Aaron Merriman topped the Northfield Park 2012 leading driver standings, winning 315 races over the Flying Turns. His nearest competitor, Ryan Stahl, drove 258 winners. Tyler Smith (204), Kurt Sugg (179) and Ronnie Wrenn Jr. (165) completed the top five reinsmen.
The 34-year-old Merriman, a resident of Northfield, Ohio, has eight driving titles under his belt. He has won three driving titles at Raceway Park in Toledo and four previous titles at Northfield Park between 2006 and 2009. Injuries sidelined Merriman for parts of 2010 and 2011, but a healthy 2012 propelled him to his fifth title. He split his driving time among several different places, but he has been a regular at Northfield Park and The Meadows.
Merriman garnered a total of 608 wins this past year, ranking him 5thnationally. David Palone (675), Tim Tetrick (670), George Napolitano Jr (645) and George Brennan (622) compiled more victories this year.
Merriman began driving in 1997 and has won 5,562 races and purses of $26,795,202. Merriman remembers his first win aboard a pacing mare named Albert's Filly at Raceway Park in Toledo, Ohio.
"All the wins feel the same,” explained Merriman. "The winner's circle is always happy and you never get tired of making people happy.” Merriman's richest career win came in a $300,000 Kentucky Sires Stakes final aboard Palazzo Princess, and his fastest win was timed in 1:50.
Northfield Park trainer Harla "Renae” Loney captured the top training honor for 2012, garnering 115 local victories. Larry Clabaugh finished second with 85 wins. Calvin Hollar (68), Kevin Ehrhardt (61) and Don Pfister (61) rounded out the top five conditioners' list.
Renae, originally from Martin, Ky., recently purchased a home with her husband Brian and relocated to Northfield, Ohio. They have three children: 12 year-old son Gannun, 8 year-old son Payton and 3 year-old daughter Polly.
Renae is a graduate of Morehead State University, where she competed in the equestrian program. After graduation she taught elementary school in Floyd County, Kentucky for two years before pursuing her passion in horse racing. Loney, 36, said horses are in her blood. "My grandpa and dad both had horses and I guess I was just brought up in it.”
Loney currently trains a stable of 27 horses and has garnered 259 career victories and purse earnings of $482,288. She emphasized her love of horses and working with them on a daily basis. "My favorite thing, however, is getting to the winner's circle.” (Northfield Park)