Ordinarily, when drivers first locate at a harness track, they may experience some lean months as they build relationships and eke out assignments. With Ronnie Wrenn Jr. and The Meadows, however, it was pretty much love at first sight.
Wrenn, 31, has been driving at The Meadows relatively briefly, splitting time with tracks in Ohio where he lives. But he's become so successful at The Meadows — and popular with trainers — that he had a drive in all 12 races last Saturday. For this Saturday's card, he actually was named on 16 horses over 12 races. He'll drive in each of the first eight races before heading to Ohio.
Saturday's program gets underway at 1:05 p.m. and features a pair of rich pool guarantees — $7,500 for the Pick 4 (races 4-7), $5,000 for the Pick 5 (races 8-12).
Several factors may be at play in Wrenn's instant success at The Meadows. First, his deep roots in the sport make him a familiar name. His late father and his uncle, Peter Wrenn, both are Michigan Hall of Famers while their brother Gary was a blacksmith in the business. Yet harness racing wasn't his first occupational choice.
"I didn't think about driving as a career," he says, "but when I started working for Uncle Peter, I found harness racing is in my blood."
In addition, Wrenn was prominent even before arriving at The Meadows, with a pair of North American dash driving titles (2013 and 2014) to his credit. This year, his 182 wins (as of mid-week) rank him second in North America behind Aaron Merriman, and his .376 UDR is third after Louis-Philippe Roy and Merriman. At The Meadows, he ranks fourth in wins, fifth in UDR, and he's become the regular pilot for such outstanding horses as Ron Burke's Camera Lady, who's won seven of nine starts this year.
"I like the driving style at The Meadows, and I like the guys," he says. "Driving there is a way to better myself. I really appreciate the opportunities I've been getting from trainers like Randy Bendis, John Sullivan, Scott Betts and Ron Burke."
Wrenn's hectic schedule is similar to that of Merriman, although he doesn't consider himself in Merriman's league as far as travel goes.
"It's difficult to do what he does, and he's been doing it a long time," Wrenn says. "He's all in. I like to take some vacations and enjoy myself."
Wrenn and his wife, Briana, are expecting their first child in October, a blessed event that may reinforce his commitment to multitracking.
"The baby has to eat, so I still have to keep making money. And this is only the first baby."
As for Saturday's card, Wrenn suggests a pair of his mounts that may fare the best:
"Thoughtyoudlikeit (race 1, post 7) is down in class again. I don't think the outside post will affect him. He likes to go fast and do his work. I think he has a good shot. Pembroke Bada Bing (race 5, post 1) raced well last week. He has a good shot." (The Meadows)