East Rutherford, NJ – At just 20 years of age, Luke Hanners had already driven 125 winners in his harness racing career, but never tasted victory at The Meadowlands.
Until Friday night (June 25), that is.
The son of longtime horseman Brad Hanners scored in the ninth race for his first-ever victory at The Big M, and apparently liked it so much, he came back and won again in the 11th.
“I grew up in Ohio,” said Hanners, who had recorded 60 wins on the year coming into the night but was 0-for-26 at the mile oval.
“Ever since I was young all I wanted to do was drive. My father helped me out a lot. I just wanted to try the East Coast and take on a new opportunity. It’s where everyone wants to be.”
Well-known on the Freehold and Rosecroft circuits, where Hanners has tallied 23 and 31 winners, respectively, this year, the young pilot came first-over from the half to score with 9-5 favorite Davids Coming Home in a TrackMaster 78.5 or less event in 1:51, drawing clear to a 2-1/4 length win for trainer Mark Capone.
Then, two races later, he put another Capone student, 6-1 fourth choice Stirling Ensign, on the lead and the duo were never headed, scoring by a neck in 1:54 in a TrackMaster 73.5 or less over even-money favorite Mr McDreamy, whose driver, 21-year-old Braxten Boyd, was seeking his first Meadowlands score.
But this night belonged to Hanners, who was thrilled at his accomplishment.
“Definitely this is the top,” said Hanners of what is now his career highlight. “This is where everyone wants to be. I sure hope to drive more here in the future.”
A LITTLE MORE: Fans of driver Marcus Miller had a good night, cashing three times on the night at odds of 2-5, 7-1 and 20-1. … Tony Ciuffetelli guided both winners of the GSY Amateur Club races. … Corey Callahan also guided a pair to victory lane. … Capone, Edwin Quevedo and Carmen Auciello all trained a pair of winner’s circle visitors. … All-source handle totaled $2,373,319. … Racing resumes Saturday (June) at 6:20 p.m.