Bruce Aldrich Jr. has been one of the top drivers at any track he’s ever raced at. Having been raised primarily in Massachusetts, Aldrich grew up in harness racing. Like so many who wind up in the business, harness racing was simply in Bruce’s blood. His father has been a part of the business for his entire life. Bruce began driving horses in the mid 80’s and like most drivers wasn’t dominant right away. It took a little bit of time for the ardent Red Sox and Patriots fan to hone his craft. Bruce went through some personal struggles in the early 90’s which took him away from the sport he loved for awhile. By the time the century turned in 2000, Bruce was back at it and at the time, even he couldn’t have thought that his career would turn out like it has.
Competing primarily at Monticello Raceway, Aldrich’s star began to shine. He immediately established himself as a top catch driver. Winning numerous driving titles along the way, Aldrich became dominant and enjoyed the first of what would be three consecutive seasons of earning over $1 million in purses in 2006. While a Monticello stronghold, Bruce would occasionally come to Saratoga to compete. It wasn’t until the early part of the 2010’s though that Aldrich would wind up doing double duty. In addition to being the top driver at Monticello during the daytime, Bruce added Saratoga as a “full time” track at night. After becoming a regular at the Spa, he really found his niche here. Immediately vaulting into the top five in the local driver standings, Aldrich became one of North America’s winningest drivers. Thriving at both tracks where he was a regular, Bruce has been among the top ten in wins by a driver almost every year for the last several.
2015 was clearly the career year for the now 49 year old reinsman. It was an historic campaign in which Bruce won the driving title at TWO tracks. An extremely rare feat, Bruce was the leading driver during the day at Monty and at night at Saratoga where he won his first local championship. In a year in which he won 663 races, Aldrich earned over $3.3 million in purses. It was the third consecutive season in which Bruce made over 600 trips to the winner’s circle. The 2016 campaign wasn’t too shabby for him either. He followed up his career year with one in which he drove another 595 winners and finished third in the local driver standings.
In the midst of another terrific season here in ’17, Aldrich reached a milestone while piloting on Wednesday afternoon at Monticello. He drove his 7,000th career winner. On Thursday afternoon, he won the first race at Saratoga and was recognized in the winner’s circle with a sign commemorating his historic achievement. An incredible feat for a driver, Aldrich hit the 7,000 win plateau before reaching the age of 50. Certainly, doing double duty has helped Aldrich pile up that many wins at such a relatively young age but when you consider he didn’t pilot as much as one winner from 1992-1998, it makes the feat all the more incredible. Aldrich just keeps winning.
When I asked Bruce the toughest part about driving full-time at two tracks, his answer was certainly understandable. “Not having a day off,” the veteran reinsman told me. “The travel can be exhausting at times because every day you are on the go.” What keeps him going? Well obviously the money is good but Bruce says it is so much more than that. “Winning. I just love to win. I love to compete. Even after all these years of doing it, when I lose my head is down. I love to win,” Aldrich explained. As far as what made him choose Saratoga when deciding what track to add to his workload, Aldrich said he simply always loved it here. “Obviously the proximity to Monticello was a factor but I raced here back in the 80’s when I was mainly driving at Foxboro. It’s beautiful here, I love it,” he told me. “Every year I think about stopping the whole two-track thing but I’ll keep doing it for awhile. Most likely when I decide to cut down to one track, the track I’ll race at will be here (at Saratoga).” When posed with the question of what the hardest part of being a full-time catch driver was, Aldrich had an answer that may surprise you. He didn’t mention the travel or the obvious risk that comes with racing but rather that choosing horses to drive is the toughest part. “When you have the option of picking from two or three horses in a race, it’s tough. People trust you to drive their horse and sometimes you have to pick another horse in that race. You hate to disappoint anybody. You don’t want to let them down. That’s the toughest thing for me.”
Aldrich currently drives seven days a week and that obviously leaves him very little time to do much of anything else these days. During the wintertime, Bruce says it’s nice to have a little bit of time off and he spends most of that time watching sports. Win number 7,000 was one that Aldrich was (and should be) very proud of. What an accomplishment for a driver who not only is yet to turn 50 years of age but also missed nearly a decade during the 90’s. Incredibly, it was less than two years ago, back in December of 2015, when Aldrich celebrated career victory number 6,000. In less than two years, the very busy Aldrich has piled up another thousand wins. Maybe by 2019, we will be talking about Bruce Aldrich Jr. and his 8,000th win. No, it isn’t that easy but at the rate the talented reinsman is going, it certainly is not an impossibility. Congratulations to Bruce Aldrich Jr. on his historic milestone and for having another year in ‘17 in which he ranks among the top drivers in North America in wins.
Live racing takes place every Thursday and Sunday afternoon with matinees beginning at 12:15pm. Racing under the lights occurs on Fridays and Saturdays with post times of 6:45pm. Until next week, I’m Mike Sardella wishing you the best of luck and we’ll see YOU at the finish line!