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Contributed Photo | Geri Schwarz

Driver Mike Merton, left, accepts the trophy from Monticello Raceway Assistant General Manager Shawn Wiles after Northern Chief set a new track record of 11 consecutive victories last Wednesday.

Northern Chief sets Monticello Raceway record by earning his 11th consecutive victory

By John Manzi
MONTICELLO — November 9, 2010 — Despite having to start from post position seven, Northern Chief cruised to his 11th consecutive victory at Monticello Raceway on Wednesday afternoon, Nov. 3 for driver Mike Merton and in the process  established a new track record for most consecutive victories.
Northern Chief’s final time of 1:57.1 equaled the pacer’s best this season. Last week, the 7-year- old Apaches Fame gelding tied the track record initially set by Hogies Cam (2008) and Mr Thinker (2010). Northern Chief’s eye-opening, seven-length triumph on Nov. 3 now leaves his name alone in the record books.
After settling in seventh place in the speedy early going, Merton moved his charge at the three-eighths pole and ranged alongside the leaders as they passed the halfway point. Once the field straightened away in the backstretch, Merton moved Northern Chief three-deep and the pacer zoomed by his competition and cruised home an easy winner.
Merton defied horsemen’s logic the previous week by talking about breaking the track record. But Merton redeemed himself when the horse did what he said he would do.
“After his last start I was told not to talk about setting a new record, but I don’t believe that kind of stuff,” Merton said while being congratulated in the winner’s circle after the track record victory. “What will be will be, and I thought since he [Northern Chief] was racing like a champ he had a good chance to set a new mark. But I have to say we got lucky today when [drivers] Zeke [Parker] and Kevin [Hough] got into a speed duel during the first half which was ideal for me. They gunned by the half in 57.3 [seconds] and all that early speed made the rest easy for us. Boy I’ll bet Nelson is jumping up and down.”
The Nelson to whom Merton referred is Nelson Arocho, the dedicated groom of Northern Chief, who won this season’s “Caretaker of the Year Award.”
Northern Chief is owned by Robert Merton Jr. and Al Desimone and trained by Gary Messenger. He paid $3.40 for win.

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