Merriman aiming for 1,000 wins in season
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Aaron Merriman is not the type of person who sets statistical goals, but after becoming on Tuesday the first driver in harness racing history to win at least 800 races in four consecutive years, he admitted to having another number in mind: 1,000.
Only three drivers have reached 1,000 wins. Tim Tetrick holds harness racing's record of 1,189 victories, set in 2007. Walter Case Jr. won 1,077 races in 1998 and Tony Morgan won 1,004 races in 2006.
Morgan is the only other driver to win at least 800 races in three consecutive years, which he accomplished in 2006, 2007 and 2008. He has surpassed 800 victories a total of four years in his career, with the remaining time occurring in 1996.
"That's cool," Merriman said Wednesday when told of his record streak. "I didn't know that. I thought someone else would have done it. That's awesome.
"I don't set goals, which everyone kind of knows," he continued. "I just try to look at the smaller picture, day to day, and the drives that I have in front of me. But when I heard somewhere in late June or July that I got my 500th win, I actually set a goal. I'd like to win 1,000. I just think it's an amazing feat. I'd like to try to get that done. I'll be aggressively seeking that. Eight-hundred came up fast. I'm glad I'm on pace."
He then added, with a laugh, "I hope I can eclipse the goal I actually set. If I don't, I'll never set another one again."
Merriman, who entered Wednesday with 803 wins, is averaging nearly three victories per day and is on pace for 1,061 wins this season. He trails Tetrick's 2007 record-setting pace by 93 triumphs through a comparable number of days.
"Timmy's record is pretty safe, I believe," Merriman said. "He's unbelievable. The pace he kept that year was awesome."
Merriman's 803 wins lead North America and put him 325 victories ahead of second-place Jason Bartlett. Merriman led all drivers in wins in 2016, with 890, and in 2015, with 874. In 2014, his 841 victories were second to Ronnie Wrenn Jr.'s 847.
"There are so many great drivers out there," Merriman said. "Some guys don't get as much due, maybe because of their location. But I'm telling you, there are many drivers that can drive a good horse. There is a handful at every track that could succeed anywhere with the right horses. Catch driving is definitely a trade now and guys are good at it.
"I've got to race against David (Palone) every day," he added, referring to the sport's all-time leader in wins, with 18,090. "You think I like to win? Let me tell you something, Palone is sicker than I am. If he loses with a horse he thinks should win, he's upset. You can tell. I think that's great. He wants to do good.
"You want to race with people like that. It makes you better. You're not going to play basketball with a bunch of kindergartners and ever get better. I love it."
For his career, the 39-year-old Merriman has won 9,532 races, which ranks 18th in North American harness racing history. He was the second-youngest driver to reach 9,000 victories, behind only Tetrick, who did it when he was 34.
"We are so fortunate to be able to drive horses for a living," said Merriman, who lives in Ohio and keeps busy by driving at multiple tracks several days a week. "It's unbelievable. We love the breed, we love the game, and I couldn't be more blessed to have the opportunity to do this for a living."--By Ken Weingartner/Harness Racing Communications