12/04/2017 4:09PM

Harness: Merriman reflects on his 1,000 win season

Aaron Merriman has won over 9,700 career races.

After becoming only the fourth driver in harness racing history to win 1,000 races in a year, Aaron Merriman is looking to add as many victories to his total as possible by the end of the season. And while it will be impossible to surpass Tim Tetrick’s record of 1,189 wins in 2007, Merriman could finish his campaign No. 2 on the list.

“That would be phenomenal,” Merriman said, adding with a laugh, “Then it would be two redheads at the top. People might want to start dying their hair.”

Merriman got his 1,000th win of the year Saturday and entered Monday with 1,006 victories for 2017. Merriman passed Tony Morgan, who won 1,004 times in 2006, for the third-most wins in a year and now has only Walter Case Jr.’s 1,077 triumphs in 1998 separating him from Tetrick.

“It’s pretty crazy,” Merriman said. “To join the three other men that I have is just unbelievable. A lot of things have to go right to even win that many races in a year. It’s tough. It’s just very special in a sport that’s so old. When I got it, it was just very surreal. It was a very special moment, a very special accomplishment. I’m just very proud.”

Merriman will end this year on top of the sport’s standings in wins for the third consecutive year --- his 1,006 victories are 402 more than No. 2 George Napolitano Jr. --- and he is the first driver in history to win at least 800 races in four consecutive years. Merriman won 890 races last year and 874 in 2015. His 841 victories in 2014 were second to Ronnie Wrenn Jr.’s 847.

Entering Monday, Merriman had driven in 4,327 races this year while competing primarily at Northfield Park in Ohio, where he will end Wrenn’s four-year reign as the top driver, and The Meadows in western Pennsylvania.

“A lot of people don’t realize, but it’s not easy to stay fit and fresh for that many races,” said Merriman, who has driven in 1,500 races more than any driver this year. “I think that’s an accomplishment in itself. I’m almost more proud of being able to do that. Winning races is great, but to be able to keep up a frantic pace like that, a lot of people can’t do that. It can wear on you mentally and physically. I’m very proud of that.”

For his career, the 39-year-old Merriman has won 9,735 races, which ranks 16th 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.

“You hope you’re going to have a long career, but no one knows what is going to happen,” Merriman said. “A lot of this seems to have happened in a blink of an eye. I guess time flies when you’re having fun. I still consider driving horses a phenomenal time; it’s very fun to me.

“I think the people --- the drivers, the trainers, the owners, the grooms; everybody involved --- is the biggest reason why I love it so much. There are good days and bad days, but all in all it’s all part of the process. I can’t say enough about everybody that’s been involved. I just love it. The camaraderie is what makes it so special.”

-Courtesy of Harness Racing Communications, a division of the U.S. Trotting Association. For more information, please visit www.ustrotting.com