Day At The Track

Superfecta season for Chris Page

04:26 AM 29 Jan 2020 NZDT
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Chris Page, harness racing
Chris Page
Brad Conrad Photo

Hightstown, NJ -- Chris Page put together quite the superfecta in 2019. The 36-year-old harness racing driver piloted Ohio's Horse of the Year in 2-year-old male pacer Elver Hanover, notched career victory 5,000, increased his workload on the Grand Circuit, and got married.

"It was the best year of my life, horse racing wise and in my personal life," Page said. "I was very happy with all of it."

Page won more than 400 races for the seventh consecutive year in 2019 and nearly set a career high for purses despite taking off all but one day in December for his honeymoon. The Ohio resident visited the winner's circle 435 times and earned $5.94 million. Although his purses failed to eclipse his $6.19 million in 2018, his average earnings per start were better in 2019.

In addition to driving Elver Hanover, who was undefeated in nine races, Page drove Ohio champion 2-year-old filly pacer Looksgoodinaromper and had occasional drives with 4-year-old Mission Accepted, who was named Ohio's best older trotter. All three horses were from the stable of trainer Ron Burke.

"It was a very good year," Page said. "Honestly, I've got to thank the Burkes. They're the ones that made it possible. Between them and (trainer) Brian Brown, they've been very good to me.

"Everything just came together. The good thing about 2019 going into 2020, those horses that were 2-year-olds are coming back as 3-year-olds here in Ohio for the stakes program. With a little luck, we'll have a great year this year too."

Page drove Elver Hanover, by Yankee Cruiser out of Edra Hanover, in all but one of his nine races last season. Yannick Gingras was in the bike for the gelding's 1:48.3 world-record score in a division of the Bluegrass Stakes at Lexington's Red Mile. Page was back behind Elver Hanover the following week when he closed his season with a win in a division of the International Stallion Stakes.

"It's tough to say anything is perfect, but how do you say that he's not? More importantly, the horse got put away on top," Page said. "Anytime in the year, the horse never was taking tired steps. He was always pacing forward late. And he is user friendly. That makes my job so much easier when you can do whatever you want with a horse.

"I saw a picture of him the other day and he looks like a tank. He might have grown a little bit, in height and filled out, and he's always been a good-looking horse, anyway. It makes 2020 exciting driving horses like that."

Page drove Looksgoodinaromper in all 12 of her races, winning five. She became the fastest 2-year-old filly pacer on a half-mile track with a 1:52.3 victory at Northfield in a division of the Ohio Sire Stakes.

"You can't forget about her," Page said. "I really liked her. I think she maybe got a little bit tired late in the year and we were drawing terrible. But she's a world-record-holder too."

Page, who studied to be a veterinarian before turning his full attention to driving, got his first win in 2001 and topped 1,000 starts and 300 wins for the first time in 2009. With the exception of last season when he took his honeymoon break, he has been one of the five busiest drivers in North America on a regular basis.

"Obviously, you have dreams; everybody dreams," Page said about his success. "But I kind of implemented a process and stuck to it. You've got to know a few people, but I believe in hard work. I put the work in, and I still do. Being there and trying to be cordial and respectful. These people, there are plenty of guys out there that they can choose to drive their horses. Sometimes, they might remember you for a simple hello.

"That's kind of how I got started. I don't have family per se in the business. My parents didn't do it. I need every inch I can get. And timing. When I got started driving, we didn't have the slots here at the racetracks. Your Brett Millers, your Dave Millers, they went out east and it opened up some room for a young guy like myself to get started."

Page likes to be as prepared as possible when he sits behind a horse. He also likes to help prepare a horse to maximize its potential.

"I'm a program reader and nowadays with the replays, if I haven't driven a horse, I can type in his name and watch his last few races," Page said. "I do a lot of that; I watch replays quite a bit. It's like, Tom Brady watches film before he goes out and plays a game. You have to do your homework. I want to know as much as I can about the horse; what it can do and what it can't do.

"The (young horses) I drive, the first few starts I kind of babysit them. I race them off a helmet and make sure they're pacing late. Once they get that figured out, then you can add another element. Most horses can leave or can learn to leave very easily. But on the flip side, not as many can race off the pace, do stuff like that, because they get hot. I really take pride in my work and really try to do best by the horse."

Page was happy to take time off with his wife Brianna at the end of last year to enjoy a honeymoon, which included a week in the Bahamas and a week skiing in Michigan. The couple was married in September.

"I never take time off," Page said. "I might take a day or two here or there, but not really any significant time since I started racing. She works in an orthodontist office. She works in the morning, I work at night, so to get to spend some time together is nice. Plus, it was Christmas time and we got to spend time with the families at Christmas. We just had a ball, really. It was the quickest month of my life."

Was it difficult to adjust to not rushing around?

"No, not at all," Page said. "I'm usually always looking at my watch because I have stuff to do, but for a whole month I didn't pay attention to the time. I kept telling myself I was on vacation and it didn't matter. My biggest chore was figuring out what to eat that day."

A very good way to end a very good year.

by Ken Weingartner, for the USTA

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