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In Harness: Dedication Fuels Hanners’ Drive

USTA/Geri Schwartz

Entering Tuesday, Luke Hanners had 1,539
drives, 195 victories, and $1.44 million
in earnings this year.

Courtesy of USTA Media Relations)

Hightstown, NJ — The road to success for a young harness racing driver often is spent on numerous highways.

Luke Hanners is an example. The 21-year-old driver has raced at 13 tracks this season in six states: Maryland, New Jersey, Delaware, New York, Pennsylvania, and Kentucky. This month alone has seen him compete at Harrah’s Philadelphia, Rosecroft, The Meadowlands, Freehold, Yonkers, and Saratoga.

His schedule has produced career highs in starts, wins, and purses. Entering Tuesday, Hanners had 1,539 drives, 195 victories, and $1.44 million in earnings this year. He is fourth in wins at Freehold and sixth at Rosecroft. In October, he began driving more regularly at Yonkers, where he is winning at a 17.2-percent clip.

On Thursday, Hanners will get in the sulky for seven of the nine races at The Meadowlands. It will be the second-most drives for him ever at The Big M, trailing only an eight-race night (on a 14-race card) Sept. 18.

“I’ve done a lot of traveling,” said Hanners, who began his career in 2017. “It’s always somewhere different, every day. It’s tough, but dedication is one of the biggest things. If I’m down on a horse, I’ll be there. You don’t get seen if you don’t show your face. I’ve been very lucky at big places and gotten good drives. That’s helped me out a lot.

“I’ve done very well at Yonkers, and that’s one of the biggest stages in the game right now. That’s probably one of the things I’m proud of. I’ve done OK at The Meadowlands. Just to make it there is pretty cool. I’ve won some races, so that’s pretty nice.”

Hanners, a native of Ohio now residing in Delaware, grew up in the sport. His late father, Brad Hanners, won nearly 4,900 races as a driver and Luke’s earliest introduction to horses came while sitting on his dad’s lap in a jog cart before he was even a year old.

“Ever since I was little, all I ever wanted to do is drive,” Hanners said. “Before, it was just a dream. Now, it’s starting to feel like something is happening.

“I didn’t really have any expectations. I just kind of go with the flow. I just hope for the best and try to improve every day, try to become the best I can become.”

In addition to driving, Hanners has made 113 starts as a trainer this year, winning 16. He has only one horse now, Barkeeper, who races Thursday at The Meadowlands. He plans to put the training on hold after this season.

“As much as I’m on the road, it’s too much work,” Hanners said. “Maybe down the road, but not right now.”

Hanners, who has 262 driving wins lifetime, is happy with his development over the years.

“I used to be too aggressive,” Hanners said. “Now, I have a little more patience. That’s probably where I’ve improved the most as a driver.”

He also has patience when it comes to his future.

“I’d like to make it to the big stage with the stakes horses, but for now, I’m just going to keep doing what I’m doing,” Hanners said. “Keep hustling.”

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