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Merriman up by 4, poised to take championship

December 17, 2015

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Aaron Merriman won three races on Wednesday, giving him a total of 836 victories for 2015 to increase his leading in this year's North American dash championship to four over George Napolitano Jr., who has finished driving for the year.
There had been a brief flurry of interest yesterday when Napolitano's name was down on two Chris Oakes-trained horses at Pompano on Sunday, but harnessracing.com immediately contacted George, and he restated that he would not be back into the sulky into 2016. "Chris Oakes wanted me to fly down on Sunday, but our son (Kristopher) is in school until Friday, and we have things to do around here (Pennsylvania),” Napolitano told harnessracing.com.

Aaron Merriman began adding to his lead on Wednesday by posting a driving double at The Meadows during afternoon racing, reporting home first with the up-and-coming trotter Kirty Dream in the fifth, and then taking the 15th and final race by a head with another trotter, Bella Palazzo, who paid $16.20 after going first-over and then holding off the late charges of the two favorites.

Merriman's staying until the last at The Meadows meant that he did not get to Cleveland's Northfield Park until the fifth race and had only nine drives in all, but he did add another tally to his continent-leading total by sweeping his field in the last quarter with the pacer Card Dealer.

Thursday is a dark day for both tracks; on Friday, Northfield has its usual nighttime scheduled card, but The Meadows, with groups looking to hold holiday parties at the track, switched his normal afternoon racing to nighttime on Friday, and Merriman has decided to race at the Pittsburgh track that night.

After tomorrow, The Meadows has three cards left on its 2015 schedule, daylight sessions next Monday through Wednesday. Northfield has nine more night-time cards planned: this Sunday through Wednesday, and then Saturday the 26th (making up the card that normally would fall on Christmas Day) through its closing on Wednesday, Dec. 30.

This, then, should be the last report of its type. We leave Aaron Merriman with a lead of four, 13 more possible programs of participation to extend that lead … and a clear path on the road leading to his first North American crown.

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