Driver Nick Roland reached the coveted 1,000 win plateau on Sunday night at Running Aces when he guided 11-year-old Mac Ts Diamond to a 1:55 score in the third race.
The 31-year-old reinsman is a third generation horseman who honed his talents on the Iowa county fair circuit before moving to Running Aces when it opened just over six years ago. A perennial leading driver, he finally broke through in 2013 and is the reigning dash champion at the Minnesota five-eighths mile oval.
The milestone win was Roland's 24th of 2014 and first of three on the Sunday program. He also triumphed with Chewy Dunkerton in a $13,000 event for Minnesota-sired three-year-old trotters and with Headsup Yankee in a $6,500 conditioned pace.
Smarter Yet, making his Running Aces debut, captured the $9,500 Open Pace for owner Kevin St. Charles, trainer Ron Merritt and driver Kim Pluta. The seven-year-old Western Maverick gelding now has 35 lifetime wins and career earnings of $223,225.
Pluta had the winner positioned next-to-last in the early going, but began a second-over journey in the outer flow approaching the halfway point. Moving up steadily through fractions of :27, :55.4 and 1:24.2, Smarter Yet closed with a final panel of :27.4 to win in 1:52.4. Overlooked at odds of 25-1, Smarter Yet paid $53.40 for a $2 win ticket. Second and third-place finishers R Gauwitz Hanover (Rick Magee) and Restless Yankee (Roland) completed exacta and trifecta tickets worth $539.20 and $2,839.80 respectively.
The Open Pace has been highly competitive at Running Aces through the first five weeks of the 14-week schedule with five different horses winning the weekly feature thus far.
Handle on the 10-race card was $189,848.