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Merriman blanked at Meadows; wins at Nfld

December 15, 2015

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Suppose this shaped up to be the first day of what should be one of the best weeks of your life – a week when you went to the lead in the North American drivers dash-winning derby. And then you lost in your first 17 drives of the day. But Aaron Merriman kept his cool. He won with his 18th steer of the day. And his 19th. And his 20th, and suddenly things had righted themselves.

That trio of victories in Northfield's 11th, 12th, and 13th races last night boosted Merriman's 2015 sulky success total to 830, leaving him just two behind current leader George Napolitano Jr.'s total, with Napolitano done for the year.
Merriman may not have won a race at The Meadows yesterday afternoon, but as racehorses often do, he "had excuses”: for one, he did achieve four second-place finishes, and at 7-2, 9-1, 10-1, and 46-1. Another was that that 7-2 shot, along with another at 3½-1, were the only two horses in 11 drives where Merriman went off less than 7-1 – and he had four mounts who were 30-1 or more!

Also, the southwest Pennsylvania track has been going through a period where the opening card of the week has been "Meadows Manic Monday,” with the last nine weeks generating nine horses paying $50 or more, three of them topping the $100 return line for a $2 win bet, and the average win bet paying off at $16.15. Yesterday it was the turn of Hall of Fame driver Dick Stillings to join in the fun, getting a 27.2 last quarter out of Purdy Sam in a "nw3” race, rallying him from seventh at the ¾ pole to win for trainer Doug Hamilton – and return $114.80 to win.

At Northfield, the hot driver was Chris Page, who had five wins on the night, including taking four of the first five races. But Merriman kept at his craft, and was eventually rewarded with the consecutive triple. In adding four seconds and five thirds in his 23 miles for the day, Aaron – despite that 0-for-17 start – managed to post a .300 UDR for Monday.

Merriman now has doubleheader action set for Tuesday and Wednesday. Both The Meadows and Northfield race Friday, but unusually The Meadows has a night card scheduled for Friday this week, so Aaron will have to make a choice.

But by then, the form would indicate that he will be King of the Driving Hill for 2015, and not likely to be looking down or back.

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