By Evan Pattak For The Meadows Standardbred Owners Association “Horsemen Helping Horsemen” Winner Circle Photo by Chris Gooden

Mike Wilder collected career win 9,000 when he captured Wednesday’s 11th race at Hollywood Casino at The Meadows with Distant Drums

A native of Springfield, Ohio, Wilder launched his harness racing career at the age of 14, driving matinees and working for the small stable of his stepfather, Dave Ritter. Ironically, Ritter exited the business just as Wilder was deciding to make it his career, signing on as caretaker for the stable of Randy Owens and later, Virgil Morgan, Jr. He was itching to make it as a driver, but early on, assignments were hard to come by.

“That whole first year I basically groomed and would drive one or a couple a night,” he said. “The very next year, I was the leading driver at Lebanon Raceway”

That was the first of Wilder’s 13 titles at Lebanon, and he thrived at Ohio’s other venues as well. He credits Morgan with propelling his early career.

“He’s a good guy . . . and a good guy to learn from.”

In 2001, he relocated to The Meadows and extended his success. He’s now an elite driver; with his 9,000 victories, he ranks 29th on the all-time North America wins list, and he’s earned more than $76.4 million in purses. Among his most memorable drives, Wilder mentions two that occurred within weeks . . . with the same horse. That happened in 2020 when he piloted Catch The Fire to wins in the Delvin Miller Adios Pace for the Orchids and an elimination of the Little Brown Jug. (He finished third in the final.)

“Those are premier races, so it was quite a thrill,” he said. “The feeling that comes over you is pretty crazy.”

It’s fitting that Wilder’s milestone win should come now, as it follows by days the 1,000th career training victory of his father-in-law, Dan Altmeyer. Wilder and his wife Heather are partnered with Altmeyer in Altmeyer Wilder Stable. He cites his family as a major factor in his success.

“Heather’s very involved in the business, and she does tons of stuff for the sport,” he said. “And Dan, everybody in the sport knows he’s pure class and a tremendous horseman. He’s helped me immensely along the way. He put me on the Grand Circuit. I never got those kinds of drives in Ohio.”

Wilder, 52, indicated he’ll keep driving for as long as he can, but he’s also eyeing other options for the future.

“I love young horses, I love Florida in the winters, and I would love to be a trainer someday. It’s a nice recharge to be with the babies. I love to compete, but the day will come when that’s over, so you turn the page.”

The Meadows Standardbred Owners Association (MSOA) is a nonprofit organization that represents the interests of approximately 700 Standardbred trainers, drivers, caretakers and owners at The Meadows. In addition to providing horses to race at The Meadows, MSOA administers such member-centric services as health insurance and retirement programs for horsemen and horsewomen.

Skip to content