The Ohio Chapter of the United States Harness Writers Association handed out its annual awards at the Ohio Harness Horseman’s Association banquet on January 21, 2017 at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Columbus (Worthington).
The Ohio Chapter voted Aaron Merriman as the recipient of the Winner’s Circle Award for the Ohioan who has achieved outstanding accomplishments in the past year; named Eric Tharps, Jr. as the Peter Haughton Memorial Award as the young Ohioan who is an “up-and-coming” star among harness horsemen; elected Joe Marsh, Jr. into the Immortal Hall of Fame; selected Dunkster into the Standardbred Hall of Fame; and honored Jim Buchy as the winner of the Rambling Willie Award for the Ohioan who has done the most for harness racing over the past 20 years.
- Merriman, 38, won his second straight national dash title in 2016. Through December 17, he was 147 wins ahead of second place George Napolitano, Jr. His $7.3 million in earnings ranks 10th in North America. The native of Northfield, Ohio has driven nearly 8,700 career winners and earned $52.3 million.
- Eric Tharps, Jr., is a 24-year-old resident of Kettering, Ohio. Tharps had 35 wins and his drives earned $236,489 in purse money. Tharps has been driving at regularly at Northfield Park last season.
- Marsh was one of the Midwest’s greatest drivers. The native of Findlay, Ohio, drove 5,882 winners, earning $36,401,271. He has the longest streak (35 years) of driving at least 100 winners per season, from 1960 through 1994. He was the first American driver to win the World Driving Championship in 1974.
- Dunkster earned $894,320 during his 11-year career on the track. The gelded son of Striking Shabra won 89 of 287 career starts and took his lifetime mark of 1:53.3 during his eight-year-old season. He was owned by Dean Davis, conditioned by Kurt Sugg and bred by Jack Tramonte and Paul H. Bailey.
- Ohio State Representative Jim Buchy, a former horse owner and a longtime friend of harness racing at the track and in state government, has served in the Ohio House from 1983 until he was term-limited in 2000. He was re-appointed to the Ohio House in 2011. He is a native of Greenville, Ohio, has supported the sport on several occasions including full card simulcasting legislation in the 1980s and was a tireless supporter of the efforts to bring the Video Lottery Terminals to Ohio’s racetracks.
For information, visit www.OHHA.com.
Information for this story was provided by Jay Wolf.