by Evan Pattak
WASHINGTON, PA, Feb. 2, 2024  — Chris Lems collected career win 3,000 when he piloted Bars Open to victory in Friday’s second race at Hollywood Casino at The Meadows.


“It’s a real good feeling, something I had to get past,” he said of his milestone win. “When you’re coming to a mark like that, it always seems like it takes forever to get there.”


In addition to his winning drives, he’s compiled 188 victories as a trainer. Combined, his wins have been worth about $25.8 million in purses.


Lems, a South Dakota native who now calls Stowe, Ohio, home, is a third-generation horseman who apprenticed with his uncles in Iowa and Minnesota. He recorded his first driving win in 2003 at Oskaloosa on the Iowa fair circuit. His most productive year was 2022, when he notched 315 wins.


“I always wanted to do this growing up,” he recalls. “I really didn’t think much about any other career.”


Among his favorite horses, Lems lists Winning Shadow, a 9-year-old Jordan Hope trainee who’s won 64 races and more than $939,000 in his career — and he’s still active. In 2022, Lems guided him to his lifetime mark of 1:52.3 at MGM Northfield.


“He’s been an awesome horse. I can’t really put too many in front of him.”


Lems drives regularly in Ohio and at The Meadows, often working at multiple venues on the same day. It’s a rigorous schedule, but he intends to stick with it.


“Northfield has been my base for six or seven years,” he said. “I came to The Meadows originally to get my ‘retirement starts.’ But I’ve been getting enough work, so it’s worked out. The trip between the two tracks isn’t too bad. I don’t have a stable of my own anymore. If I still had a stable, driving at both tracks would be too much to do.”