Harness racing’s 2011 dash king, Dan Noble, will make his Meadowlands debut on Friday night.
He has seven drives on the card, including Tu Sei Bella in the $46,000 Night Styles final. Noble will also be the guest on In The Sulky prior to the card.
In a breakout season, the 29-year-old Ohioan won more races – 773 - than any other harness driver last year. His record of 773-484-349 from 2,792 races gave him an impressive in-the-money percentage of .415. Noble won driving titles at Northfield Park, Scioto Downs, The Red Mile, Lebanon’s spring meet, and 25 different Ohio fairs en route to being named USHWA’s 2011 Rising Star of the Year. Noble is the son of Ohio Hall of Famer and three-time UDR champion Sam “Chip” Noble III.
“Driving at the Meadowlands is another positive step, and whatever way it goes, it’s just nice to meet new people,” Noble said. “I’ve currently been driving at The Meadows on Monday and Tuesday. I’m also going to drive at Buffalo Wednesdays and Thursdays now, and might pick up Saratoga on Sunday afternoons. It’s a lot of traveling but my girlfriend, Stephanie, keeps track of it all. She handles my Facebook page. We have a 2-year-old son, Braxton, and he loves sports!
“I’m really anxious about driving with the top drivers at the Meadowlands,” Noble admitted. “It’s a lot easier to have a game plan work out, and not make as many mistakes. It’s just makes you better compared to driving against average drivers.
“One thing the half-mile track has done is sharpen my speed,” he noted. “You just go, and obviously you have to adjust to the five-eighths at Scioto Downs. I’ve been to the Meadowlands twice, many years ago, but I’ve never driven there. First of all, I think I would have to change up my driving style because I’m so used to being on a smaller track. I remember driving at Balmoral Park, you’re always making speed, yet not all the speed you can make early on a smaller track.”
Although Noble was born into harness racing, he wanted a second career to fall back on and went to school to become a diesel mechanic.
“I didn’t stay long enough to get any kind of certification,” he said. “I also went to college for about a month and quit, and made a decision to stick to driving horses.
“My first pari-mutuel drive was at Lebanon Raceway, and I ended up racing at Scioto Downs, then The Red Mile. I made a decision to try Illinois, and I lived there for three to four years. I drove at Balmoral Park and Maywood Park. I had a friend of mine who was training out there, he had a good owner and the opportunity seemed good. Eventually, my girlfriend, Stephanie Morris, and I ended up taking over the stable, and we enjoyed a lot of success at the time.
“I came back to Ohio, and started doing well at Lebanon on the weekends, but I wanted to drive more nights, so I started making the three-hour trip to Northfield Park. They race more often, I met a lot of nice trainers there and everything seemed to take off.
“Last year, I didn’t think I could ever win a national driving title, until the fall at Delaware. Then, I felt I actually had a shot at it. It’s kind of funny, but everything just fell into place. I got into a pretty good groove and I stuck with it. That put me on the map and got me noticed.
“The biggest wins that stand out for me last year were two $250,000 Kentucky Sires Stakes Finals at The Red Mile with Northern Miss Hall and Adagio. Driving that signature horse or stakes colt in a major stake is always in the back of my mind. I’d love to just be there in those situations. So far, I haven’t really had the contacts or opportunities.”
That may change after Noble drives at the Meadowlands this weekend.
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