Meet the Circuit’s Leading Driver
The departure of some big-name drivers over the past year not only created openings for several new faces to come to the Chicago circuit but it also created a vacuum at the top of the driver colony and Ryan Anderson has taken advantage of that situation.
Heading into last weekend Ryan had 291 combined winners at Hawthorne, Balmoral and Maywood, 59 more than runner-up Mike Oosting. Sam Widger was third with 193, the red-hot Brent Holland moved into fourth with 79, and Hall of Famer Dave Magee rounded out the Top Five with 158. Anderson’s hoses have won over $1.8 million, tops on the circuit, and most of this season’s local major stakes are still to be raced.
"When Timmy (Tetrick), Tony (Morgan) and Andy (Miller) all left it left a huge opening,” said the 26-year-old Anderson. “It gave me an opportunity to pick up some drives that they had for some of the powerful stables on the circuit and when you start winning more races; naturally trainers start using you more. And of course, success gives you more opportunities to have even more success."
Under the tutelage of his father Joe, Ryan began driving in 1999 at the age of 19 and one year later he became the youngest driver ever to win a Breeders Crown (Popcorn Penny). In 2001 he was the youngest to guide a Windy City Pace champion (Rattle and Rock).
Did having a father who has been very successful both as a driver (2,726 wins) and a trainer (3,016) put more pressure on Ryan when he began his career?
"Yes, a lot of pressure.” Ryan answered. “I had big shoes to try and fill and I'm sure there were some people who didn't want to see me succeed. But I have, and most of my success is because of my dad. He's been a great role model for me and he's been a great teacher as well. Everything that he has taught me is starting to show up this year.
"I was fortunate to be given the opportunity to drive some of the best horses in North America when I began as a teenager. Horses like Big Tom, Popcorn Penny, Rattle and Rock, Rons Girl, Million Dollar Bye and a whole bunch of Free For Allers. When you're driving those types of horses your confidence level has to go up. And owners see you winning races and start to have more confidence in your ability”
In 2006 Ryan had his best season surpassing a personal goal of 400 winners by bringing home 466. Horses he drove won $3,644,936, an all-time best for the native of Carmichael, California. Ryan’s previous best season for winners was 2004 with 300 and in money won in 2001 with over $2.8 million.
Ryan’s goal this year is to win an overall circuit meeting driving crown.
"Last season at Maywood when I won their Spring meeting it was the first time I ever won a driving title. I had always had finished second or third,” said Ryan. “Hopefully I can keep the ball rolling for the rest of this year and get my first combined title. Winning an overall title on the Chicago circuit would be something special for me."
While visiting a winners circle has been a common occurrence this season, each time he’s there Ryan is bubbling with enthusiasm, and he always leaves with a wave towards the TV camera.
"When you win a race it's a fun time,” said Ryan. “When you're energized in the winner's circle, maybe your enthusiasm runs off on some party groups that come in to get their picture taken. If they have a good time, maybe they tell their friends about it, and maybe that can help bring more people to the track. Too many fans are just watching us on TV or are at the OTB parlors. We need them here on-track to boost the live card. As far as my wave, that’s because I know my mom and dad are always watching.”