Combined they have won more than 10,500 races. Each has won the Peter Haughton Memorial Award as the top young Ohio driver. They all rank in the top 20 for dash winning drivers. And, this year all three of the Ohio “young guns,’ Aaron Merriman, Chris Page and Tyler Smith are making their first Little Brown Jug start.
Merriman, 36, is currently in second place as North America’s leading dash driver (trailing Ronnie Wrenn, Jr. by 4 wins). The native of Northfield, Ohio will pilot Avalanche Hanover from post #3 in the 2nd LBJ elimination.
2014 has already been memorable for Merriman. In August he competed in his first Hambletonian, guiding Il Sogno Dream to a fourth place finish in the $1.1 million final. Merriman and Il Sogno Dream will reunite in the $118,000 Old Oaken Bucket on the Jug undercard. A few weeks ago Merriman was enshrined into the Northfield Park Wall of Fame.
“The Wall of Fame was real cool, it’s my hometown track,” noted Merriman. “There has been some great horseman at Northfield. The Jug is a great opportunity and I’m happy to be in it.”
Chris Page, 30, will be handling Rediscovery from the outside post #8 in the first $103,600 elim. The native of Mt. Vernon attended his first Jug in 1993.
“(Rediscovery) is a nice colt,” said Page. “He is real fresh right now and we trained him over the track last week. My goal is to make the Jug final.”
The youngest of the trio is Tyler Smith. Smith, 21, is a native of Washington Court House and will drive Let’s Drink On It in the first elimination.
“Driving in the Jug is an absolute thrill,” beamed Smith. “My horse has been a ‘no-luck’ horse all year. I hope to get off to a good start and advance to the final.”
Smith has already made history. He was the youngest driver ever to achieve 1,000 career wins and at the age of 12 he became the youngest male driver in harness racing history to record a sub-2:00 race, driving Look Lilly to victory in 1:59.1 in a matinee at the Delaware County Fairgrounds.
The pacing classic will air live from 5:00 - 6:30 pm on the CBS Sports Network.
Photo: Aaron Merriman, Tyler Smith and Chris Page are all smiles as they prepare for their first LBJ start (Mark Hall Photo)