Aaron Merriman captured five of the eight Pennsylvania Fairs Championships — each worth $25,000 — Friday (Oct. 8) at The Meadows, but he had to share the spotlight with someone who has never had so much as a single drive.
That would be 11-year-old Dylan Daugherty, an aspiring track announcer who not only called the action of one championship, but he also got an owner’s win in another final with Father Son.
The young man owns Father Son, a two-year-old Father Patrick-All In The Muscles gelding trotter, with his grandmother, Susan Daugherty, while his grandfather, William Daugherty Jr., trains the horse.
In the championship, Father Son seized the lead from post six and fought off several challenges — including one from his stablemate, Cussin N Fussin — to score in a career-best 1:57.3. Cussin N Fussin was second, two lengths back, with the first-over Moneymatters Devie third.
Young Dylan called races at three fairs this summer and was calm and professional after his owner’s win, noting that another horse from his granddad’s stable, Shayna Rosa, also captured a championship.
“I’d say this was an amazing night in harness racing, especially with Shayna winning,” he said. “It was a good night for the Daughertys.”
In the other championships:
Three-Year-Old Colt & Gelding Pace — Seth Hanover
The stretch drive as called by Dylan Daugherty was exciting, as the pocket-sitting Seth Hanover outkicked the front-ending Terry A Hanover to down him by 1-1/4 lengths in 1:52 for Brady Brown and trainer Mitchell York, who owns with David Brickell. Allieverdreamedof finished third.
“These two raced against each other all summer and were finishing first and second,” York said. “He likes to come on the end of it.”
York indicated he expects to sell Seth Hanover to make room for babies.
Three-Year-Old Filly Trot — Margaretaville
This may have been Merriman’s most improbable victory, as Margaretaville had been plagued by breaks and a loser in 33 of her 35 previous career outings. But the daughter of Bar Hopping-Cream Pie wasn’t wasting away Friday. She moved three-wide through the final turn to spring the 15-1 upset in 1:55.3, a lifetime mark. Fire Up was second, beaten three lengths, with Misty Kristy third.
“She had to stay trotting, and I thought she’d be okay,” said Dana Kahrig, who conditions Margaretaville for Kahrig Racing Stable and Cache Is King LLC. “We changed her daily routine hoping that she would be good. I think that’ll be it for her until next season.”
Two-Year-Old Filly Pace — Bettor Strait N Up
She had to duel for the early lead, but Bettor Strait N Up was untouchable once there, scoring by three lengths for Merriman in 1:55.1, yet another career-best. Gottaluvit Hanover and Bet She Can Fly rounded out the ticket.
“I opened her up this week so she could see horses coming at her, and apparently she really likes that. She responded when she could see them,” said Linda Schadel, who trains the daughter of Betting Line-Strait N Great and owns with Tony Schadel. “She’ll be turned out and have a couple months off.”
Two-Year-Old Colt & Gelding Pace — Captain T Hanover
Roger Hammer, longtime “King of the Fairs” In Pennsylvania, is known for his aggressive driving style, and the joke was that when Merriman zipped to the top with the Captaintreacherous-Temptation Hanover gelding and kept the pedal to the metal, he was following the King’s instructions. Merriman laughingly dismissed that, indicating it was his familiarity with the youngster that dictated his strategy.
“I drove him a couple times earlier this year,” Merriman said. “He seems to take himself up at the end; I think it’s immaturity rather than fatigue, so I wanted to get some separation from the field.”
The game plan worked perfectly, as Captain T Hanover bested Buchannon Hanover by 1-1/2 lengths in 1:55. Myartblongstorock completed the ticket.
Two-Year-Old Filly Trot — Shayna Rosa
As young Dylan Daugherty noted, his granddad’s horse, Shayna Rosa, took the title, perhaps thanks to some rigging changes the trainer made to help her finish better.
“We opened her blind bridle up and plugged her ears,” the elder Daugherty said. “She was a lot quieter tonight.”
Shayna Rosa showed no signs of stopping, shooting the Lightning Lane for Dave Palone and triumphing in 1:57.1, fastest win of her career. Early leader Till Im Gone was second, two lengths in arrears, while Dallas Bi rallied for show.
Susan Daugherty, who owns the daughter of Cantab Hall-Celebrity Sweedie, got her second championship on the evening.
Three-Year-Old Colt & Gelding Trot — Killer Instinct
Merriman was three-wide early with Killer Instinct but wasn’t worried that the Southwind Frank-Wheely Quick gelding would flatten out late.
“These horses are pretty seasoned,” he said. “Even the two-year-olds have probably seen it all at the fairs already, and this is a three-year-old. He fought and did what he had to do.”
Killer Instinct persevered and scored in 1:56.1 for trainer Andy Rickert and owners Corey Hendricks and Melanie O’Donnell. Mr Jeff and Tricky Dick completed the ticket.
Three-Year-Old Filly Pace — Tonianne
Andy Miller envisioned a routine quarter-pole move to the point for Tonianne, but when he tried it, things got a little complicated.
“A horse got grabby and wouldn’t stay in the hole, so it ended up being a little longer move than I would have liked,” Miller said. “But we still got to the front before the half, and it was clear sailing from there.”
The daughter of Somebeachsomewhere-Table Talk was much the best, prevailing in 1:52.4 — matching her career best — two lengths better than Sweet Baby Kaylee, with Tiamogonedancen third.
Todd Schadel trains the winner for Andy Miller Stable and Louis Willinger, but Miller indicated she’s ticketed for the Harrisburg sale.
Live racing at The Meadows resumes Tuesday when the program features a $23,973.43 carryover in the final-race Super Hi-5. First post is 12:45 p.m.