Wilder Celebrates 9,000th Driving Win

Mike Wilder
Published: July 3, 2024 05:31 pm EDT

Driver Mike Wilder collected career win 9,000 when he captured Wednesday’s 11th race at Hollywood Casino at The Meadows with Distant Drums.

A native of Springfield, Ohio, Wilder launched his harness racing career at the age of 14, driving matinees and working for the small stable of his stepfather, Dave Ritter. Ironically, Ritter exited the business just as Wilder was deciding to make it his career, signing on as caretaker for the stable of Randy Owens and later, Virgil Morgan Jr. He was itching to make it as a driver, but early on, assignments were hard to come by.

“That whole first year I basically groomed and would drive one or a couple a night,” he said. “The very next year, I was the leading driver at Lebanon Raceway.”

That was the first of Wilder’s 13 titles at Lebanon, and he thrived at Ohio’s other venues as well. He credits Morgan with propelling his early career.

“He’s a good guy... and a good guy to learn from.”

In 2001, he relocated to The Meadows and extended his success. He’s now an elite driver; with his 9,000 victories, he ranks 29th on the all-time North America wins list, and he’s earned more than $76.6 million in purses. Among his most memorable drives, Wilder mentions two that occurred within weeks... with the same horse. That happened in 2020 when he piloted Catch The Fire to wins in the Delvin Miller Adios Pace for the Orchids and an elimination of the Little Brown Jug. (He finished third in the final.)

“Those are premier races, so it was quite a thrill,” he said. “The feeling that comes over you is pretty crazy.”

It’s fitting that Wilder’s milestone win should come now, as it follows by days the 1,000th career training victory of his father-in-law, Dan Altmeyer. Wilder and his wife Heather are partnered with Altmeyer in Altmeyer Wilder Stable. He cites his family as a major factor in his success.

“Heather’s very involved in the business and she does tons of stuff for the sport,” he said. “And Dan, everybody in the sport knows he’s pure class and a tremendous horseman. He’s helped me immensely along the way. He put me on the Grand Circuit. I never got those kinds of drives in Ohio.”

Wilder, 52, indicated he’ll keep driving for as long as he can, but he’s also eyeing other options for the future.

“I love young horses, I love Florida in the winters and I would love to be a trainer someday. It’s a nice recharge to be with the babies. I love to compete, but the day will come when that’s over, so you turn the page.”

In the $15,753 conditioned trot, Distant Drums hustled to the lead from post seven, flicked off a pair of mild challenges and rolled to his fourth straight victory in the Meadows feature.

Once Mike Wilder got Distant Drums — the 1-9 favourite — to the point, the five-year-old Trixton-Altar Gal gelding did the rest himself. Nail Driver and Goo For Broke made late bids outside, but Distant Drums turned them aside under wraps, triumphing in 1:54.3. During his current win streak, his combined four-race victory margin is 21-3/4 lengths.

Lonely Lakewood was 8-1/4 lengths back in second, with Nail Driver third. Distant Drums may have remained calm, but Wilder had ample reason to celebrate, as it was the 9,000th win of his distinguished career.

Sarah Andrews trains Distant Drums for Matthew Miller.

Dave Palone and Wilder each piloted three winners on the 13-race card.

The Independence Day card on Thursday, July 4 at The Meadows promises fireworks, as it features a pair of stakes for freshman filly pacers: a $180,221 USD Pennsylvania Sires Stakes and a $100,000 USD PA Stallion Series event. First post is 12:45 p.m.

(Meadows Standardbred Owners Association)

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