by Bob Heyden
8. Eight Dan Patch division winners won by over 100 votes — with only 130 ballots mailed out.
7. Anniversary plus! David Miller won the 2018 Meadowlands Pace for the first time (Courtly Choice). It comes 23 years to the day of his first ever Meadowlands Pace drive (1995 Cinder Lane Sam was fifth). It also came 23 years to the day he got married to Misty.
6. “Is that any way to treat your father on the way out the door?” Nancy Johansson earns divisional titles with Kissin In The Sand and Captain Crunch. Her father, Jimmy Takter, had one divisional title winner — Ariana G.
5. Scotty’s “Roaring Twenties.” Scott Zeron twice won the Hambletonian while in his 20s (Marion Marauder when he was 27 and Atlanta at age 29) in a race almost nobody appears in before age 30. Harry Harvey (29 in 1953 when Helicopter won) had the long-standing record, then Tommy Haughton did it one better 29 years later with Speed Bowl at age 25 in 1982.
4. “Mrs Inside-Mrs Outside.” Youaremycandygirl and Kissin In The Sand’s 2018 rivalry on the track ended with the divisional hardware going the way of the latter despite the fact that she kept drawing outside her main rival.
3. “AA” Club — Atlanta and Ariana G. There were two million-dollar events in 2018 and these two ladies appeared in and got money in both. Atlanta beating the boys in the Hambletonian and Ariana G getting a fourth place check versus the boys in the $1 million International at Yonkers. Both races were rich in history through the years of ladies winning it, but that has not been the trend in several decades.
2. $200 million milestones reached twice in the same calendar year. Ron Burke doing it first at age 48 on Hambletonian Day to far outdistance any others trainers’ career earnings, and he capped the season with his sixth straight $21 million season. Tim Tetrick vaulted past $200 million in the Breeders Crown before his 37th birthday (11/22/81), a feat so remarkable it was exactly twice what John Campbell did in the 1991 Breeders Crown, when at age 36, he topped $100 million for the sport’s very first time (while driving Armbro Keepsake).
1. FOILED AGAIN. His tour, his souvenirs, his aura, his bio, whatever you name. Anything attached to this incredible performer is worthy of attention in his 14th, and last, year on the track. He has lifted the bar to a level that is going to take a long time to touch, if ever, earning $7.6 million and racing at the level he did for so many consecutive years.
Honorable mention to McWicked doing what he did at age 7 — banking over $1.5 million and likely nailing down Horse of the Year honors, which has never before done by a pacer of that age.
Remarkable Sears first
Brian Sears likely has a first coming when the HOY is announced. McWicked will likely be the driver’s fourth HOY title, but the first time any of those four will have been off the board in any race during that award-winning year. McWicked was twice off the board this year with a 13-3-2 record in 19 starts. In 2005, Rocknroll Hanover was 12-4-2 in 18 starts. In 2009, Muscle Hill was a perfect 12-for-12 and in 2013, Bee A Magician was a perfect 17-for-17.
You have to go back to the 1940s to find the last time the all-time leading money-winning driver in the sport was inactive for a full calendar year. John Campbell ($299 million) retired in 2017 and didn’t drive in 2018. It is the first full year he’s missed.
McWicked tops Nihilator’s mark
Okay, it’s trivia, but it’s still a good one.
McWicked, if he’s announced as HOY, will become the first to have a pair of $1.4 million seasons to his credit at the time of the announcement ($1.473 million in 2014 at age 3 and this year at $1.575 million). Previously, the closest anyone came to this was Nihilator in 1985, when his $1.8 million season came on the heels of a freshman season of $1.3 million plus.
Shartin N’s season was amazing. Consider:
• She’s the first Down Under horse to post a 7-figure season here.
• She’s the first pacing mare to have a million-dollar season.
• Her 19 wins are seven more than any other divisional winner this year.
• Her 19 wins are more than 49 of the prior 71 Horses of the Year have had.
• She raced in, and won, in all 11 months she raced in (she did not compete in December).
JoAnn Looney and Jim King, Jr. were both born in Delaware, both competed at the Meadowlands in year one (1976). JoAnn is the first female to drive, and the first female driver to win at the Big M (Jan. 31, 1977, Beau Yankee ($49.80)) She also won with Frosty Penn in 1:56.3. In the 1970s, JoAnn’s Meadowlands record was: 73 8-5-6 10.9 per cent winning percentage
King’s Meadowlands record was: 840 94-77-73 11.2 per cent winning percentage
Miller-Sears sharing the work
Both Brian Sears and David Miller drove the leading money-winning pacer last year and this year — Downbytheseaside and McWicked.
2019 anniversaries coming up
30th anniversary of the Dead Heat Hambletonian at the Meadowlands — Park Avenue Joe and Probe.
40th anniversary of Niatross stepping onto the racetrack for the first time.
50th anniversary of Nevele Pride winning his third straight HOY title (not matched since).
70th anniversary of Good Time winning his first of two HOY titles, so far the only horse to win it twice but not consecutively.