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Merriman To Head Overseas

Published: March 28, 2016 3:52 pm ET

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“Missing a week of racing back home is nothing compared to the adventure that awaits me…”

The Ladbrokes Vincent Delaney Memorial Committee has announced that Aaron Merriman, North America’s leading dash-winning driver in 2015, has committed to coming to Ireland for the Delaney Memorial Weekend this year (August 13 and 14).

“I was shocked when I got the invite,” Merriman said. “I have read about the race, knew that George Brennan went last year and had a great time, and now I am getting to come over this year, what a great honour this is.”

The 37-year-old Ohio native is coming off a career-best harness racing season in 2015 in which he captured his first North American driving title and earned a personal-high $7.4 million in purses. His 873 victories last year were the most for a dash-winning champion since Tony Morgan’s 959 triumphs in 2008.

Merriman is one of only three drivers – joining Morgan and Tim Tetrick – to win at least 800 races in back to back years. In 2014, Merriman won 841 times, but finished six victories behind Ronnie Wrenn Jr. for the No. 1 spot. Over the past 10 years, Merriman has won an average of 618 races per season.

“Our committee board was ecstatic that Aaron agreed without even flinching to come over for the VDM this year,” said Derek Delaney, who, along with his brother, James, developed the Vincent Delaney Memorial in honour of their younger brother, who tragically passed away in 2011.

“Aaron is a world-class driver,” Delaney added, “and we are sure to show him a great time here both on and off the track. He will be sure to have some good drives at Portmarnock Raceway both on Saturday and Sunday.”

The Ladbrokes Vincent Delaney Memorial is for two-year-old pacers with elimination divisions on Saturday and the finals on Sunday. For the first time this season there will be a separate filly division, sponsored by Diamond Creek Farm.

Also on the program that weekend is the Oakwood Stud Derby, the Paul Murtagh Sr. Memorial, The RocknRoll Heaven/Pet Rock Irish-American FFA sponsored by Joe Bellino and the Bellino Stable, plus other big stakes events.

When it comes to his heritage, Merriman said he will fit in just fine.

“My father’s family is British and my mother is Swedish and Irish,” Aaron said. “I think I will fit in perfectly.

“I’m very eager to experience another continent with harness racing,” Merriman said. “I’ve never left North America before. I’ve checked out some of the history of this race and have read about the great enthusiasm and real love for our sport that they have and it is so heartwarming.

“Harness racing is definitely a sport where people are joined together all around the world. To be offered this opportunity to represent America and show my patronage to Ireland and the UK horsemen and fans is once in a lifetime and I was not going to pass it by. I’ll thoroughly embrace my days there.”

Merriman is already on a roll in 2016. He has a commanding lead in the driving standings in North America with 214 wins, which is 54 ahead of his nearest rival, Jason Bartlett. Merriman has steered his mounts to $1.49-million in purse earnings this season and currently has a UDR of .356.

“Missing a week of racing back home is nothing compared to the adventure that awaits me in Ireland,” Aaron said. “I can’t wait for the second week of August to come. And I will not be homesick because Roger Huston will be there calling the races!”

(With files from the Vincent Delaney Memorial)

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