Yannick Gingras, last year’s unanimous choice for Driver of the Year, tops the money list again this year, but with a few days left in 2015 he’s $3.7 million and 123 wins short of last year’s record haul—his smallest bankroll since 2011. As a result, hall of famer David Miller, who trails Gingras by more than a million dollars, was voted to the top spot this year. Miller, moved up from the fourth spot in 2014 to number two. He eclipsed the $10 million mark for a record thirteenth time, with his 2015 total of more than $12.3 million being the most the 51-year-old driver has ever earned in one year. Becoming the first driver in the 31-year history of the Breeders Crown to win five of them was the cherry on Miller’s sundae.
Moving up from year to year within the top ten is no easy task. Another driver who pulled that off is Jason Bartlett. The 34-year-old Maine native, who won his 6,000 race at the end of October, made the leap from seventh to fourth. 2009 was the only year, Bartlett, the leading driver at Yonkers, earned more than he did in 2015. Bamond Racing provided Jason with some serious firepower: He won the Blue Chip Matchmaker and Artiscape with division winner Venus Delight; Krispy Apple won 13 times for $360,000; and PH Supercam had eight wins for $366,000.
George Napolitano Jr, who was eleventh on the money list last year, has moved up four spots to number seven. He may have passed on a December battle for the dash title, but he banked $1.4 million more this year. That’s a career mark for wins and money for G-Nap. He stayed put in Pennsylvania, leading all drivers at Harrah’s and Pocono Downs. Napolitano won 100 races at those two tracks in July and 105 in August. His 0.404 UDRS is the highest on the top fifty list. Despite getting a late start on his career, he got win number 7,000 on July 15. Gilbert Garcia-Herrera, Chris Oakes and Rene Allard provided many of the winners. The six drivers ahead of Napolitano participated in a lot more Grand Circuit stakes than he did.
Dan Dube, who had back surgery three years ago, earned 39% more this year than last year on 120 more wins. The 49-year-old native of Quebec, who drove Gallo Blue Chip and Rock N Roll Heaven, jumped from number 21 to number 10. This was his best year since 2009. The Yonkers regular passed the $100 million mark this year and got his 8,000 win in February. Jimmy Takter, Rene Allard and Scott Di Domenico provided many of the live drives for Dube. He made 89% of his money at Yonkers. Not Afraid, Great Vintage, Daylon Miracle, Red Hot Herbie, and the undefeated Lucky Chucky filly, Non Stick, were some of his better horses.
As usual, Jim Morrill Jr is taking the winter off. The only drivers in the top 45 with fewer drives are John Campbell and Montrell Teague. Still, the Massachusetts native jumped nine spots to number 15. He had 35 fewer wins on 45 more drives, but earned $1.1 million more than he did in 2014. The King of the New York Sire Stakes crushed it again in that program, winning 44 races and earning $1.8 million—34% of his money came out of that program’s coffers. Second place Jason Bartlett was $1.2 million behind Morrill. Joe Larry N Curly, White Rolls, Soft Idea, Habitat and Crazy Wow were a few of his winners.
Right behind Morrill is Michigan transplant Tyler Buter. He made 544 more drives this year and bolted from 41 on the 2014 list to number 16. He earned $4.9 million—90% of his bankroll-- at Yonkers, where he finished fifth in the standings. 234 of his 263 wins were there. He was sitting behind Autotune Hanover when he broke his maiden in the Sheppard. The old grey mare, Jonsie Jones, won nine times for $222,000. Zooming, Dream Out Loud N and Backstreet Hanover were other winners for 30-year-old Buter.
Chris Page, who at age 32 is a 15-year veteran, stepped up from number 31 to number 23. His earnings on the Ohio circuit went up by $571,000. Chris did very well in that state’s refurbished sire stakes program. The Big Bad John trio, Primo Giovanni, Queen Ann M and Whataboy performed well for him. Ron Burke’s Deep Chip sophomore gelding, I Know My Chip, won seven times for $264,000. Page also drove DWs NY Yank, Clear Vision, Limelight Beach and Larry’s Dude for Burke. He drove Candy’s A Virgin for Brian Brown. Chris won number 3,000 at Dayton late in November.
Mark MacDonald, who suffered numerous injuries in a bad racetrack accident in May, 2011, then relocated to Yonkers after missing more than three months at the close of 2011 and beginning of 2012, moved up from number 33 on the earnings list to number 24. He earned $647,000 more and his UDRS moved from 0.201 to 0.240. Sylvain Filion is the only WEG based driver to earn more money in 2015. Mac made 246 more starts this year, 85% of them at Yonkers. Many of his winners paid a price. The FFA trotter, Obrigado, who won the Crawford, was his most lucrative drive.
Australian expatriate Andrew McCarthy, who has been driving in North America since 2007, moved up seven spots on the earnings list. He had 11 fewer wins, but banked $445,000 more. This was his best year money-wise as he earned almost $4 million. Ross Croghan, Mark Harder Tony Alagna and Tony O’Sullivan are a few of the trainers he drives for. Wicker Hanover, Outburst, Totally Rusty, She Wore Red and Captive Audience are a few of his drives.
Simon Allard stepped up 12 spots, earning a hefty $947,000 more than last year. Brother Rene, the third leading trainer in North America, provided him with plenty of live drives. He was second to George Nap with 236 wins at Pocono Downs. Katie’s Rocker, Big Boy Dreams, Yagonnakissmeornot, Bodacious and National Debt are a few of the horses he drove.
Bruce Aldrich Jr, a 47-year-old regular at Monticello and Saratoga, who is fourth in the dash race with 663 wins, jumped 10 spots to number 39. He upped his earnings more than $816,000, as he is having the best year of his 22-year career as a driver.
Montrell Teague, who turns 25 next week, made 188 fewer starts and won seven fewer races this year, but he increased his earnings by 60%. Wiggle It Jiggleit was responsible for 60% of the $3.6 million he banked. He was active at the major yearling sales; perhaps he’ll start driving more in 2016.
Many drivers remained the same, or made marginal moves: Tim Tetrick went from second to third; Sears went from five to six; Corey Callahan stepped up one spot to five; dash champ Aaron Merriman moves up one spot to 11; Dave Palone drops one to 14; Sylvain Filion remains at 17; Trace Tetrick drops one to 20; Mike Wilder remains at 25; Jordan Stratton up two to 26; Marcus Miller stays at 29; Trevor Henry up one to 38; and Dan Noble up one to 43. And then there are those that fell off a cliff…..