I took a look at how a number of drivers are measuring up against their mid-season performance last year. I’ll compare the figures through the end of racing on Saturday, Pace Day, with the figures through the end of racing on July 18, 2014. The earnings for many of the upper echelon drivers are down this year; the average for the top ten is down almost $170,000. The winter and spring were historically bad, causing some tracks to delay their opening and others to cancel numerous dates.
Tim Tetrick, who topped the list last year at this point, after winning the Pace with He’s Watching, is currently in third place. He missed time early in the year to the World Driving Championship; last year he missed the first five weeks to rehab after he had a hip replaced. Despite wins in Saturday’s Golden Girls with Anndrovette, and the Haughton with Mach It So, Tetrick is short $735,000 from where he was at this point in 2014.
Jason Bartlett, the leading driver at Yonkers, has been leaving Westchester more this year, with trips to Pennsylvania on Wednesdays and more drives on the NYSS circuit. He drove in Canada not long ago and piloted Venus Delight at The Meadowlands on Pace night. Jason has started 106 more times, registering 40 more wins, and earning $1.1 million more than he had to mid-July last year. His UDRS has jumped from 0.314 to 0.350. He ended 2014 in seventh place; as good as the money is at Yonkers, all that stakes money up for grabs over the next four months will be tough to overcome.
The 2014 year-end leader, Driver of the Year Yannick Gingras, is currently in fourth place. He was in second at this point last year. Gingras is $900,000 short of last year’s mid-season total, with 11 fewer starts and 65 fewer wins. His UDRS is 0.337; it was 0.364 at this time in 2014. The reason is, to an extent certainly, the same one that has Matt Kakaley off more than a million dollars and Brett Miller short 82 wins and almost $450,000: Ron Burke is light years ahead of the other trainers, but he’s also well behind last year’s record setting pace. Aged money-makers Foiled Again, Clear Vision, Bettor’s Edge and Rocklamation are a collective 4 for 41 with not much money between them. Many of his top 2014 sophomores, like JK End, Limelight Beach, Sayitall Bb and Gural Hanover, have disappointed. His Pace entry, Lyons Levi Lewis, finished ninth at 81/1. Takter is steaming along, so Yannick may win the title again in 2015, but so far there have been more bumps in the road.
John Campbell, who received much unsolicited advice about retiring after his serious accident at Chester in May of 2011, is killing it. At this time four years ago reports surfaced that Campbell, who was still in the recovery phase, was contemplating ending his career. Then in February, 2013, he broke his collarbone in an ice skating accident. Thanks to world champion JL Cruze, Doo Wop Hanover, Rockeyed Optimist and others, JC is currently at 18, up from 39 at this point a year ago. He has almost doubled his win total, and has earned $1.3 million more.
Corey Callahan, who is number two on the money list, was fifth last July. He missed time to the World Driving Championship in 2014, and has made 50 more starts this year. He has 80 more wins and $670,000 more in earnings. His UDRS is up to 0.332 from 0.288. Corey finished in sixth at year’s end. (Pierce was third last July and ended the season there. His absence is having an impact on all the marquee players.)
George Napolitano Jr, who stays in Pennsylvania during the high season and drives in Florida in the winter, is having a terrific year. GNap, who is the leading driver at both Harrah’s Philadelphia and Pocono Downs, is winning almost 23% of his starts at Harrah’s and more than 24% at Pocono. He doesn’t get much Grand Circuit work, but he did recently win the Franklin with Luck Be Withyou. He’s currently seventh, up from 13 last July. He has 55 more wins and has banked $727,000 more. George finished last year at number 11.
Tyler Buter is also having a very good year. He was number 50 a year ago, and has moved up to 19. He has 66 more wins and is up $1.3 million.
Dan Dube, who has benefited greatly from driving Rene Allard’s horses at Yonkers, has jumped from number 17 last July to number seven. He has 69 more wins on 104 more drives and is showing a healthy $1.5 million increase in purse money over one year ago. He’s the third leading driver at Yonkers, where he’s winning 15% of his starts. Dube finished 2014 in the 21 slot.
Simon Allard has also benefited from his brother’s success, in Pennsylvania. He was in slot 47 one year ago and is at 27 now. He had banked $743,000 more through Saturday than he did thru July 18, 2014.
Dave Palone, the King of The Meadows, was twelfth this time last July and is at 16 now. His drive total is down 295; he has 60 fewer wins; and he has banked $682,000 less. Dave’s UDRS is a high 0.372, virtually the same as it was a year ago.
Sylvain Filion, the only WEG based driver in the top twenty, went from number 23 last July to number 16 after Saturday. He’s made 75 more starts, has 60 more wins and has $587,000 more in the bank. Doug McNair, who had an off year in 2014, leaving him at number 38 in July and 32 at season’s end, has rebounded to the 24 slot.
Jody Jamieson has been on the opposite track. He went from 18 a year ago to number 35 through Saturday. He has 44 fewer wins and is short $365,000. With the OSS in full swing these numbers can change quickly. The same goes for Chris Christoforu, who was wildly successful with Casie Coleman’s youngsters in the OSS last year. Coleman is off to a very slow start and Chris is down to 33 from 19 last July. He’s earned $268,000 less this year. And James MacDonald is down to 38 from 24, with 70 fewer wins and $223,000 less. Most of these WEG drivers have had multiple win nights/days in the OSS of late.
Mark MacDonald, who is up ten spots is a testament to the power of the purse money offered at Yonkers, his home base. He only has four more wins, but he has earned $600,000 more. He was second to Jim Morrill Jr on the NYSS circuit last season, and that’s just heating up. Morrill, who takes the winter off then races in Pennsylvania and upstate New York, has banked $500,000 more, with only three more wins. Both MacDonald and Morrill benefit greatly from that NYSS money.