Gearing up for 2024

by Bob Heyden

Scott Zeron turns 35 in May, but in February he’s preparing to nail down his second “Trotter of the Year” trophy, prior to age 35 with Tactical Approach. This, of course, follows Marion Marauder who nailed it down in a 73-72 vote back in his Triple Crown year of 2016.

In 2023, Tactical Landing, the sire of Tactical Approach, is mirror-imaging what Andover Hall did. Both were the highest priced yearlings of their year, $480,000 in 2000 for Andover and $800,000 for Tactical Landing in 2016. Both will have landed a Trotter of the Year in their very first crop if overwhelming favorite Tactical Approach gets the job done for Tactical Landing in 2023 as Donato Hanover did in 2007 for his sire Andover Hall.


Aaron Merriman started February 2024 with 81,172 drives. Dave Palone just surpassed the 80,000 milestone with now 80,091 needed for those 20,689 victories. Cat Manzi’s 95,690 starts has been the existing high-water mark and he still reigns as the busiest ever. But, that now appears to be within telescopic sight. (Note: Tony Morgan is about to hit 85,000 drives).

How about the top three money guys? Tim Tetrick entered February needing 150G to then be within $30 million of John Campbell, Numero Uno, with $299,842,141. Sandwiched in at No. 2 is the amazing Dave Miller who was the only driver in 2023 over 45 to land in the top 12 in earnings. Now 59, and showing zero signs of any slippage, Miller, at $282,106,999, is only $17.9 million away from Campbell.

For arguments sake, let’s say Miller tails off a notch or two at ages 60 and 61, and Tetrick does not at 43 and 44. We could all be meeting at the ultimate milestone in the late summer of 2026, before Tetrick’s 45th birthday in November.

Even more amazing might be Campbell holding the record by then for 39 years and having been just 32 in July 1987 when he assumed the top spot.


Who in the world does this? Who goes 15-for-93 combined in their last four years of racing, at ages 4, 5, 6 and 7, yet banks $1,999 million? All Bets Off did just that with $3.1M for his career.


What a great horse/sire. We just lost him at 22. A dual hemisphere stallion who was dominant not just in NY but all over.

“I just lost the sire of half of my barn,” said Shane Tritton. Mark MacDonald said, “He’s the horse who put Casie Coleman and myself on the map [in 2005].”

Western Ideal had the top two money-earning sophomore colts of 2005 in HOY Rocknroll Hanover and American Ideal from his first crop. It was American Ideal who vaulted past arch rival Rocknroll Hanover on 2005 Hambletonian Day to set the new Meadowlands’ track record of 1:48.1, and then showed he had even more in his arsenal with history’s first ever sophomore sub 1:48 mile, going 1:47.4 at the Red Mile that fall.

As a sire, American Ideal was at $15.6 million in 2021,and over $16 million last year. He will be greatly missed.


Who got jobbed/robbed worse, Wilt Chamberlain or Tim Tetrick, for MVP or HTA Driver of the Year, respectively?

In the NBA in 1962, Chamberlain averaged 50.4 points per game, 25.7 rebounds per game and 48.5 minutes per game. He missed eight minutes all year (due to DQ) and played in every overtime. But he was not the MVP. He got 35.8 per cent and Bill Russell was MVP with 18.9 points, 23.8 rebounds and an NBA title.

Tetrick was third in the 2012 HTA Driver of the Year to George Brennan and Dave Palone who both had strong years combining for $19.5 million. Balloting was 92, 90, 88, respectively.

Ready? Tetrick won $18,529,676, had seven divisional champs, by far an all-time best since four was the most entering 2012. Tetrick drove both the top two in HOY balloting and both the Trotter and Pacer of the Year in Chapter Seven and Captaintreacherous, respectively. He won the richest race of the year, the $1,500,000 Hambletonian with Market Share and won four Breeders Crowns tied for No. 1 all time at that moment. (PS: No trotter since Market Share has enjoyed a $2 million single season).


I saw his name on the ballot for a possible Hall of Fame suggestion/submission from the New Jersey Chapter of USHWA. Durkin’s still around working with the Thoroughbred Hall of Fame I believe. Pencil in his name on your bucket list as someone you should meet. It’ll be worth it.

He was a wonderfully talented announcer at The Meadowlands from 1982-90, when he left for the New York Racing Association. He was likely more at home with the thoroughbreds, since he did call all the Breeders’ Cup races for years starting in 1984 when it kicked off.

Look at the years he called in N.J., the primo/million dollar era at its finest. It was no coincidence at all that Durkin was in the booth.

He was there when the World Cup came to town from 1982-85, the Statue Of Liberty Trot from 1985-89, the first ever million races for the ladies in the Sweetheart from 1984-87, the Hambletonian dead heat in 1989, and many more including the richest ever race, the 1984 Woodrow Wilson.

He was one of the all-time best Meadowlands/Allen Gutterman/Sam Anzalone hires. He has an affability you pretty much hope for in people but never seem to find. There was a quote, years back, I heard about the great actor Robert Ryan. “The industry was not big enough for his talents.” That’s Tom too.


I love it when the Breeders Guide arrives.

Here are my quick take-aways from perusing through it.

1. Chapter Seven sold 76 yearlings last year with 42 for $100G and up and 63 of the 76 for at least $50,000.

2. The six richest pacing yearling colts saw Bettor’s Delight with 1-2-6 and his son Tall Dark Stranger 3-4-5, and Bettor’s Delight turned 25 last year.
3. In 13 of the last 15 years, the high-ticket time has been a trotter.

4. Greenshoe sold 90 yearlings averaging $42G. Is it put-up-or-shut-up time for the 2019 Trotter of the Year?

5. What The Hill sold 62 yearlings for a $26,483 average even with the 2017 Hambletonian DQ. How many would he have had minus the DQ?

6. Walner and his dad Chapter Seven were 1-2 in both 2- and 3-year-old earners last year. Thanks Linda Toscano.

7. Swan For All, a HOY sire and perennial leader in Indiana, sold 71 yearlings for $26,925 as an average. When did everybody go ashore?

8. Sweet Lou is on the cover, and his name will be everywhere on Dan Patch Awards night. That dude has earned it.

9. Muscle Hill is the last sire to have sold the high-ticket yearling for three-straight years: Tactical Landing in 2016 for $800,000, Beautiful Sin in 2017 for $480,000, and Fifty Cent Piece in 2018 for $500,000. The late Cantab Hall did it three of the prior four seasons to that.

10. Mirror images:

In 2021, 3824 yearlings were sold.

In 2022, 3825 yearlings were sold.

In 2023, 3843 yearlings were sold, (an all-time record).