Columbus, MN — Trainer Dan Roland is having a banner year at Running Aces. On a recent Tuesday night (Sept. 7), he and his wife Jeri shipped in to Running Aces with four horses and as luck would have it, they were in three back-to-back races with two fillies in the same event. Within a span of just about an hour, all four had raced and the Roland team had visited the winner’s circle in two out of the three races, picked up first and second in the freshman filly trot, and picked up third in the freshman male trot.
These results are just a snapshot of the level of success that the Rolands have enjoyed at Running Aces this season.
The wins on Sept. 7 came with Bitty Bitty, a sharp 4-year-old pacing mare by Captaintreacherous that Dan owns with several partners as part of Its Only Money Stable. She lowered her career mark to 1:53.1 with Tony Kerwood in the bike.
The other win came courtesy of Scroll On By, who was also piloted by Kerwood, to a career best win in 1:59.3 in the $14,375 filly event for her second career win. Daughter Kennedy Roland is the owner of Scroll On By.
Vickie’s Vacation got up for second in that same race with Dean Magee driving for owners Jeri Roland and Vickie Rush, who also own Need More Cowbell along with Kara Morales. He was piloted by Mooney Svendsen and was a solid third in the $14,375 colts and geldings division.
All three of these freshman trotters are by the late great Banker Volo who was owned and campaigned for many years by Dan and Jeri Roland.
They also have the standout male sophomore trotter Rush To The Bank, a Banker Volo gelding who has already amassed 19 career wins in 28 races and just posted a new career mark of 1:58.3 on Sept. 12.
While the fun and excitement of those impressive results in those three races took just about an hour to unfold on the track, there are countless hours that go into getting to that point. I recently caught up with Dan to reflect on that night’s races and he shared the following with me.
“We got home from the Tuesday races at 2 a.m. and got to bed at around 3, we were up and back on the road by 7 a.m. to take the horses to their monthly chiropractor appointment.”
He noted that “they are working athletes and the chiropractic work can do wonders in helping to keep them fit and sound.”
Roland was very up front that it can be a grueling schedule and noted that, “My wife and I both work full time, but thankfully we have a crew of kids that help us after work to get everything done at the barn in about three hours each day.”
He also shared that, “When the horses go out and perform well and do their best, it makes it all worthwhile; it drives us to keep going.”
Dan Roland is no stranger to success in the sulky sport, as he is part of a very large and successful harness racing family and has won 610 races as a driver and 550 races as a trainer. He started driving horses at the age of 16. His overall career numbers are very impressive, as his win percentage as both a driver and trainer is more than 27 percent and his top-three percentage in both cases is a tremendous 61 percent. He has driven in 2,205 races and has trained 2,012 starters. He was also named a trainer of the month for this July at Running Aces.
His previous best year in trainer purse earnings was in 2020 with $166,565 but already in 2021 he has far surpassed that number, with $205,512 in purses through Sept. 14.
When I asked Dan about his great successes this year, and the increased level of success his stable has seen each year building up to this year’s banner numbers, he shared a cool story with me.
“At least 15 years ago I read a regular column in Hoof Beats called “Ask the Trainer” and the guest trainer for that month was Ron Gurfein. Some of the questions sent in by readers were things like “my horse hits its knee in the turns” and another one asked what to do about a horse that crossfires, and there were a few more along similar lines. Gurfein answered them all with the same statement “Get one that does not do that” and the simplicity and the logic of that answer has always stuck with me to this day,” said Roland.
“These days we try to closely follow what we call the “Ron Gurfein rule.” If the horse isn’t fast enough we don’t keep it. If the horse does not have a shot to win an ‘A’ race in Iowa or a sire stakes race in Minnesota we don’t keep it; it’s a long and exhausting summer with a long shipping time to the racetrack; you want to have a legitimate chance to do well on the track, and when they do, it makes all the work and worry and sweat equity worth it.”
The Dan Roland stable will be well represented when the $560,000 Minnesota Night of Champions goes to post on Saturday (Sept. 18) at Running Aces. Just making it to the championship races is a big accomplishment in itself and everything above and beyond that is extra special for not just the Roland stable, but for all those who work hard to get there. Best of luck to all on Night of Champions!