Miriam Kraemer has crammed a lot of living into 27 years but she seems to have finally found the life she wants to lead.
A horse lover since the time she opened her eyes, the 2011 Bordentown Regional High School graduate has become a harness racing trainer for the United States Trotting Association and, in late September, earned her first two professional training victories at Freehold Raceway.
“It’s going for me now,” Kraemer said. “I’m trying to get all the loose ends together. I own half of two horses and would like to buy one or two more if possible. I don’t have a bank load of money, but we’re getting there.”
How she got there is a story of tenaciousness, perseverance and good ol’ fashion hard work.
In harness racing, a strong race is referred to as a “good trip.” Kraemer’s quest can safely be termed an interesting trip, but also a good one the way it has worked out.
She was born in Sweden to parents Dave and Malin Kraemer, who were both in the harness racing business. They moved to the U.S. when Miriam was 2 and set up shop at The Meadowlands, which is the U.S. mecca for the sport. The Kraemers didn’t just work there, they lived there.
That’s where it gets interesting.
“I was smuggled into a tack room at the Meadowlands for a couple years,” Kraemer said. “My parents were stabled right at the track. I had me a daytime babysitter and everything.”
The catch was, infants were not actually allowed to live in a tack room, and yet, Malin noted, “we had two — a living room and a kitchen.” The parents were tipped off about room checks in time to hide Miriam’s toys and keep her concealed.
After two years, the family moved to Hedding and worked on Magical Acres Farm, where Kraemer took great joy in riding a tractor around the track for hours.
It was on to Bordentown at age 5. Miriam attended Peter Muschal Elementary School until second grade and finished out elementary school at Clara Barton. She attended MacFarland middle school in 7th grade, moved to Southampton for a year, then returned to Bordentown in time for ninth grade.
In a hurry to finish schooling, Kraemer replaced lunch period and study hall with classwork so she could graduate in January of her senior year.
“I was rushing out of there, but I kind of regret it now,” she said with a laugh.
Miriam did not play sports at BRHS, but would help Malin out at her stables. She would bring her friends to her mom’s barn to see the horses.
“They all loved it,” she said. “They all had their favorite horses.”
So did Miriam, but following her parents into the business wasn’t on the radar just yet. So she did what a lot of young kids do—made some money working what she called “some normal jobs” while figuring things out.
“I worked at the Chesterfield General Store for over two years,” Kraemer said. “I worked the deli and did barn work in the morning. I met a lot of awesome people working there. My favorite customer was Russ. He was an older man, maybe in his mid-80s, but he come in like a spring chicken and would dance around if the right tune was on. He always made me smile.”
From there she worked the graveyard shift stocking shelves at a Five Below, which “was not for me at all.” That was followed by a stint at Shaun Neiderman’s Bordentown Auto Service.
“I actually learned some handy things working there,” Kraemer said. “They helped me, and I helped them work on my Durango.”
But working the pits at the Indianapolis 500 was not really a career goal and Kraemer eventually decided to go with what she loved. She hooked up with successful trainer Abe Stoltzfus and traveled around New York helping him with five sire-staked horses. When Stoltzfus went to Florida, Kraemer worked some nearby paddocks while dabbling in more odd jobs.
By then she had met trainer Trish Coyle, who talked Miriam into working for her boss, Nick Surick. That lasted from August to November in 2015.
“I just needed a mental break, so I left,” Kraemer said. “He is a good guy but like everyone, he has his moments and I had mine. We bumped heads a few times and I figured time apart was best for everyone. We still talk and are currently partners on a horse.”
In 2017, wanting to “get away from some issues in my life” Miriam moved to western New York, where she tried more normal jobs. “But I was itching for horses,” she said. Thus, she drove three hours round-trip three days per week to work in catch paddocks.
While there, Kraemer met Buffalo native Dave Weston at a track and the two began dating. Weston suffered a broken wrist and was unable to work, so the couple returned to New Jersey “where I knew we could make money until he healed up.” Since then, Weston has been Kraemer’s top supporter.
The next stop was breaking baby horses for trainers Taylor Gower and James Craparotta, who were so impressed by Miriam they said if she could get a horse of her own they would help her out with the training. By then she had met standardbred owner Andrew Shetler—who owns a construction company and some oil rigs—on Facebook, and he sent her a 3-year-old trotter, Havree Degrace.
Things did not go well with the horse, who “had some issues.” But Kraemer had done enough good things that Shetler urged her to get her training license and make a go of it.
“I’ve been kind of been following her the last five years and the trainers she worked for,” Shetler said. “It seemed like wherever she went, that’s where the horses went and that’s where they win. She has great dedication. Most of all she’s willing to listen. She’s a trainer who’s willing to put her hands on the horses to work with them and try to help them.
“She would always respond to messages from me, either late at night or early in the morning. Being a business owner in three multi-million dollar businesses, nothing means more to a guy like me than when somebody responds to a message no matter what time it is. That’s all I need to know, that she’s a dedicated person and puts her hands directly on what she’s doing. And I really like the people from Sweden in the horse business. They put a lot of effort into what they do.”
Shetland’s words hit home, and this past May, Miriam finally procured her trainer’s license.
“He had told me so many times that I was good at what I did and I put a lot of effort in,” Kraemer said. “He had a lot of faith in me. That helped having more than just my boyfriend behind me to kind of give me that push. My parents were real proud too.”
Not to mention, her paycheck needed a boost.
“I guess I got tired of assisting everybody else making money and I wanted a piece of the pie for myself,” Kraemer said. “And I had some good horses that kind of made me push toward it. So it just sort of happened and grew on me.”
Miriam used her hard-earned money to purchase half of two horses—Barefoot Bluejeans and Sir Richie. She purchased Barefoot Bluejeans from Lee Dahn, a trainer in Batavia, NY and one of Weston’s best friends.
On Sep. 21, Bluejeans was driven to victory by Pat Berry, who is not only Kraemer’s regular driver, but somewhat of a cheerleader.
“He wasn’t doing so hot up in Batavia,” she said. “We bought him, brought him down here, gave him a shot. I didn’t really think he was gonna win and Pat’s like ‘You’re nuts, you can’t doubt yourself.’ He went out and won and I was really happy with him. He’s just an easy keeper. We don’t do much with him.”
In giving Miriam her first victory, the horse won by five lengths and as he crossed the line, she said, “I kind of wanted to cry, like a happy cry.”
A week later, the horse won again. And while Weston helped Kraemer with Bluejeans before the first victory, she was on her leading up to the second.
“I was the only one who sat behind him all week and it was a good feeling,” Kraemer said. “He called me after the race and he’s like ‘How’s it feel, knowing that win was all you?’”
One woman not surprised by Kraemer’s success is Hannah Miller, the daughter of Erv Miller—one of harness racing’s top trainers—and the sister of successful driver Marcus Miller. Hannah has made a name for herself as a trainer and driver and in 2015 became the first woman to ever win the United States Harness Writers Association’s National Amateur Driver of the Year Award.
Miller and Kraemer met when Miriam was working with Nick Surick, and an immediate friendship was struck as Hannah was impressed by Kraemer’s work ethic. When she gave her acceptance speech for winning driver of the year, Miriam was one of the first she thanked.
“She’s helped me a lot in my career, she took care of my trotters for me when I was with Nick,” Miller said. “She helped out a ton, she hustles constantly. I barely met anybody in the industry that works as hard as she does. I’ve raced so many different tracks and traveled a lot and she went a lot of places with me without hesitation to help me out. She does an excellent job.”
In fact, Miller tried encouraging Kraemer to become a trainer before Shetland.
“I had mentioned it back then,” Hannah said. “She’d be in the barn grooming, but then she’d also go out on the track and jog. I’m said ‘Let’s try some new things and train them, and possibly consider getting your training license.’ She knows everything in the barn. It’s just getting her to that next step.”
Now that she has arrived, Kraemer plans on taking things slowly. She is hoping to purchase several more horses, but is not looking to become the sports next female superstar trainer.
“I don’t want the pressure of being a (USTA Hall of Famer) Linda Toscano or anything like that,” she said. “Right now I’m comfortable with what I’m doing. Me as one person, I can only handle so much. I don’t have the funds to hire 10 people. I’m just giving it a shot.”
Miller feels that is the right way to go.
“Building slowly is the most organic, best way to begin,” she said. “She doesn’t want to be too overwhelmed. It’s a lot of pressure really, I know from my own family, how much pressure there is. But I do think she’ll go far because she does have the work ethic that it takes and she’s very personable, she’ll talk to anybody, and that definitely matters.”
Miriam currently lives in Jackson, but visits home whenever possible, as her mom and younger brother still live in Bordentown. No matter what kind of success she goes on to have in the highly competitive business she has chosen, Kraemer will always have a lifeline to her hometown.
She recalls with joy how “from ages 12 to 16 we got in a little harmless trouble.” She tries to visit Chickie ‘N’ Pete’s because her good friend Erin Wyers works there, “and because of the crab bruschetta.” She also noted: “I love the HOB (Tavern) for more reasons than one. Now it’s unfortunately more of a sentimental place and with the right people around, such as Adam Weederhorn, I may even shed a tear.
“One thing that I will never forget – and that’s why I might cry at the HOB — is a cheers my angel (the late) Jason Cassidy would always say. ‘There are good ships, there are wood ships, there are ships that sail the sea, but the best ships are friendships and may they always be.’ I cherish the friendships I have made in this little town called home.”
Just as the shakers and movers of harness racing have started to cherish her involvement in the sport.