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Merriman Records Win No. 12,000

Published: January 7, 2020 7:22 pm ET

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Aaron Merriman isn’t really on a Milestone-A-Day Tour—it just seems that way.

On Dec. 30 at Northfield Park, he became the first driver in harness racing history to record three consecutive 1,000-win seasons. That same day, he wrapped up his fifth-straight North American dash title.

On Tuesday at The Meadows, he notched career win No. 12,000 when he piloted Shady Grey to victory for trainer Shane Heasley in the ninth race. What was he thinking as he crossed the wire for this latest milestone?

“Years ago when I was a kid, Shane introduced me to Tone Loc, an old-school rapper I really like,” Merriman said. “I know it’s strange, but that’s the first thing I thought, that I was happy I could win for Shane.

“Every win is special to me, but when you get these milestones and hit the zeroes, it’s kind of cool.”

His 12,000th win was particularly meaningful because his dad, longtime trainer-driver Lanny Merriman, joined him in the winner's circle.

“Dad came to my house to wake me this morning to make sure I was up, but I didn’t know he came to the races. I saw him from afar. Let me tell you something — he enjoys it more than I do. He’s proud of his kids and grandkids, and it’s great to have that support.”

For a number of years, Merriman has maintained a grueling schedule, driving regularly at The Meadows and several tracks in his native Ohio. That regimen keeps him on the road constantly. He made a pledge to cut back in 2019 and honoured it...sort of.

“I took a lot of Thursdays off last year and ended up with a few hundred starts less,” he said. “Being in a car is wearing on me; it’s really tedious.

“My ultimate goal is to try not to extend myself so much. I may not take big chunks of time off, but I will take off days here and there. Sometimes people tell me to step back and enjoy the moment, but I truly enjoy driving racehorses. It feels good when I can help people.”

McDazzle set sail after her stablemate Camera Lady up the backside, passed her in the final turn and rolled to a 1:52.3 victory in the $18,000 Filly & Mare Open Handicap Pace.

McDazzle was third when Mike Wilder tipped her of the cones. The six-year-old daughter of Art Official-Dream McQueen simply overpowered Camera Lady, defeating her by two-and-a-half lengths. Dark Force was third.

Ron Burke trains McDazzle, who boosted her career bankroll to $320,296, for Burke Racing Stable and Weaver Bruscemi LLC.

Tony Hall collected three wins on the 13-race card.

Live racing at The Meadows continues Wednesday when the program features a $2,879.03 carryover in the final-race Super Hi-5. First post is 1:05 p.m.

(The Meadows)

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