by Frank Carulli
November 27, 2018
With another precinct reporting Saturday night, S S G Stable’s McWicked is turning the race for Horse of the Year into a landslide. Voters had to be swayed by McWicked’s 2-length victory in 1:48 in the TVG Open Pace at the Meadowlands, his first stakes try since winning the Breeders Crown last month.
Driver Brian Sears was content to allow McWicked to track a lively :54.4 half-mile pace in third. He guided the 7-year-old gelding off the rail and after Filibuster Hanover with 3/8 of a mile to go on the sloppy racing surface. McWicked wore down the leader and surged clear to his 12th victory in 19 starts during this $1.5 million season. Dealt A Winner rallied for second behind the 1-to-9 favorite.
“He was absolutely awesome,” trainer Casie Coleman said of McWicked’s fourth stakes victory at as many tracks since October. “He’s been awesome all season long.”
McWicked overshadowed another sparkling performance by 3-year-old Tactical Landing in the $350,000 TVG Open Trot earlier on the card.
Tactical Landing improved to 9-14 during a multiple stakes-winning sophomore season with a 2-1/2-length win in 1:51.4. He defeated mostly older rivals, but his main competition came from Yonkers Trot winner Six Pack, who earned $1 million this year as a 3-year-old.
Six Pack (Ake Svanstedt) got the jump, brushing to the lead at the 3/8 pole. But Sears had Tactical Landing in motion before the half and the 7-to-5 favorite drew abreast of Six Pack with a quarter mile to go. Tactical Landing powered clear in the final eighth, topping $800,000 in earnings for Tactical Landing Stable and earning the utmost praise from Hall of Fame trainer Jimmy Takter.
“He’s really, really special,” said Takter. “I can’t praise a horse more than I praise this guy. He’s one of a kind.”
FOR MERRIMAN, 1000 x 2 EQUALS HISTORY
Aaron Merriman became the first harness racing driver in history with back-to-back 1,000-win seasons when he guided Zumba to victory in Northfield Park’s 12th race last Saturday.
Zumba led from start to finish in much the same way Merriman will win his fourth consecutive North America dash title this year. Merriman won his 10,000th race in March at the Meadows in Pennsylvania, where he drives on most afternoons before returning to his home track in Ohio on most nights.
Merriman’s elation showed with his whip raised as he crossed the wire to celebrate the historic moment.
“It was such a good feeling to do something that has never been done before,” he said. “I definitely got caught up in the moment as I neared the wire and knew I had it won.”