington, Pennsylvania owns the four year-old pacer. Trainer Calvin Hollar enlisted the driving services of Greg Grismore. Thursday's win was Juliana's Director's first win this year in six starts and represents her fourth lifetime score. Juliana's Director was followed across the wire by #6 Here And Now (8-5), #3 Mephisto Waltz (28-1) and #5 Four Hour Nap (6-1). Juliana's Director returned $138.20 to win; the 8-6 Exacta paid $661.00; the 8-6-3 Trifecta returned $13,923.60; and the 8-6-3-5 10Â¢ Superfecta paid $2,861.70. Ayers Ratliff
Northfield Park has announced the dates of three Spring Late Closing series. These series offer increased harness racing opportunities for younger horses coming back to the races this season. All of the newly added Late Closers carry a condition of: Non-winners of Two Pari-Mutuel Races (Ohio Breads N/W Three) or Non-Winners of $15,000 Lifetime (Through 3/15/2015). Tuesdays (April 21, April 28, May 12 and May 19) will offer The Spring Break Series for horse and gelding pacers. Each leg will be raced for a $5,500 purse. The final will be Tuesday (May 26) for a purse of $17,500. Wednesdays (April 22, May 6, May 13 and May 20) highlight The Gin Blossom Series for trotters. Each of these legs will also carry a $5,500 purse. The $17,500 final will be Wednesday (May 27). Thursdays (April 16, April 23, May 7 and May 14) will host The Wallflower Series for filly and mare pacers. Each of the four legs will carry purses of $5,500. The $17,500 final (all purses guaranteed) will go to post on Thursday (May 21). A one-time $300 payment will be required of each entrant to be eligible. Payments are due by April 1. Conditions for the series can be found at www.northfieldpark.com. The link is near the bottom of Northfield's homepage. Northfield Park Adds $60,000 Pick-5 Total Pool Guarantee to Tuesday’s Card Northfield Park is announcing the addition of a $60,000 Pick-5 total pool guarantee to Tuesday’s (March 31) program. Beginning in Race 3, the $60,000 Pick-5 guaranteed total pool includes a carryover of $14,157.66. 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. 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 email@example.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
Northfield Park has announced the dates of three Spring Late Closing series. These series offer increased racing opportunities for younger horses coming back to the races this season. All of the newly added Late Closers carry a condition of: Non-winners of Two Pari-Mutuel Races (Ohio Breads N/W Three) or Non-Winners of $15,000 Lifetime (Through 3/15/2015). Tuesdays (April 21, April 28, May 12 and May 19) will offer The Spring Break Series for horse and gelding pacers. Each leg will be raced for a $5,500 purse. The final will be Tuesday (May 26) for a purse of $17,500. Wednesdays (April 22, May 6, May 13 and May 20) highlight The Gin Blossom Series for trotters. Each of these legs will also carry a $5,500 purse. The $17,500 final will be Wednesday (May 27). Thursdays (April 16, April 23, May 7 and May 14) will host The Wallflower Series for filly and mare pacers. Each of the four legs will carry purses of $5,500. The $17,500 final (all purses guaranteed) will go to post on Thursday (May 21). A one-time $300 payment will be required of each entrant to be eligible. Payments are due by April 1. Conditions for the series can be found at www.northfieldpark.com. The link is near the bottom of Northfield's homepage.
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
Ronnie Wrenn Jr., Northfield Park's leading driver and North America's Harness Racing Dash Winning Champion in 2013 and 2014 is the latest local celebrity being honored with a Burger of the Week at the Hard Rock Cafe. The Cafe is located in the Hard Rock Rocksino Northfield Park adjacent to the racetrack. The Wrenn burger will be available all week beginning today. The personable 28 year old reinsman, with an assist from his girlfriend Briana Wood, delivered his favorite burger toppings to the culinary experts at the Rocksino, Executive Chef Chris Poplin and Executive Sous Chef Aniceto Torres. The chef's created a tasty southwestern specialty featuring a brioche bun, eight ounces of freshly ground beef topped with pepper jack cheese, bacon, lettuce, sliced avocado, pico de gallo and honey chipotle sauce. "If I would have left it up to Ronnie," quipped Briana, "we would be eating a hamburger with ketchup." Ronnie and Brianna will be in the Hard Rock Cafe today at 1pm to greet fans who want to try the new burger. Wrenn Jr., a standout centerfielder on his college baseball team and one of harness racing's rising stars, drove 847 winners last year with 659 of them coming at Northfield. His victorious mounts earned purses in excess of $4.2 million. After his appearance at the Cafe, Wrenn will drive in 14 races on Northfield Park's Monday evening card scheduled to begin at 6 pm. About Hard Rock Rocksino Northfield Park Hard Rock Rocksino Northfield Park is the premier entertainment and gaming destination in Northeast Ohio, located on the Northfield Park harness racing grounds, which offers more than 200 live harness races each year. True to Cleveland's musical history as a birthplace of rock 'n' roll, the Rocksino offers the legendary vibe of the Hard Rock brand, including more than 2,200 gaming devices offered both inside and outside, varied dining options and unparalleled live music events. The Hard Rock Live music venue, the fifth of its kind, hosts sell-out crowds of up to 2,600 guests for live entertainment by renowned musicians, in addition to hosting guests for a variety of functions and banquets. Hard Rock fans enjoy phenomenal dining at the world-famous Hard Rock Cafe; Kosar's Wood-Fired Grill, football legend Bernie Kosar's finest steakhouse; Fresh Harvest, an endless buffet with seven action stations; and Constant Grind, a bistro with sandwiches, sweets and more. In addition, the Rocksino offers a Rock Shop with famed Hard Rock merchandise to take home memories of the Rocksino experience, as well as a 310-seat live venue, Club Velvet, featuring comedians and illusion acts that is also readily available for private parties and events. As a focal point for the Center Bar leading into Hard Rock Cafe, Van Halen's red hot motorcycle makes "everybody want some" as one of many "arena rock" pieces from Hard Rock's unmatched, priceless memorabilia collection at the Rocksino. For more information about Hard Rock Rocksino Northfield Park, please visit www.hrrocksinonorthfieldpark.com.
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