I took a look at how the drivers in this year’s top ten fared compared with what they did last year. The figures for 2014 run through Saturday December 27, so they’re not perfect year-end numbers, but close enough. A few end-of-year drives by Corey Callahan at Dover Downs are all that’s missing. Nine drivers repeat, in a different order, of course. Andy Miller, who missed six months after breaking his back in an accident ay Yonkers Raceway in mid-April is out, replaced by Brett Miller, who had an excellent year, moving up nine spots.
Six members of the top ten earned less this year than they did last, and eight of them made fewer starts during 2014. Jason Bartlett, who supplanted Sears as the top dog at Yonkers Raceway, and Brett Miller, who was a poor man’s Yannick Gingras with the Burke and Takter stock, were the only two who won more races this year than last.
Yannick Gingras, the unanimous choice for Driver of the Year, had 18 fewer wins through Saturday but his earnings were up 18%, which amounts to more than $3 million. All of this with about 100 fewer starts than he made during 2013. The time spent in Sweden with Maven earlier in the year and the current trip to France with that same mare, would account for some of that. Burke and Takter both had spectacular years and Gingras, having first call for both, benefited greatly. Father Patrick, JK Endofanera, Mission Brief, Sassa Hanover, Limelight Beach, Pinkman, Foiled Again, Cartoon Daddy, Gural Hanover, Band Of Angels, Lifetime Pursuit and Maven were a few of his money makers.
Tim Tetrick, who will drop down to second, missed the first five weeks of the year recuperating from hip surgery. He made 266 fewer starts through Saturday and won 63 fewer races. His earnings are down a whopping 26%, or $4.2 million. Captaintreacherous’s earnings dropped from $2 million to $175,000 and Market Share saw his 2014 bankroll cut in half. I Luv The Nitelife failed to rebound from an injury and was retired. He’s Watching won the Pace in record time in mid-July, but only won the EBC after that. Classic Martine was very good and Anndrovette was solid. He won some money with Clear Vision and Sayitall BB, and Horse of the Year JK She’salady fell in his lap late in the year. Still, for the most part, the stock wasn’t competitive with the lightning bolts Yannick was steering around the track.
Ron Pierce, who turns 59 in June, jumped up from the fifth spot to number three on the earnings list. He made 442 fewer starts and won 89 fewer races, however, his earnings only dropped by 5%, or $581,000. Gingras’ success took some dough from the pockets of all the top guys, but Pierce, crafty dog that he is, managed to sidle in behind $1.2 million dollar earner Shake It Cerry from the Takter barn and $1.3 million dollar earner Sweet Lou from the Burke Barn. He also drove Uncle Lasse, Wild Honey, Yagonnakissmeornot, Lyons Levi Lewis and E L Titan.
David Miller has maintained his hold on the four spot on the 2014 list, however, he took a 20% haircut, earning $2.5 million less than last year on 441 fewer starts. His win total dropped by 41. McWicked was second only to Father Patrick in overall earnings with $1.4 million. And even there Miller chose Always B Miki over that one for the Breeders Crown, which didn’t work out when Miki was injured prior to the race. He did get McWicked back for the Progress though. The Buckeye drove Holloway’s pair Shebestingin and Somwherovrarainbow, but neither one of them lived up to expectations. Jolene Jolene was good, but like Tetrick, Miller didn’t have the stock to compete with Gingras.
Brian Sears, who straddled Yonkers Raceway and the Grand Circuit again, dropped from number three to number five this year. He had 66 fewer wins in 83 fewer starts and finished more than $4 million short of last year’s total—that’s 30% less. In 2013 he had the richest pair of trotters in the sport, Horse of the Year Bee A Magician, who earned $1.5 million, and Hambletonian winner Royalty For Life, who earned $1.2 million. The latter retired early while BAM disappointed; she earned $421,000 this year. Sears drove freshman hotshot In The Arsenal, and he lucked into the drive behind McWicked in the BC when David Miller only had eyes for Miki. As was the case with Tetrick and David Miller, the stock wasn’t there to compete on the Grand Circuit. Additionally, Jason Bartlett rose up at Yonkers.
Corey Callahan, who missed time to the Great Southern Star Trotting Series and the Drivers Invitational in Australia in March, found the six spot again this year. He won last year’s Rising Star Award and hasn’t looked back. Like Ron Pierce, Corey kept his losses to a minimum. He had 40 fewer winners in 189 fewer starts but only backtracked 7%, or $693,000 in purse money. This constitutes an excellent year for any driver not sitting forward on the Burke-Takter Gravy Train. He picked away at it, winning a sixth consecutive driving title at Dover Downs and soaking up that Delaware sire stakes money; he took a $100,000 final with the filly pacer Totally Rusty three weeks ago. Callahan made 28% of his starts at Dover Downs and earned $2 million there. Smexi, D’Orsay, Harley Momma, Resolve, Drop The Ball and Tomy Terror were a few of his drives this year.
Jason Bartlett stayed close to home, racking up 94% of his more than $8 million in earnings at Yonkers Raceway, where he won a fourth driving title. Busting this year’s pattern, Bartlett made 194 more starts and won 174 more races this year. He earned almost a million dollars more than he did in 2013—that’s 12% more than last year. He won 485 times at his Westchester base, that’s 83 and 82 more races than Sears and Brennan won.
Matt Kakaley, the only under 30 driver on the list, who handles the Burke horses Yannick passes over, drove in 193 fewer races and won 78 fewer times, but he upped his earnings 7% from 2013, banking an extra $560,000. All Bets Off gave him the biggest win of his career when he took the Messenger. And he won with Cartoon Daddy on the Night of Champions at Yonkers. He also drove Bettor’s Edge, Handover Belle, Wishing Stone, Quick Deal, Gatka Hanover and Camille.
Brett Miller, who is number nine on the list, had a breakout year in 2014. Like most of the drivers who did well, he was a regular behind Takter and Burke horses. He drove French Laundry, Clear Vision, Donatella Hanover and Krispy Apple, among others. He won eight in a row with Sandbetweenurtoes for Larry Remmen. Wake Up Peter has earned $250,000 this year with Brett driving him. Miller won only 15 more races from almost 400 more drives, but his earnings jumped 35%. He took in $2.7 million more than he did last year.
George Brennan has been a regular at Yonkers Raceway since the fall of 2010. In 2011 he won the Hambletonian with Broad Bahn and the Oaks with Bold And Fresh, but over the course of the last three years he has become less inclined to venture out on the Grand Circuit. He gets quite a few drives on Burke’s stock at Yonkers and won the Sheppard with Cartoon Daddy. This year he dropped from number seven to ten. He drove in 44 fewer races, winning 10 fewer times and earning more than $2 million less than he did in 2013—that’s 20% of what he took in last year.