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Northfield Park is the place to be for this year’s Triple Crown action!  Plan your weekend with us for a fun time for both the 142nd running of the Kentucky Derby on Saturday, May 7 and the Kentucky Oaks on Friday, May 6.  Doors open early at 9:30 AM on both days with first post at Churchill Downs at 10:30 AM.  Northfield Park will offer a special $2,000 Churchill Downs Handicapping Contest each day where the winner could walk away with $1,000! Advance wagering on the Derby will be available, plus simulcasting from 40+ tracks from all over the world. Northfield Park will host its 5th Annual Food Truck Festival outside on the apron on Derby Day Saturday.  Eleven of Northeast Ohio’s top food trucks will be selling their specialties from 12 (noon) until 7 pm.  Food truck participants include The Beachcomber, Fire Truck Pizza Company, Get Stuffed Mobile Eatery, The Nosh Box, Seti’s Polish Boys, The Spread, Ye Olde School Treats N Eats, Zydeco Bistro, The Crooked Kettle Popcorn Co., Draegers Hot Fudge Sundaes and Hobos Gumbo. Don’t miss out on a Kentucky Derby favorite - the mint julep! Mint Juleps will be available all day long and be sure to pick up your commemorative Kentucky Derby glass too. Enjoy live music by Victory Highway 1:00 – 3:00 PM; Monica Robins & The Ninja Cowboys 3:30 – 5:30 PM; and Unknown Reason on the outdoor apron from 6:00-10:00 PM.  Enter our Kentucky Derby Hat Contest, sponsored by Seagram’s and WGAR from 12 Noon until 4:45 PM.  WGAR’s Brian and LeeAnn will be on-site from 4-6 PM for the judging and best hat wins $500!  Plus, ESPN Cleveland will broadcast live with the Street Team from 12-3 PM and visit Jeff Kurkjian from the Q-104 Morning Show from 2-4 PM.  If you are arriving early join Bob “Railbird” Roberts and track announcer Ayers Ratliff for a Churchill Downs Handicapping Seminar, which begins at 10:30 AM outside on the apron.  The “Railbird” will offer a second seminar at 5:30 PM highlighting the Kentucky Derby race. The excitement continues all afternoon for a chance to win big just for being here!  Over $10,000 in prizes will be given away throughout Derby Day.  Simply fill out the entry blank that you receive when you enter and deposit it in the contest bin located in the center of the grandstand.  Names will be drawn randomly throughout the day for a chance to spin our prize wheel.  Every spin is a winner and you could win great prizes like Cash, Kentucky Derby merchandise, $100 Kentucky Derby Win Wagers, Hard Rock Rocksino concert tickets, gift cards, sporting tickets and more.  Plus, you could spin the cash wheel for $500, $1,000 or the grand prize of $2,500 in cash! New to Derby Day 2016 is Live Racing! Northfield Park will offer 15 action packed races featuring the $13,500 Fillies and Mares Open. First race post time is scheduled for 6 pm.  Lady Luck’s clubhouse will be open featuring a Kentucky Derby themed buffet from 5:30-9 PM for $19.95 per person. For reservations call 330-467-410.. FREE admission and FREE parking every day at Northfield Park! Ayers Ratliff         

Kurt Sugg is having the time of his life. Not only is the 46-year-old Ohio native approaching a driving milestone he never considered possible just several years ago, he enjoys going to work every day. In fact, Sugg hardly considers what he does as work. "I've never had a job," Sugg said, laughing. "I've been very fortunate. I'm third generation (in harness racing); I've grown up doing this. It can be a grind, but to go to work, I don't even look at it like work. You win a race and it's enjoyable. It's just something I love to do and I can't imagine doing anything but this. I guess if I wasn't doing very well I might look at it a little differently, but the way things are, I'm really enjoying it." Sugg, who jogged his first horse at the age of 9 for his father, Ohio Harness Racing Hall of Famer Ivan Sugg, entered Monday needing 12 wins to reach 3,000 for his driving career. Nearly 80 percent of those victories have come since the start of the 2007 season, when Sugg decided to stop spending winters in Florida and race regularly at Northfield Park. "It's pretty special," Sugg said about the approaching milestone. "It's something I never thought I would attain at one time because earlier in my career I raced my own horses and went to Florida in the winter. Since I stopped going to Florida, I've become sort of a regular at Northfield Park, though. I pick up quite a few drives each night up there. "It's actually something I always wanted to do but the opportunity didn't present itself with my training just colts for the most part and going to Florida. But now with staying in Ohio fulltime I'm able to do it and really enjoy it." This year, Sugg ranks third in wins at Northfield Park, with 101. The two drivers ahead of him --- Ronnie Wrenn Jr. and Aaron Merriman --- have both won national dash championships. Merriman again leads North America with 279 wins this season and Wrenn is third, with 208, just two victories behind second-place Alfie Carroll. Sugg's 101 triumphs rank No. 22 in North America. Over the past two weeks he has been winning at an 18-percent clip and since early March has been hitting at 16 percent. "I can't complain about third (at Northfield) when Ronnie Wrenn and Aaron Merriman are one and two," Sugg said. "Being behind them is OK in my book. Aaron and Ronnie pick up a lot of the live drives there, so it makes it a little difficult, but I've got some loyal trainers that stick with me and provide me with opportunities to get the wins." He added, chuckling, "It probably is a little easier to drive there because you know what horses you have to beat. You just have to look for Ronnie and Aaron and those are the horses that you want to get behind and they're going to drag you to the top where you can have a shot. If you see them out there, you know they're not on a long shot." Despite competing in a tough driver colony, Sugg finds an atmosphere of camaraderie at Northfield Park. In fact, when Sugg won six of 10 drives at Northfield on April 19, rival Merriman took to social media to shine a light on Sugg's accomplishment and praise him. "I love racing at Northfield," Sugg said. "We're all good friends and we all get along real well. Obviously there are a few times when things might not go well on the track and we're upset for 10 or 15 minutes, but we're all friends and we get over it. I've never raced anywhere that has kind of the family atmosphere it is at Northfield." In addition to driving, Sugg trains a 15-horse stable. He is coming off a career-best year for driving purses, with $2.27 million in 2015, and nearly reached his best for training purses, with $492,348 last season. For his career, Sugg has won 865 races as a trainer. Among the top horses from his stable last year were Ohio Sire Stakes finalists Nobles Finesse and Mickey Moose; he also drove Ohio Sire Stakes champion Count On Kami for trainer Marty Wollam. Past stable stars for Sugg include world champions Dunkster and Blastaway Sahbra. "My dad taught me everything about training that I know," Sugg said about his father, Ivan, whose accomplishments include conditioning 2003 Horse of the Year No Pan Intended. "At least I learned a little bit from him; I don't think I have all the knowledge he has. "I enjoy training. I've trained for over 20 years for Dean Davis and he's provided the opportunity with well-bred horses. I've been very fortunate to have some real nice horses. I was hoping to reach the half-million-dollar mark (last year) and I just didn't quite get there. Maybe this year." If he does get there, it might take work but it won't be a job. by Ken Weingartner/Harness Racing Communications/USTA

Ronnie Wrenn Jr. had a monster night on Monday (April 18) at Northfield Park by posting eight wins on the 15-race program. Wrenn's triumphs were with Ultimate Winner ($3.00) in race one, Jagger Blue Chip ($3.80) in race two, Mcport In A Storm ($7.60) in race four, Absolutely Certain ($5.00) in race five, Mythical Hall ($6.20) in race nine, Major Marcus ($16.00) in race 10, Rusty's No Fool ($7.80) in race 11and Orse Power ($4.60) in race 13. Wrenn is Northfield's leading driver with 184 local wins so far this year. Aaron Merriman (156), Kurt Sugg (89), Joe Bongiorno (80) and Ryan Stahl (78) complete the top five. Being the leading driver at Northfield is nothing new to Ronnie, who won Northfield's 2013, 2014 and 2015 local titles. Wrenn has been driving since 2008 and has since posted 3,168 career wins and is approaching $15 million is purse earnings. by Ayers Ratliff, for Northfield Park

Steve and Patricia Cross, harness racing trainers and owners of Diamonds Revenge, have been waiting for their 14 year-old pacer Diamonds Revenge to win one final time before retiring him to a new career. Diamonds Revenge found the line a winner in the seventh race on Wednesday (March 30) at Northfield Park. He soundly beat his competition by two lengths in 1:57.2 with the Cross's son Kevin driving. "He is such and nice horse and my wife absolutely adores him," said Steve Cross. "He deserves to retire and to retire a winner." Soon Diamonds Revenge will be providing carriage rides to the public at Punderson State Park in nearby Newbury, Ohio. The Crosses purchased Diamonds Revenge about five years ago at the Frank Chick sale in Delaware for only $2,500. His mild manner and huge heart quickly earned their respect and love. Diamonds Revenge leaves the racing scene after 307 career starts. He posted 34 victories, placed 45 times and showed in 46 races. He garnered $339,007 and paced a career best 1:52.1 at Harrington Raceway in 2007. For the past five years Diamonds Revenge has competed on the Flying Turns week after week and is respected throughout the track as a classy veteran. Diamonds Revenge will be missed but can still be enjoyed by equine fans giving carriage rides through the 741 acres of Punderson State Park in Geauga County, Ohio. Ayers Ratliff

Harness racing trainer Ron Burke has raced at just about every racetrack along the east coast and the one thing that is constant, he knows how to win. Burke eclipsed the $150 million dollar mark at Northfield Park on Monday night taking the co-featured Open Trot with Barn Girl. Barn Girl raced a majority of her starts in the New York Sire Stakes last year and in late 2015 was sold to Ron Burke. Since bringing Barn Girl to Northfield he has set the track record for 4-year-old mares and is unbeaten in 2016. Ron Burke started his training career in 1992 where he immediately took off hitting the board in 229 of his 560 starts that season. Since 2009, Burke has been over the $10 million mark in earnings training some of the sports top horses. One of the top horses that Burke has trained is Foiled Again who has won the Battle of Lake Erie at Northfield three times and has over seven million dollars in earnings. Ron Burke has over 30,000 career training starts and has won 6,809 of those starts. By Michael Carter, for Northfield Park  

A carryover of $2,771.55 has sparked a $15,000 Guaranteed Pick-5 Total Pool Wednesday at the harness racing meeting at Northfield Park. Northfield Park is announcing the addition of a $15,000 Pick-5 total pool guarantee to Wednesday's (March 23rd) program. Beginning in Race 3, the $15,000 Pick-5 guaranteed total pool includes a carryover of $2,771.55. 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

Put your mind to it, and it’s not hard to imagine that you could become one of America’s most successful stockbrokers or luxury car salesmen. But at three different brokerage firms or dealerships . . . at the same time? He’s not touting pork belly futures or a showroom of $750,000 Italian sports car whose name you can’t even pronounce, but Joe Bongiorno, the latest darling of the Northfield Park harness racing drivers’ lounge, is a genuine triple threat. Through Sunday, Mar. 20, Bongiorno, at the very tender age of 22, is currently listed among the top four drivers at not only Northfield, but also at Freehold and The Meadowlands, two tracks in New Jersey. At Northfield, his 57 winners rank him 4th. At Freehold, his 45 winners have him in second place. At the Meadowlands, his 23 winners ranks him fourth against an all star roster of reinsmen.            Bongiorno’s hectic sulky schedule adds up to a lofty spot on the list of North America’s winingest drivers for 2016. His 125 victories place him fifth. There are two familiar names that he’s chasing – Northfield’s Aaron Merriman (1st) and Ronnie Wrenn Jr. (fourth).              Hectic might be understating Bongiorno’s weekly work schedule. A resident of Colts Neck, N.J,, Bongiorno starts with a seven-hour drive on Monday morning from home to Northfield where he drives in all or certainly the majority of the 15 scheduled races.            Bongiorno drives in another 12 to 15 races on Tuesday at Northfield, then after two nights in an area hotel, heads back to New Jersey on Wednesday morning for one of his two days of rest and relaxation.            Thursday through Saturday find him performing double-duty, driving at Freehold in the afternoon, which is 15 minutes from his home, then speeding off for an evening of driving at The Meadowlands, which is less than an hour from home.   Bongiorno didn’t start driving at Northfield until January 11, but quickly made a major splash when he steered seven horses to the winner’s circle on Mar. 7, a career high for victories.            “I love it here,” said Bongiorno. “The people are great and winning certainly makes it fun. The track surface is very unique. You can win on the front end or come from behind. Horses here, because of the banking, can live (be competitive) on the outside”.   Bongiorno has the pedigree to be as good as he is. His grandfather was Harold “Sonny” Dancer (who died earlier this month), a trainer-driver who developed world Champion Ricci Reenie Time. Stanley and Vernon Dancer, two of his great-uncles, are Members of harness racing’s Hall of Fame.            Stanley Dancer is considered by many to be the Babe Ruth of standardbred racing. Like his great grandson, Dancer began his career at Freehold. He drove the winner of three Triple Crowns and seven times developed and drove the Horse of the Year.            “I know I’m lucky to be where I am at my age,” said Bongiorno. “Maybe there is something to racing being in my blood. I know I’m very comfortable in the sulky. I really felt that way from the first time I jogged a horse. I was 14.” Bongiorno was at Freehold on Mar. 10 when the track paid tribute to his grandfather. The body of Sonny Dancer took one last lap around the track in a funeral carriage before he was buried in a nearby cemetery. “It was very moving,” said Bongiorno. “It made me think about who I was and where my family roots are.” Bongiorno is the son of Robert Bongiorno, a former trainer who remains in the game as an owner. His mother is the former Barbara Dancer. He began driving professionally in 2011 at age 18. It was during senior year of high school and he scored his first winner at Freehold on longshot Mr. Bennett on Oct. 1. “I love baseball and played as a freshman, but when I got serious about harness racing, that was it. I would go to classes in the morning and then drive at Freehold in the afternoon. The track was only 10 minutes from my school.” His fondness for baseball led to an opportunity he couldn’t refuse. “I was around 14 and got to fill in three of four times as New York Yankee batboy,” said Bongiorno. “Got to have lunch and dinner in the clubhouse with Derek Jeter, Nick Swisher and Mariano Rivera. I got lots of autographs.”  At the rate he’s visiting the winner’s circle, Bongiorno will be signing his name for a growing club of fans. By Northfield Park Publicity Department

Northfield Park's richest race of the season, the Carl Milstein Memorial for harness racing three-year-old pacers, will be raced as a "By-Invitation-Only" event in 2016. The 3rd Annual Carl Milstein Memorial, named in honor of the track's former owner and Chairman, will be contested on Saturday night, August 13, at the Cleveland-area oval. Albeit one of the newest added-money events on the three-year-old calendar, the Carl Milstein Memorial has attracted stellar field in its first two editions, including last year's champion Wiggle It Jiggleit, who went on to be voted harness racing's Horse of the Year. The change from a paid-in stakes event to an Invitational adds more flexibility in showcasing the harness racing's elite sophomore pacers in Northeast Ohio. "There are numerous stakes events for three-year-old pacers all summer long, and having to pay into them in February and March limits the number of horses we may be able to attract for the race" said Northfield's Executive Vice President of Racing and Simulcasting Dave Bianconi. "With an Invitational, I can ask the connections of all the major race winners throughout the summer to take a shot at $300,000, all of which is paid by Northfield - there are no staking or starting fees whatsoever." "As the 2016 stakes season heats up, I urge the connections of top three-year-old pacers of either gender to contact me if they have an interest in competing in the Carl Milstein Memorial," said Bianconi, who can be contacted at 330-467-4101 ext. 2207 or at dbianconi@northfieldpark.com . Ayers Ratliff          

Northfield Park is announcing the addition of a $60,000 Pick-4 total pool guarantee to Wednesday's (March 16th) harness racing program. Beginning in Race 8, the $60,000 Pick-4 guaranteed total pool includes a carryover of $13,766.64. 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

Aaron Merriman scored the 8,000th win of his harness racing driving career while driving Watcha Got Abby in Northfield Park's 6th race on Tuesday (March 1). Watcha Got Abby boldly left from the gate and led her competition from start to finish, winning by ¼ length in 1:58.2. Merriman, 37, keeps a torrid schedule, regularly competing at Northfield Park and The Meadows. However, he also races at various other venues throughout the year. Aaron is the reigning North American dash champion and his talents have been noticed on the national stage. Merriman has competed in some of the biggest races in harness racing. In August 2013, 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 8,000 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." Aaron has driven many talented horses, "It would be hard to say the best horse I have driven," thought Merriman. "I have been truly blessed to drive a lot of nice horses in our sport's signature races." Aaron has sat behind countless horses, but one sticks out to him above all others: "I love to drive Tamarind. He is small and has a lot of problems, but he gives his all each and every race." Merriman started driving at the age of 21 and appreciates the successful 16-year career he has experienced so far; accomplishing the 8,000-win milestone and purse earnings in excess of $46,000,000. "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 chances I have been given are unbelievable and I wish I could thank them each individually. The horses deserve credit too -- they are the ones who carry us around the track and deserve the real credit for my 8,000 wins." Ayers Ratliff

Harness racing driver Ronnie Wrenn Jr. made his 3,000th trip to the winner's circle after winning with Say It Again Sam in Northfield Park's fifteenth race on Wednesday (February 3). Wrenn led at every call with Say It Again Sam, eventually besting his competition by 4-1/4 lengths. The 1:58.1 clocking was the 13th career score for the six year-old pacer, who returned $2.60 to win. The 29-year-old Wrenn began driving in 2008. His 3,000 wins have helped him garner almost $14 million in purse earnings. He won the 2013 and 2014 national dash driving titles and finished second in 2015. Wrenn is a 2005 graduate of Hartland High School in Hartland, Mich. He played center field for and graduated from Mott Community College in Flint. Although Wrenn comes from a racing family, he did not take an interest and become involved with horses at an early age. "I was 19 or 20 when I jogged my first horse. I was always really busy with sports and stuff," said Wrenn. "I didn't really have time for it." However, after weighing his options and slowly becoming more interested with the family business, Ronnie decided on a career in racing. "I was just sitting at the table working on stuff from school on my computer one night and looked up and told my dad I wanted to be a driver. He looked at me like I was crazy. But I was old enough that he really didn't have a lot of say, and so far it has all worked out pretty well." Wrenn has found success and has been a regular to the winner's circle since his very first time behind the starting gate. He won his first race, aboard Artful Power in a $1,400 Billings race at a Michigan fair. "It was hard breaking in at first. I guess I got lucky to be put on some good horses and things just took off," offered Wrenn. "My parents and grandparents really helped me a lot as well as countless other people." Wrenn's fasted and richest win ever came in last year's $225,000 Jim Ewart Memorial at Scioto Downs with Doo Wop Hanover in 1:49.2. He rates the best horses he has ever driven as Arch Madness, Betterluvnexttime, Doo Wop Hanover, Luck Be Withyou, Night Pro and Victory Is Coming. Ronnie's favorite horse to drive is Victory Is Coming. Her 1:53.3 world record performance on July 3, 2015 at Northfield Park stands as Wrenn's favorite of his 3,000 victories. He was most impressed with her effort in that race because she won despite being parked the entire mile. Ronnie credits several people as having large influences on his life and career. Along with his father and uncles, "My mom is my biggest fan and has been more supportive than anyone could even imagine. I am also very lucky to have Briana (his girlfriend) and my two sisters, Sandy and Katie." Wrenn says his ultimate dream race to win would be the Little Brown Jug, "But I would take the feature races at Northfield too. I am a big fan of the Battle of Lake Erie and the Milstein Memorial," said Wrenn. "There are many owners and trainers that have given me opportunities and I will be forever grateful to them," offered Wrenn. "To win races, a driver has to drive fast horses for talented trainers with good owners." Although this milestone victory came in a $4,600 condition race, Wrenn was happy to win a milestone victory with a horse conditioned by Virgil Morgan Jr. "Virgil was one of the very first trainers in Ohio to use me and give me a chance with nice horses. He really helped jump start the success I have had." Ayers Ratliff

Freehold, NJ --- There might be some debate about the origin of his name, but there is no arguing that Viewlander enjoys the brisk days of winter. An 8-year-old male trotter --- who didn’t make his harness racing career debut until November of his 4-year-old season --- Viewlander is 3-for-3 this year at Ohio’s Northfield Park and approaching $100,000 in lifetime purses. Bred and owned by Michael Patalan and trained by Patalan’s son, Eric, the gelded Viewlander has won 21 of 90 career races, but enjoyed much of his success during the months of December, January, and February. Going back to December 2014, Viewlander has raced 15 times during those months and produced 10 victories. Viewlander’s most recent win came on Jan. 18 by two lengths in the Open Handicap at Northfield’s half-mile oval. His next start is Monday in the Open Handicap at Northfield, where he will leave from post eight with driver Aaron Merriman and is the 4-1 second choice on the morning line behind S J Better Days, at 7-2. “If you look at his races, almost everybody is on Lasix but him,” Michael Patalan said. “That to me is a real special horse. You would think in the wintertime he wouldn’t be breathing as good, but he seems to thrive in the winter months. Last year he got hot about this time. We gave him the summer months off and he just enjoyed the sun and the grass and then we brought him back and he seems to be getting better with every start. “And I think he kind of likes the fact he can push horses around on the small tracks (like Northfield). I told my son after last week that Viewlander probably thinks he’s the best horse in the world right now.” Viewlander was unraced at ages 2 and 3, but Patalan liked the trotter from the beginning. “Eric doesn’t push them as 2-year-olds,” Patalan said. “If he can get them racing and sell them as 3- and 4-year-olds, we’re sort of happy to do that. But Viewlander was spectacular from birth. He’s just a nice horse. He eats well, loads well, ships well, and doesn’t need a veterinarian. What more could you ask for. “He gets turned out all the time. He’s got a couple of girlfriends in the field that he loves to yell at, even though he’s a gelding. We’re having a good time with him. When he retires, we’ll keep him as a fun horse in the field for the grandkids to play with. When you make this kind of money with a horse, we’re not a big stable or big breeders, that’s a lot of money for a breeder like us to make and it keeps the farm going for a while. So when he’s finished we’ll let the kids enjoy him.” Patalan got his start in harness racing in 1969 while living in the suburbs of Cleveland. He was an engineer for Ford and would go to the races with co-workers, but ventured into ownership after becoming friends with Burton “Bud” Jenne, who had a farm nearby. “I drove by his farm for like five months and all of a sudden one day my car turned in the driveway,” Patalan said with a laugh. “Six months later, we had a yearling.” Patalan now lives in Michigan, where he and his wife Christine have a farm and have bred more than 100 horses over the years. Patalan also has driven and trained horses during his career in harness racing. Viewlander, by the stallion Coventry, is the only offspring of Patalan’s Tagliabue mare Tagliaview --- at least for now. The 73-year-old Patalan has bred fewer horses in recent years as opportunities in Michigan diminished. But Viewlander’s success led Patalan to breed Tagliaview in 2015 to stallion Cash Hall, who is the fastest trotter in harness racing on a half-mile racetrack, with a time-trial mark of 1:51.1. “I thought that was really kind of cool,” Patalan said. “Viewlander has got a great conformation. He’s a big horse who gets around a half-mile track extremely well. With Cash Hall’s record, I just thought this was really something special. “Everybody always asks where Viewlander’s brothers and sisters are, and now I tell them one is coming.” As for the trotter’s name, Patalan recalls it being a combination of Tagliaview and Verlander --- the star pitcher for the Detroit Tigers. Others disagree, saying it was a combination of Tagliaview and the movie Zoolander. The Patalans have often named horses with references to movies or characters from movies. “We probably had a bottle of wine when we named him, one of those things,” Patalan said, laughing. “I don’t think we’re ever going to resolve it.” Patalan said Eric, who is assisted by his wife Cathy in running the training stable, has received calls inquiring whether Viewlander is for sale. Patalan said no. “We couldn’t get enough money for him to replace the fun we’re having with him,” Patalan said. “As good a care that Eric takes of horses, I think he’s got a career that’ll go a long time.” by Ken Weingartner, Harness Racing Communications

Akron, NY --- Tuesday is the deadline for nominations for the 2015 Caretaker of the Year Award. The award, sponsored by Hard Rock Rocksino Northfield Park in conjunction with the United States Harness Writers Association, recognizes the unsung heroes of the sport --- the caretakers who maintain the health and welfare of the horses on a daily basis. Any caretaker working for any stable in North America is eligible. All that is needed to nominate is a letter or e-mail from an individual or group detailing the skills and special qualities of the caretaker. Initially titled Groom of the Year Award when first presented in 1982, the honor was instituted as a result of a speech given by Delvin Miller at the annual Harness Tracks of America meeting when Miller received HTA's Stanley F. Bergstein Messenger Award. Previously sponsored annually by HTA and Hanover Shoe Farms, the tradition now continues. The HRRNP Caretaker of the Year will receive a cash prize of $500, a trophy, and transportation costs to the USHWA Dan Patch Awards Banquet in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., on Sunday evening (March 6), where he or she will be recognized for the achievement. The winner also will enjoy a two-night stay at the host hotel for the USHWA activities, as well as two complimentary dinner tickets. "We are proud to join with Hard Rock Rocksino Northfield Park in resuming this prestigious honor," said USHWA President Chris Tully. "We encourage owners, trainers and other stakeholders to support it by nominating the many worthy individuals who work in our great sport." The winner will be chosen by a seven-person selection committee comprised of USHWA members, all of whom are former caretakers: Tim Bojarski (chair), Tom Charters, Moira Fanning, Dean Hoffman, Rob Pennington, Kim Rinker and Shawn Wiles. All nomination letters and e-mails must be received and/or postmarked by Tuesday, Jan. 12, and sent to chair Bojarski at: Tim Bojarski, 7523 Maple Road, Akron, NY 14001, a159star@gmail.com. The U.S. Harness Writers Association/Northfield Park

Harness racing driver Aaron Merriman, the 2015 North American Dash winner, has continued his winning ways into 2016. After posting three wins on Friday (January 1), Merriman had a monster night on Saturday (January 2) at Northfield Park by posting eight wins on the 15-race program. Merriman's triumphs were with Lady Ideal ($2.10) in race three, King Richard ($9.20) in race six, Talbotcreek Armani ($3.80) in race eight, Bob N Tony ($3.00) in race nine, Giddy Up Blackfly ($3.00) in race 10, Viewlander ($2.10) in race 11, Love You Bad ($11.20) in race 14 and Blessing Stone (2.40) in race 15. Merriman garnered 873 victories in 2015, which placed him 41 wins in front of any other driver in North America. Aaron is also the winningest driver in the history of Northfield Park, where he became the youngest inductee to the track's Wall of Fame in 2013 at age 36. Merriman has been driving since 1998. He is nearing 8,000 career wins and has over $45 million in purse earnings. Ayers Ratliff

Ronnie Wrenn Jr. again topped the local harness racing driving ranks in 2015, winning 653 races over the Flying Turns. His nearest competitor, Aaron Merriman, drove 579 winners. Jason Merriman (338), Ryan Stahl (210) and Kurt Sugg (199) completed the top five reinsmen. Wrenn, 29, resides in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio and now has four driving titles under his belt. He won the dash titles at Northfield Park in 2013 and 2014 and Northville Downs in 2013. Ronnie's 2015 total victory tally was 796, which ranked him third among all drivers in North America. Only Aaron Merriman (873) and George Napolitano Jr. (832) had more wins in 2015 than Wrenn Jr. Wrenn began driving in 2008 and has since won 2,968 races and purses of $13,731,914. Wrenn's fasted and richest win ever came in last year's $225,000 Jim Ewart Memorial at Scioto Downs aboard Doo Wop Hanover in 1:49.2. Northfield Park's 2015 leading trainer Brian Loney won 54 more races than any other local conditioner. He garnered 153 victories throughout last year. Sam Schillaci finished second with 99 wins. Michael Dowdall (86), Jessica Millner (70) and Andy Rickert (67) rounded out the top five Northfield Park trainers for 2015. Brian, originally from Hager Hill, Kentucky, has relocated to Northfield, Ohio. He and wife Harla Renae have three children: 15 year-old son Gannun, 11 year-old son Payton and six year-old daughter Polly. Loney, 37, has 1,330 career victories and purse earnings of $3,241,750. The 2015 Northfield title is the fourth local dash victory for Brian. He has also won titles at Bluegrass Downs, Fairmount Park, The Red Mile and Thunder Ridge. Brian recalled that his first training win was with the gelding pacer Stealth Fighter at Fairmount Park in 1996. Wrenn and Loney will each be presented with a plaque and dining gift certificate to the Hard Rock Rocksino Northfield Park in a winner's circle ceremony later in January. Ayers Ratliff      

Northfield Park has announced the addition of Michael Carter to its management staff. Carter begins full-time employment on Monday, December 28, 2015, and will fulfill a variety of key roles throughout the facility.  Besides his primary duties of Assistant Director of Mutuels, the versatile 27 year-old will work closely with the marketing, promotions and communications departments and as the back-up announcer to veteran Ayers Ratliff, for whom he has filled in occasionally since February, 2014.   “We are fortunate to bring someone like Michael on board,” said Brent Reitz, Northfield Park’s vice President & General Manager. “His knowledge, work ethic, enthusiasm and youthful outlook will help Northfield grow for years to come.” Carter became interested in racing when he was very young, attending the races with his father.  Inspired by The Meadowlands’ Sam McKee and Woodbine’s Ken Middleton, he soon developed a special focus on race-calling.    In 2012 Michael began working at the Shenandoah County Fair in Virginia as the assistant race secretary and announcer.  Since then he has filled in as the announcer at Colonial Downs, Fort Erie, Hazel Park, Northfield Park and Rosecroft Raceway. In 2013 Carter landed the announcer’s job at Buffalo Raceway.  In addition to calling the action on the track, he fulfilled numerous duties in the mutuel office and assisted the simulcast department.    "I am excited to be joining Northfield Park,” offered Carter.  “It is a tremendous opportunity to work with a talented team that aggressively promotes harness racing in Ohio and across North America.”  Ayers Ratliff 

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