Greenville native Jeff Nisonger earns successful harness racing career
GREENVILLE – GHS 2000 graduate Jeff Nisonger is well known a harness racing driver in this part of the country, working mostly in Ohio and Kentucky race tracks.
“It was kind of more on a bet and I also wanted to do it,” Nisonger said of getting into the business. “They said since I didn’t have family (in racing) I wouldn’t be able to be successful in it so that gave me drive – a friend of the family, that’s how I got into it.”
Out of high school, Jeff worked at Whirlpool before becoming a police officer.
“This job you’re outside and inside and you kind of can dictate your own schedule a little bit other than race days,” the 41-year old said. “That is what I like – freedom.”
“I was a police officer for a while and it got too much doing two jobs,” he added. “I did that six or seven years and then I come back to the horses.”
Nisonger has been very successful with harness racing and states he has been “very blessed”.
“I really enjoy it, it gets in your blood,” said Nisonger. “I know a lot of people got out and got right back in. It’s very addictive … it’s a good addiction.”
Much of the Greenville native’s work takes place at Miami Valley (Dayton) and Scioto Downs in Columbus where he is in high demand to drive.
“They call it catch driving,” Nisonger explained. “Say there is someone that doesn’t want to drive or used to drive or they never have drove and they need someone to drive their horse in a race. They’ll just come over and ask you and you say yes or no. A lot of times the pay you five percent of what the horse makes so it’s kind of a good deal.”
Nisonger currently owns 15 race horses and trains horses as well.
“I go south in the winter to Georgia and I train anywhere from 30-40 head while there,” noted Nisonger. “I have been doing that the last five years and then I come home. I race in the stake races and then I try to sell what I can. Then i go buy new ones and do it all over again.
Nisonger drove all four days of harness racing at the 2022 Great Darke County Fair and racked up many wins. He also drove in the prestigious Gene Riegle Memorial and the Arnie Almahurst Open.