by Frank Carulli
March 5, 2019
For Aaron Merriman and Ron Burke, all those wins added up to something big in 2018.
Merriman was named Driver of the Year for the first time after he won his fourth consecutive dash title with 1,141 trips to the winners’ circle, became the first driver ever with back-to-back 1,000-win seasons and scored his 10,000th career victory along the way.
Burke, the winningest trainer in North America 10 years running, earned top honors by the U.S. Harness Writers Association for the third time this decade after he sent out 1,013 winners and his stabled topped $20 million in earnings for the sixth year in a row.
This year’s award held added meaning for Burke, who handled iron horse Foiled Again before the sport’s all-time leading money earner was forced into retirement at age 15 to start this year. Foiled Again, who won 109 races and $7.6 million in his career, received the Stan Bergstein-Proximity Award. Burke and his primary owners, Mark Weaver and Mike Bruscemi, were named Owners of the Year.
HOMECOMING MILESTONE FOR BRETT MILLER
Brett Miller began his career as a harness driver in 1992 at Northfield Park in Ohio. He started the 21st century with seven, 500-win seasons in a row, mostly at the same track for trainer John Lee. He came back to his home state to drive full-time this year, just in time for another milestone.
Miller, 45, won the 8,000th race of his career when Double A Goldrush won in the inaugural $25,000 Howard Beissinger Memorial Medley at Miami Valley Racing Feb. 22. Miller nursed Double A Goldrush through a one-minute half mile en route to a wire-to-wire victory in the 1-1/4-mile endurance test in 1:58.1.
Miller continued hot after the milestone. He won seven races at Miami Valley Monday and closed the day ranked sixth in North America this year with 87 wins and seventh with $877,000 in purses.