Aaron Merriman got Dealt A Winner and will try to play a winning hand in Saturday’s $421,000 Breeders Crown Open Pace at Hoosier Park Racing & Casino.
Dealt A Winner and Mach It So each won an elimination last week, with David Miller driving both. Miller will drive Mach It So in Saturday’s final, so Merriman was called upon to drive Dealt A Winner.
A 5-year-old gelding, Dealt A Winner is the 3-1 morning-line favorite, with Mach It So next at 7-2.
The 39-year-old Merriman has appeared in one Breeders Crown final in his career, finishing fourth with 3-year-old female trotter Classical Annie in 2015. Merriman tops the sport with 891 wins this year, leading second-place George Napolitano Jr. by 356 victories. He is the first driver in history to win at least 800 races in four consecutive years.
Merriman has driven Dealt A Winner three times in his career and finished second with the gelding in September’s Dayton Pacing Derby.
"It’s pretty cool," Merriman said about getting the drive for the Breeders Crown. "He’s raced well for me each time I’ve raced him. He is a little bit funny, but I’ve been first over with him a couple times and he’s really hung in there against really good horses.
"It’s definitely been a wide-open free-for-all year, so that helps my chances, as well as having that familiarity with him. You just try to give the horse the best possible trip, the best shot to win, and that’s it."
Dealt A Winner has won back-to-back starts heading to the Breeders Crown final. He has won five of 16 races this season, including the Allerage Farms Open Pace and Roll With Joe Stakes.
Mark Silva, who won two Open Pace titles with Boulder Creek in the mid-2000s, trains Dealt A Winner for owner Jeff Snyder. Snyder has won three Breeders Crown finals.
Mach It So, owned by Bamond Racing, has won four of 22 starts this year, including the William R. Haughton Memorial. Trainer Jeff Bamond Jr. is looking for his first Breeders Crown trophy, but Bamond and his father have won four times as owners.
The race also features McWicked, who won a Breeders Crown trophy at age 3 in 2014, as well as stakes-winners Sintra, Keystone Velocity and All Bets Off.
All Bets Off won the Hoosier Park Pacing Derby last month. He starts from the outside, post No. 9, in the Breeders Crown final.
"It’s going to be a tough spot for him, but he’s the one horse of mine that can overcome almost anything," All Bets Off’s trainer Ron Burke said. "That will be a good race. There will be a lot of action in it, so hopefully he can pick them up late."
Hoosier Park, located in Anderson, Ind., is hosting the $6 million Breeders Crown for the first time. The finals for female pacers and trotters are Friday night and the finals for male pacers and trotters are Saturday. Racing begins at 6 p.m. (EDT) both nights.
"To have the Breeders Crown in the Midwest is cool," Merriman said. "It’s been a really long time since Midwest racing has had anything like this and it’s great to get the opportunity. Applause for Hoosier Park management for bringing the Breeders Crown here and doing such a great job with it." (HRC)