‘Always See Something New Every Day’: Trainer Merrill Scherer Approaches 80

Merrill Scherer is only a few weeks away from his 80th birthday but the lifelong horseman with more than six decades of experience in the sport continues to show a sharp eye for conditioning horses.

“I’ve done a lot and seen a lot in this game but you always see something new every day,” Scherer said as he thumbed through a pile of old photos on his desk inside Barn 46 at Churchill Downs. “These photos were on the wall at Fair Grounds. I need to figure out where to put them in here. Here’s one of me from back in 1956. I was 17 years old at the time, grooming three horses a day. It may not seem like a lot now but back then it would take you all day to groom three of them. Age is only a number in the sand – at least that’s what I keep telling myself.”

Scherer grew up in Louisiana and began going to Fair Grounds with his father, George. His first memory of the racetrack came when he was introduced to trainer Ralph Hughes.

“Somehow my dad new this trainer named Ralph Hughes,” Scherer said. “He took us back to the barn and he let me walk one of his horses. I was 9 years old at the time. We walked one corner and the next thing you know the horse drug me down the street and we never made it to the other side of the barn.”

Scherer would visit the racetrack on weekends with his father and after he finished his junior year of high school he decided to go to Cleveland, Ohio to work as a groom.

“One summer after I finished high school I jumped on a Greyhound bus and went to Ohio to follow one of my friends who was a jockey,” Scherer said. “It took 36 hours back then to get there because there weren’t any interstates. We passed through Kentucky which was pretty neat to see. We went right by Calumet Farm and I almost jumped off the bus seeing all of the beautiful, white fences. I made it up to Cleveland and started working as a hot walker.”

After a couple years in Ohio, Scherer moved to New England and began working for trainer Buck Harper. That job lasted until 1962 when Scherer took out his trainer’s license and bought his first horse, Wooded Acres.

Scherer has spent the majority of his career based in the Midwest with stints in Illinois, Kentucky and Louisiana. It wasn’t until 1993 when he won his first graded stakes race with Little Bro Lantis in the Stars and Stripes Handicap (GIII) at Arlington. Since statistics started being regularly kept for horse racing in 1976, Scherer has won 1,410 races with earnings of more than $24.6 million. 

In 2017 tragedy struck Scherer as his son, Richie, passed away from kidney cancer. He was 53. Richie helped his father during the summers as a teenager and was a trainer from 1985 until he passed away.

“(Richie) is up in heaven right now probably having a hell of a conversation with my father and Spec Alexander (Keeneland’s longtime starter who passed away Monday),” Scherer said.

The Scherer family has deep roots in the horse racing industry. Aside from Richie, Scherer has five other sons: Clay, Eric, Gary, Merrilland Ryan. Gary began training in 2001 and is stabled at Canterbury Park and Fair Grounds. Clay currently works as a bloodstock agent and Eric is a member of the starting gate crew.

“Life is always interesting when we get everyone together,” Scherer said. “One thing is for sure, it’s not quiet.”

Scherer has about eight horses in his care at Churchill Downs and plans to remain in Kentucky until Fair Grounds’ meet begins in November.

The post ‘Always See Something New Every Day’: Trainer Merrill Scherer Approaches 80 appeared first on Horse Racing News | Paulick Report.

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